Gothamist Eating In: Cooking Our Favorite Restaurant Dishes at Home

Gothamist Eating In is a weekly column written by Joe DeSalazar, creator and chef of foodie, a six-course food and wine tasting event in New York City.

Each week, Joe will feature a great dish that he's recently had in a New York restaurant. Whether a new hot spot, famous landmark, or an off the beaten path find, Joe will describe how a restaurant dish was likely prepared and recreate it into a unique creation aptly named the Gothamist Recipe - a (relatively) simple dinner for two that a home cook can make in the comfort of a cramped apartment kitchen.

Per Se, Butter Poached Lobster

Unless you've been hiding out at a local McDonald's over the past year, you'd know that Thomas Keller, possibly the most respected American born chef in the foodie world, recently opened this branch of The French Laundry, recently named the best restaurant in the world, in New York City last February to great anticipation and fanfare.

While Gothamist envisions writing Eating In columns from all walks of New York food life, our first column starts right at the top by featuring one of Keller's signature dishes - butter poached lobster. While this will be one of the more ambitious recipes we'll feature, trust us, it's worth it.

Gothamist was lucky enough to take out a small loan and enjoy a nine-course birthday dinner at Per Se last February, pre kitchen fire. For those of you familiar with Keller's award winning The French Laundry Cookbook, you'll recognize one of the best dishes on the Per Se menu, called "Mac and Cheese." The dish features a technique Keller pioneered in which he slowly poaches fresh lobster in butter over a low, gentle heat. Keller believes that "when you cook lobster violently, the meat seizes up and becomes tough, and you can't get any flavor into it." The "Mac and Cheese" comes in when he places the lobster on Mascarpone Orzo and a creamy lobster broth. Yeah, it was amazing.

Gothamist Recipe


Butter Poached Lobster & Peach Salad
Avocado, Mint, Frisee

In the spirit of the summer season, we've taken Keller's butter poaching technique from The French Laundry Cookbook and turned it into a summer salad. The rich, tender, buttery lobster is paired with the ripe sweetness of fresh, raw peaches and creamy avocado. A tart squeeze of lemon, a rough chop of cool mint, a bit of the poaching butter, and you?ve got a great dressing to tie it all together.

The main work in this recipe lies in the preparation of the lobster. The lobster needs to be steeped, taken out of its shell and brought to room temp before being poached in the butter. You can do that a few hours in advance of serving. Crank up some music and get a partner, and it can actually be fun. (It's also fun without, especially when your friends taste it.)

This recipe allows you to simply poach the lobster in the butter mixture and slice the salad ingredients before dinner, rather than slaving over the stove during a hot summer night.

The following recipe works as a light main course (ideally following a substantial appetizer) or as an appetizer for a special dinner at home. For an even more substantial dish, buy a bigger lobster.

Ingredient Shopping List
Recipe serves two - just double it for a party of four.
1 1/2 lb live lobster
1 large firm (yet ripe) yellow peach
1 firm (yet ripe) Hass avocado
1 stick unsalted butter
1 bunch fresh mint
1 small bunch frisee or mache
2 lemons
kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 bottle of distilled white vinegar

Estimated cost of ingredients: $25 at Fairway

Buying the Lobster and Ingredients
Start with a live 1 1/2 lb lobster for two people. Try and pick one from your local fish shop that seems like it?s still feisty (avoid the lobsters that are listlessly clumped in the bottom of the tank). Definitely buy the lobster on the same day that you will steep it (below).

As for the other ingredients, make sure that both the avocado and peach are ripe. However, when feeling them, make sure they are not too soft or mushy. They need to be firm enough to present in the manner below.

Steeping the Lobster
To start, fill a large pasta pot with cold water. Add an ample amount of sea or kosher salt to the water and give it a taste - you're looking for the taste of the sea. Add 1/8 cup of distilled white vinegar. When the water gets to a vigorous boil, add the lobster. You are only looking to cook the lobster for two minutes - just enough to be able to get the meat out of the shell in tact for the butter poaching. The interior of the meat should be raw. Take the lobster out of the pot with large tongs and add directly to a cutting board. Keep the water boiling. Let it sit for a minute to cool down slightly, but it's important to remove the meat from the shell while it's still hot or the meat will congeal and be too difficult to remove from the shell.

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Taking The Meat From The Shell
The Tail: With a clean, folded kitchen towel (to protect you from the heat), hold the tail and twist to remove from the body. Do the same for the claws and when removed from body, add claws back to the boiling water for 5 more minutes. While waiting for the claws to finish steeping, begin to remove the meat from the tail (again, while hot).

For the tail, twist the 'fan' of the tail to the side and remove. With your fingers or a teaspoon, loosen the meat and push meat through the end of the tail shell when the fant used to be. Discard shell. Place the tail on the board backside down and slice in half, lengthwise. Place on a paper towel lined plate and reserve.

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The Claws: After 5 minutes in the boiling water, take out claws and place on cutting board. Discard water. Working with claw it still hot, pick up claw with your folded kitchen towel and twist off the knuckle from the claw. Take the claw in your towel draped hand and pull down the pincer all the way. After this, move it to the side to crack and pull it straight off. Ideally, the cartilage from inside the claw should be attached to the pincer you just pulled off. The claw meat should still be intact in the claw shell. Place the claw shell on the cutting board. Holding it with your towel with the whole where the knuckle used to be face up. Take a back of a large knife and whack the claw right near the hole where the knuckle was attached. You want to go through the shell but not damage the meat. The shell should pop off. Shake the claw to remove the meat in tact. (If not successful with the shell popping off, you may have to turn the claw around and proceed with above procedure). If the meat still doesn't come out, Keller likes to cut the very tip of the claw off and blow through the top to release the meat.

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At this point, place the claw meat with the tail on the paper towel plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours until needed. You could do this the night before serving the dish; but ideally, you'd serve it a few hours after refrigerating.

Note: The knuckle meat can be used in this salad or reserved for another use. The body can be used immediately to make a stock, or can be frozen for future stock making. We'd recommend doing so for a future sauce or soup.

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Butter Poaching the Lobster
When you are about an hour or so from serving the lobster, take it out of the fridge and bring to room temperature for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, take 1/2 of a stick of cold butter and slice into larger pieces. Add five tablespoons of water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil via high heat. Add a few chunks of butter into the water, whisking as you go to emulsify butter into water. Reduce the heat to low. Continue adding the chunks of butter and whisk until thoroughly emulsified. The mixture should have the consistency of a very thick butter sauce. This method of making a butter emulsion is called Beurre Monte, and is one of Keller's favorite bases for sauces. Add a generous pinch of salt and stir to complete.

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You can set this aside on the stove as you prepare the salad ingredients. You should use this within an hour after you make it.

Prepare Salad Ingredients
Mint: Finely chop fresh mint (you?ll need about one tablespoon worth) and set aside.

Peach: To prepare the peach, take a sharp paring knife and make a deep incision with the tip of your knife at the top of the peach. Follow around the peach until you go full circle back to the top of the peach, while working around the pit. Open the halved peach and remove the pit. Slice each peach half lengthwise into 1/8 inch slices. Set aside.


Avocado: Prepare the avocado in a similar method as the peach. To remove the pit, you can use a spoon or you can take a large sharp knife and carefully whack the blade into the pit with the middle of your knife until it sticks in pit. Twist knife the right and gently pull out the pit. Slice the avocado in the exact method of the peach. When done, squeeze the avocado slice with some fresh lemon juice to prevent turning brown. Lightly salt the slices with kosher salt.

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Butter Poaching the Lobster
Place the lobster in a small, empty saucepan. Add the butter poaching Beurre Monte liquid to the lobster until almost covered. Place the pot over low heat, as this needs to cook very gently, for about 5 minutes. The goal is to just heat the lobster through. Set aside to rest on a cutting board. Cut a small slice off and taste it. Check it for salt and confirm cooked through. Note, however, that if lobster is poached correctly at low temperature, it will be tender, almost as if not completely cooked. The key thing to notice is appearance - it should be white and not very opaque in color.


Finish the Dressing
Take warm butter poaching liquid and add one tablespoon of the chopped mint into the saucepan. Squeeze a generous amount of fresh lemon juice into sauce. Add fresh pepper. Whisk to mix ingredients. Taste. Add salt, pepper or more lemon juice to taste. The lemon juice should add a nice bite to the butter, almost like vinaigrette. Serve slightly warm.

Plating and Presentation
Add one slice of peach to plate. Add a teaspoon of sauce/dressing over the slice. Add avocado and add teaspoon of sauce over slice. Make sure the mint in the sauce makes it into these spoonfuls of sauce. Repeat this until you have four stacks of alternating peach and avocado slices. Place one slice of lobster tail and one claw on the right and left of the top stack. Add a small handful of the frisee (or other greens) on the middle of the top stack. Place a teaspoon of the sauce/dressing on the lobster/frisee. Finally, spread a tablespoon of sauce around the plate and serve.

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-- Joe DeSalazar