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|photos - McDaniel / recipes - begged, borrowed, or just plain stolen.|
|It's fresh. It's tasty. But, it isn't steamed.|
I've had lobsters from Maine, Honduras, Brazil, Canada, Europe, South Africa, Bahamas, Florida - boiled, broiled, steamed, fried, stewed, raw, - just about every which way but loose, except blackened... until now.
Our quest begins in Maine with a longtime lobstering family where we spent a week meeting the locals, working the boats and learning a great deal about the history, culture and recipes that surround this well know crustacean.
Much to our suprise, we learned that about 30% of Maine's population is Cajun. And yet, everywhere we turned, we could only find the well know, traditional methods of lobster preparation - steamed, boiled or broiled. With a little deeper research into cajun cuisine, we came across a number of ways to prepare lobster that were distinctly different from the norm.
Blackened lobster recipes usually call for a par-steaming technique prior to the blackening process. The outcome was good, but it tasted like steamed lobster with seasoning. The true blackening method of slapping the product on a screaming hot, cast iron skillet cooked the lobster beyond recognition and the flavor was overpowering.
There had to be a better way.
"USING A GRILL PAN / BROILER COMBINATION AND SEASONING ONLY ONE SIDE WAS THE TRICK TO A PERFECT TAIL!"
|The finished product just prior to serving.|
|The process is simple. Heat up a grill pan until it smokes. Season only one side of the tail (the flat side after cutting), and coat the top side only with a little butter. Drop the tails on the hot grill pan. Immediately remove and place under the broiler, turn off the broiler, and in just a minute or two they're ready. Simple? Yes. But there's just a bit more to the details...|
|Let's start with the finish first.|
Saffron infused sweet butter is the perfect complement for these spicy lobster tails, and it's the easiest part of the entire recipe. Since you can prepare this a day or two ahead of time (the longer it sits, the richer the flavor), why not get it done first?
The ingredients are simple: a good (preferrably European, New Zealand or Irish) unsalted butter, a pinch of light brown sugar, and a helping of saffron...real saffron. Here's how you do it: Finley chop the saffron threads. Soften butter to room temperature. Take several tablespoons of the softened butter and heat on low just prior to clarifying, add the saffron, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Blend this mixture thoroughly into the remaining softened butter, and whisk in 3/4 teaspoon of light brown sugar. Fold into a mound and refrigerate. About an hour before serving the tails, remove the butter from refrigeration and let warm to room temperature. The flavor is subtle, rich and smoothes out the bite from the blackened seasoning. It's a bit of "heat and sweet".
At a price of $2,000 to $10,000 a pound, saffron is far and away the most expensive food on earth, way more than truffles, caviar, and real balsamic vinegar. Its history is epic, Its flavor is revered. International organizations employ lab equipment to fuss over grading crops for flavor, color, and richness. And its longstanding coveted status has borne a tradition of adulteration, embargo, and conspicuous consumption that can only be characterized as grotesque. So what's the deal with this stuff? Is it worth all the fuss? And what, at the end of the day, can you really do with it?
First, an explanation of its price. Saffron threads are the stamens of the crocus, a high-maintenance flower whose climatory pickiness is matched only by its fickle yields. Each flower, which blooms for one week of the year, produces about three stamens which must be picked by hand (with the greatest delicacy, of course) and dried (delicately again!). 150 flowers and substantial labor are needed to produce a single gram of saffron; it's only as affordable as it is because harvesters aren't paid much at all. There are less expensive varieties available, but real saffron has a high base rate of expense that its price just can't sink below.
|Saffron infused sweet butter in six easy steps:|
|1.||Place butter in bowl and soften to room temperature. Melt four tablespoons of butter just prior to clarifying.|
|2.||Chop saffron into a very fine mince. Measure 3/4 teaspoon of light brown sugar.|
|3.||Add saffron and sugar to melted butter. Whisk gently, remove from heat and let cool until just warm.|
|4.||Add melted mixture to softened butter.|
|5.||Blend thoroughly by whisking at a gentle pace.|
|6.||Fold mixture into a clump and refrigerate for at least twelve hours. Warm to room temperature before serving.|
"THESE TAILS DESERVE SOME KICKIN' SIDES AND THAT'S WHAT WE'LL DO NEXT."
|This isn't for the faint of heart. And yes, it's full of calories and fat but every now and then, you simply have to let go.|
|Once in a blue moon, I just let go of the diet and blow it out. This is one of those times. This mac & cheese defines comfort food, and paired with the tails, let's just say they go hand in hand. The prep is quick and if timed right, it's ready to serve just as the tails come out of the broiler. So here it is in a few simple steps.|
|Getting your Mac & Cheese on:|
|1.||Start with some decent cheese. We're using equal parts of cheddar and fontina, heavy cream, bread crumbs, salt and pepper.|
|2.||Boil the pasta just shy of al dente (it'll finish cooking during the baking process). Strain, toss in two tablespoons of butter, mix until melted, let cool to room temperature.|
|3.||Add equal parts of cheddar and fontina keeping about 1/4 aside for topping.|
|4.||Add cool cream (keeping about 1/4 aside for drizzling) and mix thoroughly.|
|6.||Spoon mixture into individual ramekins. Moderately dust with bread crumbs. Sprinkle on remaining cheese and drizzle cream over top.|
|7.||Arrange ramekins in baking pan or on baking sheet. Bake at 300° for 20 minutes.|
"RED PEPPERCORN ROASTED BROCCOLI ROUNDS OUT THE MEAL AND ADDS A BIT OF GREEN TO THE PLATE."
|Super simple. Quick. Fresh. And loaded with flavor.|
|Start with a fresh broccoli bunch. Trim in sections, removing tough ends, and cut again lengthwise. Arrange in a baking pan. Give them a quick shot of fresh lemon juice, drizzle with olive oil, and toss until coated. Sprinkle on a generous helping of cracked red peppercorn saesoning, and roast for 12 to 18 minutes. Serve.|
"ITS TIME TO GET OUR LOBSTER TAILS IN GEAR - CAJUN STYLE!"
|The best was saved for last.|
|While everything else is cooking, we'll knock out the tail prep and cooking in no time. Lay your tails out on a cutting board, have your shears, blackened seasoning, and melted butter ready. Turn the grill pan and broiler on high. From the time we start this process until the time we're ready to serve will be around 15 minutes, which means the sides will be ready to serve as well. First we have to get the meat out of the tails. Here's a little "How To" primer that might help you.|
|Getting all of the meat out of the shell:|
|1.||Using a pair of kitchen shears, snip all ribs on the under side of the lobster. This allows the meat to be pulled from the shell easier.|
|2.||Turn lobster over with the shell side up and carefully slide shears between shell and meat and cut a straight line to the last section of the tail.|
|3.||Cut a 45 degree angle in the shell to the right and the same cut to the left on the last section of the tail. Snip straight across the angles forming a triangle in the last section of the tail.|
|4.||Pull the meat almost completely out of the shell.|
|5.||Cut each tail in half lengthwise. Arrange on cutting board. Coat the cut (flat) side of the tail in blackened seasoning.|
|6.||Brush the top side of the tails with melted butter|
|7.||Line the tails up (seasoned side down) on a metal spatula so they can be laid out on the grill pan simultaneously.|
|8.||Place the tail meat on the grill, remove pan from heat and immediately place under broiler at closest possible range.|
|9.||Watch them broil. It will only take a minute or two. Once they turn red and begin to smoke slightly, remove from brolier, plate, top with room temperature saffron butter and most importantly...ENJOY!.|
|Products||For your convenience we've included links to sources/products we've mentioned. Tap the links below and/or check your local stores for availability.|
Simply Lobsters / Fresh Tails|
Williams Sonoma / Knives
Plúgra / European Style Butter
Persian Saffron Online
|Wine||Curran Greanche Blanc 2012|
Fresh lobster tails
Real butter (preferably European style)
Mild cheddar cheese
Cracked red pepper
Light brown sugar
Ground black pepper
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