Tuesday, February 15, 2011

V-Day Inspiration: Outside-In Lobster & Mashed Potatoes

Unfortunately life doesn’t like to halt for a better blogging environment and so the “Hors D'oeuvres” post I’ve been planning will be postponed until the end of the week. In the meantime, yesterday’s Valentine’s Day hustle and bustle inspired me to write something about one of my favorite quick and easy romantic recipes.
When I feel like spoiling my man (or myself for that matter) with a romantic dinner, I usually think lobster. But I, like many other people out there, can’t stand the idea of killing a lobster. It just breaks my little heart.
So I like to buy frozen lobster tails, you can order them online or get them at the supermarket. As long as you’re smart about it, they can be a great and (mostly) guilt-free alternative. Read this great tutorial on “How to Buy Lobster Tails & Not Get Ripped Off”.
One day, when pondering what to pair with my lobster tail, I came up with the idea for “Outside-In Lobster & Mashed Potatoes”—a quick & easy recipe that involves “butterflying the tail”, cooking the lobster using the method of pulling the tail meat out of its shell (but keeping it attached and resting it on top) and then stuffing the hollow shell with mashed potatoes, so the yummy lobster juices seep into potatoes imparting yummy lobster flavor.

Convoluted explanation aside, this really is very easy to make.
I prefer to defrost the lobster tail fully (while I prepare the mashed potatoes) to make it easier to remove from its shell; if you choose to defrost halfway that will affect cooking.
First, preheat the oven to 350 and assemble everything you’ll need.
Step 1: The potatoes
Everyone has their method for making mashed potatoes. My favorite?  Boiling them in chicken stock first.
Mashed potato “stuffing” for two lobster tails:
·         1-2 potatoes (I prefer Yukon Golds or similar waxy potatoes but any will do fine), peeled (if you like) and chopped
·         Roughly 2 cups chicken stock (enough to cover the potatoes by an inch or so)
·         1/2 cup milk
·         1 T butter
·         Pinch of salt
·         Optional: Chopped herbs like parsley, tarragon, chives, etc.

1.        Combine potatoes and stock in pot on stove. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium and cook for roughly 10 minutes (Check for doneness by poking with a fork. If the potato breaks apart, it’s done).
2.        Add milk, butter, salt and any herb you wish to add and mash to desired consistency (I like to leave it a little chunky)
Step 2: Butterflying the lobster tail:
Once the lobster tail is defrosted, it’s time to butterfly!
The easiest way of butterflying the lobster tail is to cut the shell (top not bottom) lengthwise to the base with kitchen shears (See picture), then pry the shell apart to pull the meat out, careful not to disconnect it from the shell. There is a great step-by-step tutorial here.
Step 3: Stuffing the mashed potatoes in the tail:
After you’ve butterflied the tail, it’s time to stuff!
I wish I had a picture of myself stuffing one of these because it usually ends up as an episode of “The Many Faces of Erin”, a quirky little sitcom I just made up in my head.
I’ve found that the easiest way to stuff the tail is to stand it up on its flippers with the open end up (like a delicious little vase). Then you can use a large spoon to fill the tail with the potatoes. If you want to get high-tech and low mess, use a piping bag with a wide mouthed tip.
At this point I sometimes like to insert pieces of roasted garlic into the potatoes to add more flavor, but it is entirely optional.
Step 4: Into the Oven
·         Now that the lobster is inside out and the mashed potatoes are outside in, I like to sprinkle a few breadcrumbs on the tail meat before popping it in the preheated oven at 350.
·         Cook for about 10-15 minutes depending on the size, the lobster will become opaque when it is ready.
·         Then transfer to the broiler and broil for 1 minute.
*If you’re not a stickler on healthy eating, serve this with a little drawn butter or a compound butter incorporating the herbs you used in the mashed potatoes
Combine this dish with a filet to make Surf-n-turf or just some roasted vegetables for balance, but any way you have it, this will be a treat for sure.
Waste not, want not:
If you have extra lobster tails, they would go great in Lobster Mac-N-Cheese, Lobster Rolls or even Lobster Sauce. Remember that fresh lobster (meaning the lobster was alive when you started to cook it) always tastes better than using frozen meat so take that into consideration when measuring out ingredients and seasoning your dishes.

You can learn more about lobsters and including a step by step on the best way to eat a whole lobster by heading over to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute site, and check out some interesting lobster facts while you're there!

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