Lobster Thermidor

Lobster Thermidor is a classic French dish that traditionally consisted of cooked lobster meat bound in Béchamel sauce flavoured with mustard and Cognac or Sherry, enriched with cream and egg yolks, sometimes topped with cheese and baked in the shell. The original dish was created in Paris, in 1894 to celebrate the opening of a play ‘ Thermidor ‘ at Marie’s restaurant. Lobster Thermidor is a supreme example of classic cuisine at its grandest, an expensive ingredient in a rich heavy sauce laden with cream and alcohol, interestingly the very similar Lobster Newburg was first prepared some twenty years prior to the Thermidor, in the United States and in America is a much more popular recipe. If you want to try a simpler recipe for lobster here is a link on how to simply poach this most elegant of shellfish.

 

Grilled Lobster Thermidor
Lobster Thermidor, Chips and Salad

More modern recipes omit the heavy béchemel and rely on a reduction of cream finished with egg yolks, it is also somewhat less time-consuming. Some recipes include shallots and mushrooms and Peter Hingston, my old Head Chef at the Island Hotel, Tresco added crab meat and prawns for a truly indulgent version. You can top the dish with Parmesan, Gruyère or Cheddar depending on your preference. I like to finish the dish with a few breadcrumbs in addition to a mix of Gruyère and Cheddar.

 

I like mine served with something quite simple like new potatoes ( Jersey Royals ) and French beans but you can eat your Thermidor with rice or fries and salad and served with a glass of chilled flinty Chablis, a big buttery Chardonnay or if you are really celebrating a bottle of Blanc de blancs Champagne.

 

My Lobster Thermidor serves 2 or 1 hungry person

 

A cooked 850 gr Lobster

100 ml thick Double Cream

2 tablespoons Dry Sherry

2 fresh free-range Egg Yolks

½ teaspoon English Mustard powder

½ teaspoon Tarragon, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon Paprika plus extra to garnish

Freshly squeezed juice of half a Lemon

30 gr Cheddar cheese, finely grated

30 gr Gruyère cheese, finely grated

A scant handful of fine Breadcrumbs

Sea Salt and freshly ground White Pepper

 

Halve the lobster and prepare the lobster meat. Reserve the shells and wash them out and dry them ready to use. Cut all lobster meat into quarter-inch pieces. Heat the cream in a heavy bottomed sauté pan and reduce by around a third, stir in the mustard powder and paprika and lightly season. Add lobster meat and lower the heat so that the sauce is barely simmering. Heat the lobster pieces in the sauce for three to four minutes to warm through. Place the shells on a baking tray and heat under a medium grill for one minute.

 

In a medium-sized bowl whisk the egg yolks, sherry and lemon juice. Remove the lobster meat from the cream and place it in the shells. Slowly pour a third of the hot cream into the egg mix in the bowl whisking continuously. Pour this mix back into the pan, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon. Cook for two minutes without boiling otherwise it will scramble until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Add the tarragon and pour over the lobster meat in the shells and top with the cheeses and a few breadcrumbs. Sprinkle with paprika and grill until the cheese is, golden brown, bubbly and melted.

 

The Classic Lobster Thermidor serves 2 or 1 hungry person

 

A live 850 gr plus Lobster

100 ml Lobster or Fish stock

75 ml quality White Wine

75 ml Cognac

100 ml thick Double Cream

2 Banana Shallots, peeled and very finely chopped

A glug of quality Olive Oil

2 large free-range Egg Yolks

2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard

 

for Béchamel sauce

50 gr Butter

35 gr Plain Flour

75 ml cup Lobster or Fish Stock

75 ml Full Fat Milk

2 Cloves

1 Bay Leaf

A pinch of Nutmeg

Sea Salt and freshly ground White Pepper

 

Sweet or Hot Paprika to Garnish

 

Preheat your oven to 400 F / 200 C / Gas Mark 6. Place the lobster in the coldest part of your fridge for an hour as this will make him lazy and sleepy. Grab the lobster using a folded kitchen towel by the tail then using a large twelve-inch chef’s knife, split the live lobster in half lengthwise. Find the large cross on the back of the lobsters head and push quickly down with the tip of the knife then work the knife down to the tail. This will ensure the lobster is killed instantly. Make sure your knife is sharp. Place the lobster halves on a baking tray shell side down and brush with olive oil then bake in the oven for fifteen minutes. Remove the lobster from the oven and set it aside to cool, then remove all the meat and dice it into pieces. Clean shells and set aside on a clean baking tray and turn the oven down to 375 F / 190 C / Gas mark 5.

 

For the béchemel sauce. Place a medium sized heavy bottomed pan over a low heat and melt the butter, stir in the flour with a wooden spoon and cook until it is both sandy coloured and sandy in texture, approximately three to four minutes. Slowly pour in the hot lobster stock and stir well to combine. Then slowly add the milk, stirring all the time and add the cloves, nutmeg and bay leaf. Bring the mixture up to boiling then lower the heat to a very gentle simmer. Top with a knob of butter and a tight-fitting circle of greaseproof paper. This is called a cartouche. Cook out the sauce for at least half an hour to remove any floury taste over the lowest possible heat. Season and strain through a sieve when cooked.

 

In a small sauté pan heat the wine and brandy and very carefully flame off the alcohol. Add the lobster stock and the tarragon and reduce down until it is a thick syrup. Mix this syrup into the prepared béchemel. In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks and cream together until thick and creamy. Add a large spoon of the béchemel to the cream, stirring all the while. Add this enriched béchemel back into a pan with the remaining béchemel and the Dijon mustard. Mix well and bring back to a simmer, the sauce should be quite thick. Correct seasoning and add the lobster meat. Fill the empty lobster shells with this mixture and place in the oven to brown for a few minutes. Sprinkle with a little paprika and serve.

 

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery  Flour  Raw Fish Milk  Crab  Mustard

Please see the Allergens Page

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