I had a lovely Christmas Eve conversation with my cousin, Palma, and remembered the Italian Christmas Eves of my childhood with the "Feast of Seven Fishes". I don't know how my mom and aunts did it, but there were five great cooks in the kitchen and outdoor kitchen ("Summer Kitchen" in the garage) making it look seamless. There were 10 minute breaks between courses, and they were all at the table to eat each course. They always began with crab cocktails, then huge bowls of steaming linguini in clam sauce and spaghetti in a red lobster sauce. Next came gigantic platters of fried shrimp, calamari and bacala (codfish). These were served with vegetables. Somehow, there was more. Huge trays of stuffed baked lobster tails and salad arrived at the table. I always held out for the tray of fruit, several cheeses (I wanted to sit near the gorgonzola), and of course hundreds of beautiful cookies. See where I get it? God Bless those women!
Christmas Eve 2011, and I had the day OFF from cooking! The oven and stove, and my feet and back have been going full force since before Thanksgiving, so Brad offered to fix our Christmas Eve dinner. I just made dessert the day before.
As it is an Italian tradition to have seafood on Christmas Eve, (but ONE will do for the two of us), we decided to try Thomas Keller's recipe for Butter-Poached Lobster. It works for the French Laundry! We ordered two lobsters, and picked them up that morning. They kept each other company in a box in the garage during the afternoon.
Figure out how much water you will need to cover the lobster completely (we did one at a time in a HUGE pot), and add 1/4 cup distilled vinegar for each 4 quarts. (Huge pot= 1/2 a cup of vinegar). Boil the water-vinegar solution, then turn off the heat.
Immerse the lobster in the hot water for 2-3 minutes (2 for 1.5 lb lobster). Repeat with second lobster.
Remove tails and claws, and put claws back into hot water for 5 minutes. Remove meat from tails. When claws have been in hot water the additional 5 minutes, crack shells and remove meat. (This step can be done ahead. Cover lobster with plastic wrap and put in fridge.) Bring to room temp before proceeding to butter emulsion.
Have 1 pound of unsalted butter cut into large chunks.
In another saucepan, (You'll need enough butter to cover meat, so use a smaller pot), heat 1 T. water, then whisk in butter over medium heat, adding one chunk at a time until all butter has been whisked in forming an emulsion. This is called Beurre Monte'. Add lobster meat and cook over medium-low heat (160-190 degrees on an instant read thermometer) for 6-7 minutes, stirring frequently.
While lobster is poaching, cook orzo in boiling water for 9 minutes, stirring to release gluten. When orzo is cooked, drain, and stir in a heaping spoon of mascarpone and 1/4 c. parmigiano. Stir in a spoon of the butter lobster was cooked in, and pour into warm bowls. Serve lobster on top. Sprinkle with chives if desired (optional).
I can't even tell you how delicious (and rich) this dish was. The lobster was tender and sweet and buttery (DUH!), and the orzo was amazing. YAY Brad for cooking an outstanding meal, and giving me the night off!