The Heart of New England
Lobster Tarragon
by Charlie Burke

One of our favorite recipes for a special Christmas Eve or New Year’s dinner is
lobster in a creamy tomato tarragon sauce, which I adapted about twenty years
ago from a recipe Julia Child published for chicken breasts in a tarragon white
wine sauce.

Because lobster has an affinity for the anise – like flavor of herbs such as chervil
and tarragon, I thought it might work with fresh lobster meat, and we’ve been
making it ever since.

This is a rich and somewhat expensive meal which is why we save it for special
occasions. Use a good fish stock, which many fish stores provide, or make a
stock from lobster shells if you are cooking your own lobster meat (see our
archived recipe for lobster and corn chowder for instructions; omit the corn
cobs). A mild chicken stock works also.

Serve the lobster with spinach, braised leeks or other green vegetable and
buttered rice or small pasta such as orzo. Occasionally we increase the sauce
ingredients by a half and serve the lobster over linguine. This is the meal to
splurge on a good white Burgundy or Brut champagne in keeping with the
spirit of the holidays.  

For four servings:

One pound lobster meat, slightly undercooked (if ordering from a fish market
request the lobsters be cooked 3 minutes less than for done; do the same if
cooking at home – the meat finishes cooking as the dish is finished)  

1 ½  tablespoons finely chopped shallots
3 tablespoons butter
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or 2 tsp dried
1 ½ cups drained and chopped tomatoes.  

In summer choose the most flavorful heirloom tomatoes.  This time of year,
canned tomatoes, your own or purchased, are far superior to tasteless
supermarket “fresh” varieties. We use Muir Glen
Organic whole tomatoes when ours are gone.

½ cup heavy cream - do not substitute light cream which will curdle in the acid
¾ cup fish, lobster or chicken stock – do not use bottled
clam juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Chop the lobster into 1 -2 inch pieces, leaving claws
intact. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat and melt butter until it
foams. Add shallots and cook, stirring until softened – 2 or 3 minutes. Add
tomatoes and tarragon, increasing the heat to high so that the tomatoes boil,
losing some of their moisture. Add the stock, cream and wine and continue
boiling until the sauce has thickened and reduced. Add salt and several grinds
of pepper to taste. If serving immediately, reduce heat until the sauce is just
simmering, stir in the lobster and cook for 1 – 2 minutes until the meat is hot. It
will continue to cook as you serve it. Serve on warmed plates with your choice
of vegetable and
starch. The sauce can be made ahead, in which case I suggest the boiling and
reduction be done just before adding the meat and serving.

About the author An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the
vice president of the New Hampshire Farmer’s Market Association (
www. and helps run the Sanbornton Farmers' Market. Along with his wife,
Joanne, he grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather Hill
Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
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