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Lobster Stew
By Charlie Burke

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“Lobster stew” is, essentially, a chowder similar in most ways to fish or clam
chowder. Some recipes from the past called for cooking the already cooked
lobster in the pot for prolonged times, certainly more than is needed. Perhaps
this and the fact that potato and salt pork are omitted in lobster stew but
included in nearly all of the other chowder recipes account for the differing
names. Many lobster stews are truly elemental, containing only milk, cream,
butter, lobster stock and lobster, and I think some of the finest I’ve tasted were
made this way.

I usually use a small amount of shallots to sauté in the butter before the
lobster is added, but find potato detracts from the lobster in this traditional
preparation. The best stews contain heavy cream and milk, in varying
proportions depending on the cook’s or guests’ tolerance of cholesterol.
Usually, if I’m serving only a cup as a starter, I’ll use more cream, decreasing
it if the dish is the main course.

I do not use smoke house bacon with classic lobster stew, but I do in one of
my other favorite lobster preparations, lobster and corn chowder, which uses
all of Maine’s late summer treasures: lobster, heirloom tomatoes, new
potatoes, smoked bacon and basil. (http://www.theheartofnewengland.
com/foodLobsterCornChowder.html).

Try it later this summer for a special meal, but this preparation is easy and is
a great way to use any lobster left over from steamed or boiled lobster – or a
good reason to buy extra.

As is the case with other chowders, lobster stew improves if it sets for at least
thirty minutes to permit its flavors to blend. I’ve found that folks who have
been brought up eating lobster appreciate the flavor of the tomalley, and I’ll
frequently puree it with a small amount of melted butter and whisk it into the
stew. If I’m serving guests who do not eat the tomalley when having boiled
lobster, then it is omitted.

In this recipe, the option of serving it with tomalley croutons is offered, and
they add an extra taste of the sea to the stew.

Two servings:

Approximately 2 cups chopped lobster meat, preferably slightly undercooked
2 ½ tablespoons butter, plus extra if making croutons
1 ½ teaspoons chopped shallot
1 teaspoon tomato paste
Lobster tomalley, pureed with melted butter, optional
2 cups lobster stock (lobster shells, barely covered with water, boiled for 30
minutes with 1 carrot, 1 onion and a stalk of celery, pepper corns and a bay
leaf and then strained)
2 cups heavy cream/milk mixture
2 slices day old bread in ½ inch cubes (approximately 1 cup), optional
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped chive, parsley or chervil for garnish, optional

Melt butter over medium heat in a heavy 2-3 quart pot. Add shallots and cook
until soft; do not brown. Add lobster meat, turn heat to low, and cook until
warmed and coated with butter. Remove lobster meat and set aside.

Add lobster stock and raise heat to medium. When stock is heated, stir in
tomato paste and tomalley, if using, (reserve 1-2 tablespoons if making
tomalley croutons). Add milk and cream and warm over low heat. Add
lobster and cook over low heat for five minutes; do not let liquid boil.
Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste and let set for at least 30
minutes. The stew can be cooled to room temperature, covered and
refrigerated overnight.

To make croutons, melt sufficient butter to film a sauté pan over low heat.
Add bread cubes and toss to coat and continue to cook until crisped and
slightly colored. Whisk tomalley with a small amount of melted butter and
pour over croutons, stirring to mix. Turn heat to medium-high until croutons
are dry.

Reheat the stew over low heat.  Remove lobster with a slotted spoon and
divide into bowls. Pour broth around lobster and garnish with croutons and
herbs, if using and serve immediately.

Try this New England classic first with the traditional ingredients, deciding
which proportions of milk and cream you prefer. Variations of the basic
recipe include deglazing the butter/shallot mixture with sherry before
adding the stock, adding chopped best quality heirloom tomatoes when in
season, and adding fresh chervil, basil or tarragon which share an anise-like
flavor compatible with lobster. I enjoy tomalley, so the croutons are my
addition, but traditionally, New Englanders serve oyster crackers or
Westminster crackers with their stew.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH
Farm to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  
Along with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at
Weather Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
Lobster Stew
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