Sunday, October 26, 2008

Attack of the Monster Lobsters!

by Xani and Erin

As our loyal readers know, about twice a year the BCD family gets together to cook what we call "Super Jumbo Lobsters." These 5+lb beasts are a very special treat, and make us look forward to Father's Day and BCD Dad's birthday every year (probably even more than he does!).

So this year, Dad's first birthday at Blackacre, we celebrated with a menu fit for a king:

Champagne Cocktails (for the ladies)

Johnny Walker Blue (for the birthday boy)

Mini-baked potatoes with creme fraiche* and caviar

Super Jumbo Lobsters

DQ-style onion rings

Custard apple tart

*or reasonable facsimile thereof

After picking up the lobsters ("L1", an eight pounder (!) and "L2", a lightweight at just four pounds), which we pre-ordered from Frank's Seafood (where employees and patrons alike gave us sideways looks as we carried those suckers out of there), and driving out to Blackacre, we spent most of the day preparing the dinner (with a moment stolen here and there to put together our INSANE Halloween Party-planning spreadsheet; stay tuned for that ridiculous post this week!).

We had to get started on the custard apple tart fairly early because Xani insisted on making the tart dough from scratch. We used Julia Child's recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Vol. 1) and the dough seemed simple enough, just butter, butter, shortening, and a hint of flour and sugar to keep it all together. It ended up being easy to put together, with the help of the Cuisinart, but was extremely fragile after chilling and rolling out. By some miracle she managed to get it into the tart pan and par-baked (with the help of some dried beans - anyone who tells you you need to buy pie weights is just trying to con you into buying pie weights). Meanwhile, BCD Dad used the mandolin to thinly slice the apples, and EP mixed the slices with cinnamon and sugar, then arranged them in a spiral pattern in the shell, and then we par-baked THAT until the apples were soft and lightly browned. Then we set it aside to finish just before serving....

Figuring out the pastry plan of attack

Later, as we waited for the huge pot of water to boil, we sipped cocktails and nibbled on our fancy little hors d'oeuvres, which we fashioned after the ones we ate at Restaurant Local a few weeks ago. We got local mini-potatoes at Emily's Produce stand, and made our own creme fraiche by mixing a little buttermilk into regular sour cream. We topped them off with some American caviar and some chopped green onions. So cute and yummy!

Then it was time for Erin and BCD Dad to murder and dismember the lobsters. The murdering moment is not always fun (Xani sometimes cowers in the other room until the deed is done). It's helpful to think of the lobsters as giant cockroaches so you don't feel bad about plunging them into hot water. But then you immediately have to get the thought of eating giant cockroaches out of your mind. It's a vicious cycle. Anyhow, while L1 was boiling away, Xani prepared a version of Dairy Queen onion rings, thought to be some of the best around (we used this recipe). The rings went through a three step coating process: first the flour and fine cracker crumbs (although we actually used matzoh meal-- Jewish cracker crumbs?), then the buttermilk mixture, then the cornmeal. As with any wet/dry breading process, it was a struggle getting everything breaded without breading your fingers as well! But, Xani finally figured out a system and got the rings a-fryin'. And they were some of the best onion rings we have ever made at home. The coating worked really well, didn't fall off, and the cornmeal finish gave them great crunch. The Vidalia onion was nice and sweet and got perfectly soft (but not mushy) just as the breading turned golden. A miracle! Xani kept the first batches warm under the heating lamp while she finished the others, meanwhile EP was on Dismemberment Detail:

(For a complete description of how to cook and dismember a Super Jumbo Lobster, see this post ).

EP did an awesome job dismantling L1 AND L2, and they were both so good: perfectly cooked, flavorful, and tender. Anyone who tells you a big lobster is going to be tough is a stupid liar. We ate them dipped in glorious melted salted butter from the Amish market, with those awesome crunchy onion rings on the side, and drank our favorite white wine, Treana (which is a Viognier, we believe-- if we're wrong we're sure BCD Dad will let us know in the comments!). What a fabulous meal! We are so lucky to be able to indulge in this wonderful treat every so often. We highly recommend that every person have a Super Jumbo Lobster experience at least once-- the memories will last a lifetime.

"Lobster is not for dogs"

But the meal wasn't quite over. As we did the first round of cleanup (this meal requires a LOT of cleanup), Xani whipped up the custard base for the tart: egg, flour, sugar, and cream, whisked until thick, then poured over the partially baked tart. It went back into the oven while we cleaned up, and brewed some coffee and espresso, and about 20 minutes later came out beautifully set and golden-brown.

Xani was extremely proud of this dish because she doesn't do that much baking (yet) and so the dough and custard steps were a bit of a challenge. However, it was so amazingly good--flaky crust, and soft, sweet apples all wrapped in silky custard (even if the crust didn't LOOK perfect) that it has confirmed her desire to get more into baking this fall/winter. Blog-readers can look forward to lots of baking-related posts, and friends/coworkers can expect lots of baked goodies coming their way (I can't just have tons of baked-goods sitting around my house, I'll EAT them all! -X).

In conclusion, what a meal! It was a lot of fun to prepare and just as fun to eat. Happy happy Birthday Dad-- you're the best Dad we ever had!!

X and EP

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