Ouverture de Cuisine; Lobsters

 

 

NOTE! There are two recipes on this page.

It’s BUSTER Season! The lobsters are busting out of their old shells and developing new ones, which is both a fascinating process and the time of year when they are least expensive where I live.
Some people prefer to purchase hardshell lobster, the ones still in their old shells. The firmer meat makes this a wise choice, but I chose softshells, those already moulted, for their more tender meat and low price. Softshells are only found near the fisheries, and only for a couple of weeks of the year.
I will not go into details of processing here, as I know some find it upsetting. I will only say that I respect my dinner, and am merciful.

 

This is an excerpt from Ouverture de Cuisine
(France, 1604 – Daniel Myers, trans.)

Stuffed Lobster or Crab.

Take lobster or crab, & make them boil like little lobsters, then take all the meat out, without breaking at all the shells thereon, then chop all the meat, & put therein chopped marjoram, nutmeg & pepper, three or four egg yolks, & fry all in butter, & put them back into the shell thereon, & all the little legs fried in butter, & put together.

a lobster on a cutting board, with assembled ingredients. Several egg yolks

For the first recipe, I first poached the lobster in wine with black pepper and considerable salt, then cautiously picked all of the meat that I could.
I blended this with the seasonings, sauteed the mixture together, and then stuffed the body.

all ingredients in a skillet, with a quarter pound of butter.
There was nowhere near enough meat to stuff the body properly, so I know I am missing some greater understanding of the dish.
I could have
stuffed the tails alone, but this would not have made a beautiful illusion food.
used the claw meat, but this would have spoiled the visual appearance of the service.
Stuffed the body and left the tail empty, but again, the service would have suffered
Used more stuffing ingredients and left the tail in place, stuffing only the body. This was the least appealing, as there is so little meat that is not in the tail or claws. ( I did pick carefully, but there still is’t enough to make a cup or so of filling)
My clue was the instruction to fry the legs in butter and use them as well. This implied that not only am I to use the accessible meat, but also to reassemble the dish as an illusion in some way.
I do trust my instinct to use Atlantic lobster rather than Mediterranean, but my choice to use softshells with less meat appears to have been a tactical error.
I served the stuffing as a delicate pate. It made a very rich and unctuous dish, with lobster meat, the rich ingredients from the body, butter, and egg yolks, seasoned with fresh marjoram, pepper, and nutmeg.
I would not attempt this for more than four people, even if I had all of the free lobsters in the world. It is so delicate that more than a moment from stove to table would ruin it.
The same Lobster or Crab in pottage.

Take all of the raw meat out, & cut into little pieces, & put to stew with white wine, fresh butter, ground nutmeg, a little pepper, chopped mint, or fresh citron cut into slices, & make it stew well, that it will be fat with butter, & put it when well cooked into little reumers, & serve so five or six to a plate.

I made the other dish at the same time. This one was both a great challenge and a wonderful reward.
I have not often picked meat from a raw lobster. It’s rather difficult, as the flesh is so delicate.
Again, choosing softshells worked against me.
After assembling the simmering ingredients and putting them together in the pot, I added the finely chopped flesh. I chose to use lemon rather than mint, as mint made no sense to my palate and I was not going to risk failure with such a delicate dish.
I served it in a ramekin with the broth and sippets. We both agreed that it was very like some of the better preparations of Shrimp Scampi we have had, but for the lack of garlic. It was both very familiar and slightly alien.
This dish would work very well with shrimp, monkfish, or even chicken breast as a rich delicacy.

a small ceramic ramekin filled to the top with broth and meat, sitting on a counter

http://www.medievalcookery.com/notes/ouverture.html

http://www.medievalcookery.com/search/display.html?ouver:111:LPSTR
http://www.medievalcookery.com/search/display.html?ouver:112:LPSTR

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