There are many versions of course, but this is my family’s, and it is good. We always serve it with a pilaff of white long grain rice, with a little softened onion, and a green salad. If you are lucky there will be some sauce left over, and it is wonderful stirred into good spaghetti.
Ingredients (for 4):
- 2 lobsters – about a pound and a quarter each
- Lambig – this is Breton apple brandy / eau de vie. Any apple or even conventional brandy is OK. We have a bottle of Lambig in the house given to us by my Grand-Pere. It is about 50 years old, and terrifyingly strong, so it mostly gets used for cooking despite being smooth as silk. It was made by a cousin of his, no longer with us.
- 2 large onions – Spanish or if you can get them the lovely pink Roscoff onions, for the full Breton experience – peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 250g butter (1 UK pack, or 2 sticks)
- 1/8 cup of flavourless cooking oil
- 400g tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped. (In the winter I use tinned, 400g is exactly one tin)
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- Up to a bottle of white wine, classically Muscadet
- Bouquet garni of thyme and 1-2 bayleaves
- A pinch of cayenne pepper
- Salt and pepper
Prepare the lobster:
- Kill your lobster as discussed here. If you are using the boiling water method, do not cook it through, but get it out again once dead, and still barely cooked at all.
- Break off the claws, and crack them (the back of a cleaver is good here, hit the side of the claw) so that the cooking sauce can get in, and so can the eater later on.
- Take the tail off, and cut it into medaillions , perhaps 4-5 depending on the size of your lobster.
- Cut the head in half. This is easily done as follows: Locate a sort of cross on the back of the head, put the tip of your knife into that, and push down hard. From there you can lever the knife down, and cut the head in half vertically.
- Inside the head will be a grey-green substance. This is tamale, known as “coral” in France, and should be reserved in a bowl for later.
- If the lobster was female there may be eggs. These are edible, but I don’t like them in this dish at all, so I remove them.
Cook the dish:
- Fry the lobster pieces in a third of a stick of butter (a sixth of the pack), mixed with the oil (to stop the butter burning).
- When the pieces have become a little red (they will be already if you boiled the lobster to kill it) and the flesh is taking some golden tints, tip over a glass of the Lambig, and flambé it. If you are using real Lambig (and perhaps even if you are not) lean back for this, it is spectacularly flammable. And really do tip the booze out into a glass for adding to the dish. Don’t pour it directly out of the bottle. With this mega-strong hooch there is a chance the vapours will ignite, burning back into the bottle which will then explode in your hand, Molotov cocktail style. Not good at all.
- Add the onions, soften for minute or so, and then add the garlic and the tomato and tomato puree.
- Add the Muscadet (I almost never add a whole bottle, usually more like half, but if you are feeling extravagant….)
- Toss in the bouquet garni, and leave to simmer gently for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut the remaining butter into small dice.
- After 15 minutes take out the lobster pieces and put on a warm platter, whilst you finish the sauce. Whisk in the butter and set aside tamale from the head, and add the pinch of cayenne pepper.
- Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed.
- Reduce the sauce for about 3 minutes over a high heat.
- Spoon some of the sauce over the lobster pieces, and put the rest in a bowl / sauce boat for people to help themselves to, and serve.