I love how, in Paper Chef and other challenges, the random selection of ingredients, sometimes complementary, sometimes incongruous, evokes an emotional response. I have a few memorable gustatory experiences with lobster and a few favorite ways of cooking shellfish, all with citrus, typically orange. So the combination of lobster, orange, apricot and ginger was a good one for me.
There was a time in my life, in my early 30s, when I found myself single, between marriages, and when I cooked for myself or invited friends over or invited myself over with a food offering or volunteered to cook for a crowd or entertained clients or sampled restaurants or attended cooking demonstrations or planted a garden full of whatever I fancied. With no one specific to please and lots of takers for my cooking, I had a blast. There are notes all over my cookbooks about what I cooked and for whom, with comments, mostly about the food. And I was pretty skinny given all of the food that I must have made, but then again I was dating.
For a birthday during that period, I was given a ticket to a single cooking class by Roger Vergé, a chef from the south of France, who made a delicious poached lobster with an orange beurre blanc sauce. I later made the dish for a client dinner. So I thought about resurrecting that for Paper Chef. On a rare evening this week, when I was home alone for supper, and thinking of that time, I was leafing through the Vergé cookbook that was part of the gift, and came across an annotation next to a crayfish entrée, “by myself, October 23.” Chuckling at the coincidence, I bagged the beurre blanc and experimented with a combination orange-ginger marinade and salad dressing and tried it out on shrimp for myself, knowing that I could tune it when I would make a similar lobster dish for my family on the weekend.
There were lobster tails at half price in the supermarket (yay), so grilling or roasting them seemed the best way to go. I made an orange-ginger base with fish sauce, reserved some for the dressing (I was planning of serving the lobster on some kind of greens), then added some of the apricot jam that I canned last summer, making a marinade. The apricot jam not only added another, complementary flavor but also helped the marinade “stick” to the lobster meat. I got the idea of adding fish sauce from a Rick Moonen recipe, but you wouldn’t have to. I found an online video from Wegman’s grocery store, which showed how to split the tails lengthwise. With the tail facing you, plunge a large sharp chef’s knife into the shell a little over midway up the length, then pivot the knife down and through the shell and tail. Turn the lobster around, insert the knife in the same spot and pivot it down to slice through the large end.
This turned out to be a good do-ahead dish as well as something that could be served right away. I served the lobster meat over a frisée salad tossed with the reserved dressing, slices of dried apricot, and snipped chives and mint leaves fresh from my garden. Very refreshing on a warm spring day.
Orange-roasted Lobster Salad
3-4 lobster tails, split in half lengthwise
¾-1 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp grated orange zest
2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
l shallot, minced
1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp apricot jam
Frisee or other salad greens
Mint leaves, torn into small pieces
Dried apricots, thinly sliced
Combine the orange juice, zest, fish sauce, shallot, ginger and oil, adjusting the proportions so that it would make a good salad dressing. Set some aside for the dressing, then add the apricot jam for the marinade (you may need to warm it up to liquefy it). Add black pepper if desired. (Salt is not necessary because of the fish sauce.) Place the marinade in a shallow glass plan and add the split lobster tails, cut side down, spooning marinade over any exposed meat. Marinate for several hours.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, Remove the lobster from the marinade and place it on the baking sheet cut side down. Roast for about 10 minutes. The lobster meat should be cooked to 145 degrees, but it will continue to cook after removal from the oven, so I undershot it a little so as not to toughen the flesh. (I roasted shrimp cooked in a similar way for less than 2 minutes, flipping and finishing in a minute.) Let the lobster sit for a minute and remove the meat from the shells if serving over salad. (Otherwise, serve hot in the shells.)
I served this warm over frisée, coated with the reserved dressing and tossed with sliced dried apricots, chopped chives and torn mint leaves.