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January 12, 2007

Mining Iron Chef

Dominic Armato
The little fella has (rightfully!) cut into blogging time a bit as of late, so I'm going to keep mining the old Iron Chef archives for a little while. Hopefully he'll start sleeping through the night before I run out of old recipes.

This is one of my personal all-time faves, even if it wasn't everybody's cup of tea at the judging table. Soft-cooked egg is one of those things that just doesn't sit well with some people, for reasons I'll never understand. I can't think of a better way to eat an egg than just barely set. This particular recipe was for Iron Chef, and inspired by Iron Chef. On more than a couple of episodes, the chefs have made what Fukui-san and Hattori-san (or their Canadian voiceover counterparts, in any case) referred to as an "egg royale". I'm still not sure exactly what an egg royale is supposed to be, but this is how I envision it. It's a rich, savory egg dish where the egg is topped with a flavored cream and cooked so that it's just barely set, and still wonderfully gooey. Apologies for the large yield, but it hardly seems worth offing a pair of lobsters for a couple of small cups. Plus, it's not exactly a simple recipe, so I think it's best reserved for larger dinner parties anyway.



Dominic Armato

2 live lobsters, 1½ - 2 lbs. each
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 C. chopped onion
½ C. chopped carrot
½ C. chopped celery
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
½ C. white wine
½ C. heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. cognac
1 tsp. coarse salt
3 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 C. finely diced red bell pepper
1 C. finely diced onion
12 large, fresh eggs
chives, for garnish

Lobster Egg Royale with
Cognac-Lobster Cream
Serves 12 as an appetizer

Bring a big honking pot of salted water to a rolling boil, and provided you're comfortable with that sort of thing, toss in the lobsters. After two minutes, pull them out and immediately shock them in a really big bath of ice water. Make sure there's plenty of ice, as most of it will melt immediately and you want the lobsters to continue cooling. When the lobsters are cool, remove the claw and tail meat and refrigerate it for later use. Save the shells!

Using a big, heavy knife or cleaver (you have one, right?), chop the bodies in half lengthwise and scoop out the squicky-looking yellow-green organ in the middle of the body. You can get rid of that. Continue chopping the bodies, as well as all of the shells, until you have a nice, big pile of chitinous carnage.

In a stock pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium, then add the 1 C. of chopped onion, carrot and celery. Saute for a minute or two, then add the lobster shells. Cook for 5-6 minutes until the vegetables start to soften and turn golden. Add the tomato paste, and continue cooking for another 4-5 minutes. You want the tomato paste to kind of caramelize and intensify, but you don't want to burn anything. If it looks like things are starting to get toasty, go straight to the wine.

Once your vegetables and tomato paste have caramelized a little, deglaze with the white wine, scraping up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add enough cold water to just cover, and bring the mixture back up to a simmer, but don't let it boil. Once you've reached a simmer, let it cook away for about an hour.

Using a chinois or other fine-meshed sieve, strain the stock into a clean saucepan, pressing to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Put your back into it. Then, pitch the solids. Now you have a saucepan full of lobster stock, which you want to reduce over medium-high heat until you have about ½ C. of liquid. It should have an almost light gravy-like consistency and be really intense. Remove it from the heat, let it cool, then mix in the cream, cognac and 1 tsp. salt. You don't want it to be like creamy saline, but the mixture should be a little too salty, as it'll be mixed with the eggs later on. Keep it refrigerated until you're ready to assemble the dish.

While you're working on the lobster mixture, preheat the oven to 350°. Pull your reserved lobster meat from the fridge, and dice it. Combine the butter and olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the finely diced onion and red bell pepper (from which I trust you've removed all of the seeds and ribbing) and saute until the onions start to turn translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Throw in the diced lobster, season with some freshly ground black pepper and more salt (again, make it a little saltier than it should be... it'll work out correctly once the eggs are added), and continue to saute until the lobster has just barely lost its outer raw color, as it'll finish cooking in the oven. Remove the mixture from the heat and adjust the seasoning however you see fit.

Set out a dozen 4 oz. ramekins, and fill them about halfway with the lobster-vegetable mix, leaving a slight indentation in the center. Crack an egg into each ramekin so that the yolk sits in the indentation. Pull your cognac-lobster cream from the fridge, and spoon 1-2 Tbsp. around each egg yolk, so that it mixes with the whites. Arrange the ramekins in a deep baking dish or roasting pan, and fill the pan with simmering water so that the ramekins are halfway submerged. Bake them in the oven until they're finished. Of course, knowing when they're finished is the trickiest part. They can go from perfectly done to overdone in just a minute or two, so you want to watch them carefully. Ideally, you want the outer edges to be set, the center to be a little jiggly, and the yolk nice and runny. If you poke the outer edge of the egg white with a fork or chopstick and it's firm, get 'em out... they're done. Then carefully transfer the ramekins to plates, garnish them with a little chopped chive, and get 'em on the table.

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