I was born in Maine so I come by my obsession with lobster honestly. My mother liked to recount the fact that back when I was a little girl, lobster was less expensive than hamburger, so I cut my teeth on the stuff. My enthusiasm for the lobster has not dimmed a bit since then, and it’s a damned shame that hamburger is now significantly cheaper than shellfish. As many friends can attest, I once ate lobster every day for two straight weeks while on vacation in New England. And I’m still not sick of it! If there were a Guinness World Records lobster-eating contest, I’d be a contender.
In fact, just an hour ago I bought myself a live 2.24-pound Atlantic lobster. Within minutes of my arrival in Boston on the red eye from San Francisco this morning, I’d picked up my ritual coffee and Dunkin’ Donut, and then hurried off to provision my sister’s house, where I’m petsitting for 12 days. My shopping cart was already stuffed with bacon, Wellfleet oysters, and organic chicken, when I spied the lobster tank tucked in a corner of the store.
I put the chicken back (but not the bacon or oysters), and then requested the biggest crustacean in the tank. I was hoping for a four-pounder, but the two employees at the fish counter were extremely squeamish about handling any lobster (sissies), so I stuck with the first specimen that went into the bag. I was mildly disappointed that it seemed so much smaller out of the water, but 2.24 pounds will just have to suffice (and there’s always tomorrow, tomorrow). In case you were wondering, I plan on fixing myself a private little feast this evening to celebrate the return to my birthplace.
And that brings me to Lobster Linguine, an elegant dish that showcases frozen Atlantic lobster tails. This is a light but rich presentation. That may seem like an oxymoron, but the pasta is not heavily sauced, which keeps the dish from getting bogged down, and all of the other components are wonderfully bright and flavorful. Fresh tarragon, lobster stock, white wine, and baby spinach add layers of complexity to the recipe and nicely balance the sweet richness of the lobster. Making a cheater’s lobster stock from the shells is an extra step, but one that’s truly worth the minimal effort. And at the price of lobster, it makes good sense to waste none of it. Prepping the stock takes just a few minutes, but it should reduce for an hour-and-a-half to two hours, so plan accordingly.
It’s easy to overcook lobster, rendering it stiff and tough, which is why I like using the sous vide method for this recipe. Poaching the shellfish in butter is fast and easy, and the delicious juices that collect in the bag boost the lobstery essence of the dish. Fifteen minutes at 140°F produces lobster that is slightly undercooked, which is perfect because the lobster is added at the last minute to the skillet, where it needs just a minute to finish cooking.
Once your water bath is ready and the pasta water is boiling, this dish should only take 20 to 25 minutes to make from start to finish. The secret to making pasta without stress is to have all of the ingredients prepped before you begin. Start heating the water for the linguine when you turn on the water bath, then mince and measure the other ingredients. When the lobster and pasta go in their respective baths, turn your attention to the stove and begin cooking the shallots, wine, etc. As soon as the linguine is al dente, transfer it to the skillet. It will soak up the sauce in the pan while it finishes cooking. The lobster gets added at the very last minute for a quick reheating only. Enjoy!
Serves 4 as an entrée
- Preheat the water bath to 140°F (60°C). Fill a large pot with at least 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Place the lobster tails in a large food bag and add 3 tablespoons of butter, a scant pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon of the tarragon. Vacuum seal the bag and refrigerate until ready to cook.
- Add the lobster to the water bath and cook 15 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and the linguine to the boiling water, and stir the pasta for about 1 minute. Cook until the pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, add the remaining tablespoon of butter to a large skillet and melt over medium heat. Add the shallots and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots soften, about 3 minutes. Add the wine, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook until most of the wine evaporates, about 6 minutes. Stir in the lobster stock and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the spinach to the skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach wilts. Using tongs, transfer the hot linguine from its pot to the skillet, and raise the heat to high. Cook, stirring frequently to coat the linguine with the sauce. Stir in the crème fraiche and reduce the heat to medium. At this stage the lobster should be cooked. Open the bag and pour the accumulated juices into the skillet. Slice the lobster into ½-inch thick pieces and add them to the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until the lobster is hot, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining minced tarragon. Divide among shallow warm bowls, garnish each serving with fresh lemon zest, and serve immediately.
This takes just a few minutes to prep, but plan on 1 to 2 hours to cook and reduce the stock.
- Chop the tail shells or use scissors to cut them into 2 or 3 pieces each. Place the shells in a medium-size pan and cover with cold water. Add ⅓ cup white wine, a few peppercorns, and a small piece each of onion and carrot to the pan. Bring the stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced to about 1 cup. Strain the stock, discarding the shells and solids. Makes about 1 cup. Freeze unused stock for up to 6 months.