Thursday, April 8, 2010

"My Lobster Has Rabies"

Today, I killed a lobster... sort of.  My group mate and I were making Bouillabaisse which is a seafood stew hailing from southern France.  We had mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp, monkfish, haddock and of course the lobster.  I had never killed a lobster before, and maybe even after today I'm not sure I actually did.  We had four lobsters total, and I was to kill two of them.  My first lobster started foaming at the mouth (see photo above), which freaked me out a little.  I commented that it must have rabies, which got some laughs, but the foaming didn't subside.  Clearly it wasn't happy to become someone's lunch.  We were not dropping these babies into boiling water, which would have been easy in comparison.  Oh no.  We were to curl under their tail, hold it tightly with one hand.  Flip the whole lobster onto its back, while it made every effort to squirm away and save it's own life (can you blame it?) and then take the point of our French knife and cut down through its brain.  Yeah, it sounds horribly cruel.  Although they supposedly die instantly when you do that, their body still contorts and moves and trashes around for several minutes after you kill it.  When I tried to kill my first lobster, its thrashing tail freaked me out, and my chef came over and killed it for me, teasing me, and telling me to do the next one.  I did, and then he told me that the lobster would probably die from laughing at me.  Haha.  Yeah, it was a sight to be seen.  I'm thinking I probably didn't cut through it's brain all the way, because it definitely wasn't dead about 10 minutes later when we went to cut the lobsters into pieces, eek!  It tried to run away, and my group mate had to "kill it again."  THEN, we had to cut the lobsters into parts to use in our stew.  Even the parts were moving!  When I went to remove one of the tails, the dead lobster contracted and curled its tail under, while another which had already had its tail removed snapped its claw after it had already been cut from the rest of the body.  Freaky!  I know this sounds bad, but I actually have no ethical issues with killing lobsters.  They are like giant water bugs and they taste good.  My squeamishness comes from the whole flapping tails and trying to resist the jaws of death.  I can't blame them.  I mean, if someone tied my legs down, wrapped rubber bands around my arms and cut through my brain with a giant knife, I would try to escape as well.  I might also foam at the mouth.

Once the lobsters had been sufficiently killed and cut into parts, we sliced up some leeks, sweat them in olive oil, added some lobster stock that we had made yesterday, along with tomato paste and some baby fennel stalks for flavor, and cooked it down.  We marinated the scallops, fish, and shrimp in a mixture of olive oil, saffron, salt and pepper.  Then when we were ready for service, I threw the marinated scallops/fish/shrimp, the lobster pieces, clams, and mussels into the pot, mixed it around occasionally, and covered it.  It was delicious!  We cut circles out of bread, brushed them with clarified butter and some crushed garlic, and toasted them.  To top our croutons we made Rouille, a traditional accompaniment to Bouillabaisse.  We roasted a red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and diced it.  Threw it in a food processor with a peeled, cooked, and diced potato, some garlic, and salt, and then pureed it, adding about 1/2 a cup of olive oil (give or take) until it reached the desired texture.  Then we slathered this thick, red, garlicky emulsion on top of the croutons and served them with the Bouillabaisse.  Our final garnish was quartered baby fennel which we steamed.

Another first for me today was shucking oysters.  It wasn't actually my job.  Another group was frying oysters as an accompaniment to their chicken dish, and I badly wanted to learn and the girl who was making that dish had shucked a million oysters before so she was happy to teach me and let me do most of them.  I had some trouble at first, but I managed to get several of them shucked on my own without help.  Some were easier than others, and at this point I would still consider myself far from capable of shucking oysters like a champ.  At least I have a good understanding of how it's done, and I've succeeded to some extent, but would like another opportunity to try.  I believe we have one more oyster dish to prepare next week, so we'll see who is assigned to make that.  Maybe me! :)

These were the lobsters I was to kill.  I only "kinda" managed to kill one of them.

Our seafood, clockwise from the top: mussels and clams, shrimp, lobsters, fish (haddock and monkfish), scallops

The marinated scallops, shrimp, and fish

Our gorgeous Bouillabaisse with Rouille

It was delicious!

Potage St. Germain (Split Pea Soup)

Consom aux Quenelle de Veau (Consommé with Veal Dumplings)

Artichaut au Saumon Gratiné (Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms with Smoked Salmon)

Escalope de Veau Cordon Bleau (Veal Cordon Bleu)

Gigot d'Agneau Florentine (Spinach-Stuffed Leg of Lamb)

Supreme de Volaille à la Wolseley (Chicken Breast Stuffed with Salmon Mousse and Served with Fried Oyster)

Laitue d'Hiver (Lettuce Salad)


Amanda Silvia said...

Your description of killing the lobster reminds me of some descriptions from Julie & Julia (the book, not the movie)! I would not be able to do that. I would not even be able to put them in a pot of boiling water. Then again, I can't even have them on a plate in front of me. If I'm at a family gathering and we're having lobster, I have to ask someone to get the meat out for me and just put it on my plate. The claws and antenna freak me out. Good for you for trying new things.

Victoria K. said...

Haha, thanks! It was pretty freaky, I'm not gonna lie. I really hope I never have to do that again. I'm pretty sure I'd be fine with throwing them in a pot of boiling water, but cutting them up is just NOT for me :) I literally shrieked several times when it would move on me, haha.

Angie's Recipes said...

You are brave! I still dare not to deal with live lobster!
The food looks awesome!

Victoria K. said...

Thanks, Angie! :)

Anonymous said...

I've heard that if you put them into the freezer, it is less difficult b/c they go to "sleep."

Victoria K. said...

Yes, I've heard that too and would have preferred to try that out, but the lobsters arrived late, and with our time crunch we didn't really have time to try that out. We were basically handed the lobsters and told to kill them and then cut them up, since the rest of our seafood had all been prepped and were ready to go :) If I ever have to do it again, I will definitely stick them in the freezer, haha!

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