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Lobster Americaine with Lemon-Parsley Pesto

When the summer season hits, chef Bryan Voltaggio’s thoughts turn to backyard barbecues, crab feasts and the classic lobster boil. Here, he transforms fresh lobster into an impressive main course, paired with a rich herb-infused sauce Americaine and brightened with lemon-parsley pesto.

Ingredients:

For the lobsters and sauce Americaine:

  • 7 1/3 cups water
  • 3 Tbs. fine sea salt, plus more, to taste
  • 2 live lobsters, each about 2 lb.
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Trimmings from diced celery root (see below)
  • 3/4 cup brandy or cognac
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • Leaves from 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • Leaves from 3 fresh tarragon sprigs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  •  

For the lemon-parsley pesto:

  • 2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. water
  • 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
  •  

For the vegetables:

  • 12 small Yukon Gold potatoes, halved
  • 12 pearl onions, peeled
  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 6 to 8 wedges
  • 1 large celery root, peeled and cut into large dice, trimmings reserved for sauce
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  •  

To finish:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1 Tbs. chicken stock or water
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves for garnish

Directions:

To prepare the lobsters and sauce Americaine, in a large bowl, combine 4 1/3 cups of the water and the 3 Tbs. sea salt, stirring to dissolve the salt. Add the lobsters to the brine and soak for 15 minutes, pouring the brine over the top of the lobsters occasionally. Remove the lobsters and discard the brine.

In the base of a large 2-tiered lobster pot or a large 2-tiered steamer over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, fennel, garlic and celery root trimmings and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the brandy, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until the brandy has evaporated, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the remaining 3 cups water, the thyme and tarragon and bring to a simmer.

Place the top tier of the lobster pot over the base, place the lobsters inside and cover the pot. Steam the lobsters until just cooked through, 9 to 10 minutes. Transfer the lobsters to a cutting board and let stand until cool enough to handle; reserve the broth in the pot.

Using a large chef’s knife, split the lobsters in half lengthwise. Leaving the meat in the shells, remove the intestinal vein from the tails, the grain sacs from the heads and any green tomalley from the bodies. Using a lobster claw cracker, crack the claws but keep them intact for serving. Remove the legs and roll over them with a rolling pin, then remove the meat from an open end of the legs. Reserve the leg meat for the sauce.

To finish the sauce, strain the broth from the lobster pot into a small saucepan; you should have about 2 cups. Place the pan over medium-high heat and simmer until the broth is reduced by half, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the cream, bring to a simmer and add the 1/2 bay leaf. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Transfer the sauce to a blender, add the reserved lobster leg meat and puree on high speed until very smooth. Pass the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve. Adjust the seasonings with salt. Keep the sauce warm until ready to serve.

To prepare the lemon-parsley pesto, in a food processor, combine the parsley, lemon zest, olive oil, water and salt. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Set aside until ready to serve.

To prepare the vegetables, put the potatoes, pearl onions, fennel, celery root and water in a large sauté pan. Place the pan over medium-low heat and bring to a simmer. Add the salt and simmer until the vegetables are tender and most of the water has evaporated, 25 to 30 minutes. Add the butter and toss gently to glaze the vegetables. Set aside until ready to serve.

To finish the dish, prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill, or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat.

In a bowl, stir together the reserved lobster tails and claws, the olive oil and sea salt. Place the lobsters on the grill rack or on the grill pan and cook, turning occasionally, until nicely grill-marked and heated through, about 2 minutes.

Set the pan with the vegetables over medium heat, add the stock and butter and toss until heated through. Spoon the vegetables onto a large platter and top with the lobsters. Drizzle with the sauce Americaine and add a dollop of the lemon-parsley pesto. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Recipe from Chef Bryan Voltaggio