Summer Seafood Soirée

Acclaimed cookbook author Béatrice Peltre was raised in the countryside of northeastern France but now lives in Boston and enjoys escaping to the South Shore in the summer to visit friends and enjoy sumptuous lobster feasts.

Text and photos by Beatrice Peltre

“Let’s have a lobster weekend,” my friend said to me. “I’ll talk to my lobster guy.”
“Your lobster guy?” I asked.
“Yes. You’ll see. You’ll love him.”

Quite frankly, I was excited by this suggestion. My friends Ron and Ellen live in a beautiful house on the South Shore that has an amazing view of the ocean. He has his own garden and loves to cook—and does it very well. He also speaks French, which [for a native speaker like me] is relaxing to hear at the end of the week.

I packed on Friday night, filling my bags with delicious foods I wanted to bring and on Saturday morning I left Boston and headed south.

“J’ai déjà commencé (I’ve started already),” Ron told me as I entered his kitchen. He was busily working behind the stove and I caught sight of three pink lobsters on the counter. I immediately felt relieved (I’ve never liked plunging lobsters into a pot of boiling water and I was glad that he had done it for me). “I have more,” he said with a wide smile that lit up his tanned face. Clearly, we would be enjoying a lobster feast.

Sitting poolside, inside a small wooden gazebo, my hosts treated me to a lunch of sliced homegrown juicy tomatoes and cucumber with Italian prosciutto and Tallegio cheese. As expected, it wasn’t long before we started talking about our dinner plans.

“Demain, on ira voir Tommy Alioto,” Ron said to me. He was talking about his “lobster guy,” who owns and runs the Cohasset Lobster Pound on picturesque Cohasset Harbor. “You’ll see that he is quite a character. He’s got a smile.”

We debated the best lobster salad recipe to follow and settled on one inspired by Summer Shack chef Jasper White. Four small 1 ¼-pound lobsters were cooked and the meat was removed for the lobster salad and a 5-pound lobster was also cooked and its shell used to serve the salad. Ron made a fresh tarragon mayonnaise and I assembled the lobster salad and baked raspberry almond mascarpone flans.

We chatted and ate our food while sipping a Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru “Les Chaumées” 2002 — a perfect accompaniment to lobster.

“What about a lobster bisque?” my friend asked me after we had finished our dinner. It was hard to believe that we were already thinking about the next meal, but it’s never a surprise, really. “Let’s make one for lunch tomorrow,” he said.

Ron started the lobster broth late at night while tidying the kitchen. He took out a large stock pot and into it he dumped the lobster carcasses from our previous feast. He covered the shells with water and brought the water to a boil. Then, he added some leftover white wine, an onion, a leek, a few tomatoes and carrots. He also added a few celery branches and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste — you can also add saffron. He brought the broth to a boil, seasoned with salt and pepper and then reduced the heat to simmer for 1½ hours.

The broth was left to sit overnight so that the flavors could develop even more, and the next morning it was strained and reduced down by cooking over high heat. To serve the lobster bisque, we added a few pieces of lobster meat we had reserved from the night before and thickened the bisque by adding 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. We finished with fresh tarragon, a generous dollop of heavy cream and a dash of sherry to round the taste. It was astonishingly delicious.

That day, as planned, we went to see Tommy Alioto at Cohasset Lobster Pound, who had quite a smile indeed. He gave us a generous welcome, shaking our hands and escorting us downstairs to see the lobsters.

“Here’s the beast!” he said, pulling a gigantic lobster from the tank and holding it proudly in front of him. The lobster weighed 20 pounds and seemed enormous. I could not help but think that that it was just as heavy as my daughter, Lulu.

I learned that Alioto buys his lobsters from about 30 Cohasset lobster boats. Up to 7,000 pounds of live lobsters are stored in his large seawater tank and many are shipped daily to Milan in Italy.

“Do you want to take some broth home?” my friend asked before we departed. It was hard for me to hide my excitement. Of course I wanted broth! I was so happy that I gave him an honest kiss on each cheek as French people like to do.

Back at home, I made my own lobster bisque for dinner. It was so good that I ate it as slowly as I could, making sure not to leave a single drop in the bowl.

“Nothing goes to waste,” I remembered my friend saying as he was preparing the broth.

I couldn’t agree more—especially when food tastes that good.

Lobster Salad with Tarragon

For the Tarragon Mayonnaise:
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon French mustard
2 teaspoons chopped tarragon
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon cold water

In a bowl, combine the mustard, egg yolk and a pinch of salt and whisk until combined. Drizzle the oil into the bowl, but never stop whisking. When you have added half of the oil, add the lemon juice and continue then with the rest of the oil, until you reach a consistency you like.

At the end, mix in the tarragon and water. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. You do not need all the mayonnaise for the salad.

For the Lobster Salad:
1 pound fully cooked lobster meat or 5 pounds live lobster**
1/2 red pepper, white parts and seeds removed, and sliced finely
1 Lebanese cucumber, peeled and seeded, and diced
Tarragon mayonnaise (see recipe)
Salt and pepper
2 scallions, diced

Boil the lobsters until cooked and remove the meat from the body, claws, tails and knuckles. Dice the meat and transfer to a bowl.

Add the cucumber, pepper and mayonnaise. Mix in as much tarragon mayonnaise as you like. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve fresh.

NOTE: To boil 1 pound live lobster will take about 8 minutes; 1½ pounds 11 to 12 minutes; 2 pounds about 15 minutes. Choose a large pot, big enough to hold the lobster and be able to stir. Do not fill the pot more than 3/4 full with water. Add 1/4 cup of salt for each gallon. Bring the water to a rolling boil before adding the lobster to the water. Count how many minutes from the time you plunge the lobster into the water.

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