Tagliatelle with Lobster Cream Sauce and Mushrooms
I don't need much encouragement to want to cook with lobster, especially in winter, when lobster prices are low and hardshells are readily available. The occasion for this dish – and it is a sort of special occasion dish – was a New Year's Eve dinner last week, but it works well for a birthday bash or an intimate Valentine's Day dinner. In larger quantity it's a great offering for a potluck or an upscale Super Bowl party.
Of course, by the time New Year's rolls around we're usually ready to call an end to rich, luxurious food, so I served this as a small taste to begin the meal. The heavy cream is a special treat, as is pasta if you're looking to control your glucose levels, so repeat after me: portion control, portion control, portion control! You can eat almost anything and stay healthy if you remember that mantra...
Tagliatelle with Lobster Cream Sauce and Mushrooms
6 appetizer-size portions
This is divine with homemade tagliatelle, but it's still pretty wonderful if you use 8 ounces of dried commercial pasta instead. Also, while the mushroom / lobster combination is very satisfying the pasta with lobster cream sauce by itself is worth doing even if you don't want to bother with the mushrooms.
For the pasta, if making your own:
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (such as King Arthur)
- 2 large eggs
For the lobster cream sauce:
- 2 pounds live lobsters, cooked (or about 7 ounces cooked lobster meat - see notes)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup lobster broth (see notes) (or 1/2 cup white wine + 1/2 cup water + 2 tablespoons tomato paste)
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
For the mushrooms:
- 2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
- 4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 tablespoons minced shallots
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon truffle oil (optional)
1. If making your own pasta, follow your favorite recipe. (I use the one in Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.") I cut the tagliatelle about 3/8" - 1/2" wide and about 6" long, using a fluted pasta wheel.
2. If using whole lobsters, remove meat from lobster claws, knuckles and tails. Cut lobster meat in 1/2' chunks and set aside. Reserve the lobster bodies for another purpose (see Lobster / Shrimp Broth).
3. Mix the cream and broth in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Mix the corn starch with 2 tablespoons of the liquid and then stir the cornstarch mixture into the liquid. Simmer until well-thickened and reduced by half (about 30 minutes), stirring occasionally. Correct seasoning and set aside.
4. Meanwhile, put the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with a 1 1/2 cups hot water. Allow to soften for 10 minutes. Lift the mushrooms from the bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off and reserve the mushroom soaking water. (Leave the last teaspoon or two of the liquid in the soaking bowl as dried mushrooms can be gritty.)
5. Place the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over moderately high heat. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they start to turn a darker color and give up some of their moisture. Add the reconstituted dried mushrooms and cook another 2 minutes, stirring. Add the nutmeg, wine, garlic, shallots and mushroom soaking liquid. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is mostly evaporated. Correct seasoning if necessary, and stir in the optional truffle oil, if using. Set aside and keep warm until serving.
6. Cook the pasta al dente. Meanwhile, warm the cream sauce in the saucepan. When the pasta is cooked, lift it with tongs directly into the sauce. Add the lobster meat. Toss gently with tongs to coat the pasta with the sauce and distribute the lobster.
Serve immediately on small plates, with the mushrooms placed next to a knot of the pasta on each plate.
Lobster meat: NEVER use lobster meat that has been frozen. I know it's convenient and fairly cheap but freezing and then thawing lobster meat leaves it soggy and lifeless. Just take my word for it, it's garbage. Almost all fish markets that sell live lobsters also sell cooked meat – of course, be sure to ask if it's freshly cooked and has never been frozen. The cost per pound for fresh cooked lobster meat is usually about five to six times the cost of the live lobsters but when you recognize that the meat yield from a pound of lobster is about 3 1/2 - 4 ounces and that removing the meat from the lobsters is a time-consuming job it's actually a reasonable price.
Lobster broth. Hopefully you have a supply of my Lobster / Shrimp Broth, which is what I use to make this dish since it makes the best sauce. If you are using live lobsters and you don't have any broth on hand a quicker version can be made by splitting the cooked lobster bodies in half lengthwise (after you have removed the meat from the knuckles, claws and tails), removing the head sacs and then simmering the bodies for about an hour with the claw and tail shells from the lobsters, 4 tablespoons tomato paste, 1/2 cup white wine, a sliced onion, a sliced celery rib, a sliced carrot, 2 crushed garlic cloves, a teaspoon of black peppercorns and water to cover. Strain when finished. Good news: this will make more than you need for this recipe, so you can freeze the rest for use in future soups and sauces!