Lobster Chowder with Fennel, Corn and Pancetta
Lobster makes a great starter for your Thanksgiving dinner! Jasper White, the founder of the fabulous Summer Shack restaurants and author of "Lobster at Home" says the quality of lobster in November is at its peak – and the price is usually at its lowest in the year.
This deconstruction of lobster chowder will start your special Thanksgiving dinner with style. It puts the lobster pieces front and center and uses fingerling potato halves instead of the usual diced potatoes. The addition of pancetta and leeks further distinquishes this dish from the run-of-the-mill chowder.
Of course, as with most memorable soups, the broth is what makes this dish. There's a bit of work required in this preparation but if you're looking to create a memorable holiday meal it's really worth it – especially since you can do most of it ahead of time.
Serves 6 as a starter.
Note: the broth and all of the prep except the cooking of the live lobsters can be done the day before.
For the broth:
- 3 lobster bodies, split in half lengthwise, head sac removed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 cup fennel tops, chopped
- 1 cup leek tops, chopped
- 3 pieces lemon peel, 2" x 1"
- 3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 3 sprigs chervil, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, peeled, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 slices fennel, halved
- 2 ounces pancetta, cut in 3/8" dice
- 2 ounces leeks, white parts only, cut in 1/4" dice
- 6 fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
- 1/2 medium ear of corn
- 3 live lobsters, 1-1/2 pounds each
- 9 quarts water
- 9 tablespoons salt
- chervil sprigs for garnish
Make the broth:
1. Toss the split lobster bodies in the olive oil and roast 45 minutes at 450º (turn once).
2. Combine roasted lobster bodies, water, wine, cream, fennel seeds, chopped fennel tops, chopped leek tops, lemon peel, parsley, chervil, carrot and bay leaf in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes, uncovered.
3. Strain and return broth to heat (discard solids). Bring to a slow boil, add the sliced fennel and reduce to about 3 1/2 cups. Season to taste. Remove fennel slices to a side plate for inclusion in the finished dish.
Prepare the other ingredients:
1. Sauté pancetta until crisp; drain and set aside.
2. Sauté the leeks in the pancetta grease until starting to caramelize; drain and set aside.
3. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Toss in the pancetta grease and then roast 30 minutes at 375º. Set aside.
4. Drop the corn in 1 quart boiling water, unsalted. Remove from heat, cover and allow to rest 5 minutes. Remove kernels and set aside. Discard cob. (Canned or frozen whole kernel corn may be substituted.)
5. Cook the live lobsters 8 minutes in 9 quarts rapidly boiling water, salted (1 tablespoon per quart). Drain and allow to cool. Remove tail, claw and knuckle meat from the shells. Keep claw meat whole; cut other pieces to bite-size. Reserve bodies for another use.
Plate and serve:
1. Heat broth gently to a simmer.
2. Divide the lobster meat equally between six warmed shallow soup plates.
3. Place 2 fingerling halves, 3 pieces of sliced fennel, a generous tablespoon of corn kernels, a half-tablespoon of leeks and 8 pancetta chunks on and around the lobster meat in each plate.
4. Spoon on 1/2 cup of the warm broth
5. Garnish with chervil sprigs. Serve immediately.