Monday, January 15, 2018

Masaharu Morimoto's Lobster Masala

There is a quote to which I can relate.  "I'm not a fighter, but in my mind I'm fighting every day.  What's new? What am I doing? I'm fighting myself. My soul is samurai.  My roots are not samurai, but my soul is."  The person who made this statement is Masaharu Morimoto.  The chef who fought culinary battles as the Iron Chef Japanese on the well-known television show, and who now is a well known chef, restaurateur and cookbook author. 

The reason why the quote resonates with me is that I too fight every day.  As a lawyer, I spend a lot of mental energy fighting on behalf of my clients, asking a lot of questions and, sometimes, even fighting with myself.  (That latter fight is the daily battle that propels me to be the best lawyer that I can be.)  Cooking is for me is a way to find solace from that fighting, but still challenge myself to do things that may seem, at least at first glance, beyond my capabilities.  

One such challenge involves Morimoto's cookbook, Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking.  When I bought the book, I read through the recipes and, to be quite frank, I felt quite intimidated.  I thought to myself that these recipes were too complicated for me.  The book sat on my shelf for quite a long time.  The challenge went unanswered ... until this past New Year's Eve. 

Morimoto Special Spice
I always make a special New Year's Eve dinner for my beautiful Angel to celebrate the past year and to look forward to the new one.  I decided to undertake the challenge of making a recipe from Morimoto's cookbook.  The dish I chose was lobster masala, which Morimoto refers to as one of his signature dishes.  The recipe reminds me of seafood dishes that I have made with crab, even like classic Chesapeake Blue Crab, with whole crabs covered in a spice mixture (such as Old Bay).  The spice mixture used in this dish -- Morimoto Special Spice -- is a wonderful combination of chile powder, paprika, cumin, coriander, ginger, garam masala and cayenne pepper.  

The difference comes in the preparation.  The lobster is not steamed, as are the crabs.  Instead, it is sauteed.  Morimoto notes that, by sauteeing the lobster, the cook is able to control the ingredient and intensify the flavor.  I actually liked this technique, which is far easier to do with lobster than other live shellfish like crabs.

Finally, I like how the dish comes together.  The vegetable accompaniment helps to provide more color and sustenance with the lobster.   Morimoto notes that the vegetables can be changed with what is in season.  This is helpful because I could not find any golden beets.  So I used some yellow squash, so that there variety of colors remained in the dish.  Moreover, the lemon cream sauce is a simple sauce to make that provides relief to those who may find the seasoning to be a little too spicy.  While I thought the piquancy of the seasoning was just fine, the lemon cream sauce still was a refreshing touch when eating the lobster.

Recipe from Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking
Serves 4

8 baby beets, preferably golden
12 baby carrots
12 asparagus stalks
`1/2 cup broccoflower or broccoli florets
4 live Maine lobsters (1 1/2 pounds each)
6 tablespoons olive oil, as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons Morimoto Special Spice (see recipe below)
Lemon Cream (see recipe below)

Ingredients (for the Morimoto Special Spice):
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground garam masala
3/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Ingredients (for the Lemon Cream):
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar
Juice of one lemon
Pinch of salt

1.  Prepare the special spice.  Combine all of the ingredients for the special spice in a covered container in a cool dark place for up to 3 months.

2.  Prepare the beets.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Wrap the beets in foil and roast for 45 minutes or until tender.  When they are cool enough to handle, rub off the skins and half or quarter the beets. 

3.  Prepare the carrots.  Peel the carrots and trim to leave about 1/2 inch of the green stems.  Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add the carrots and cook for about 4 minutes, until just tender.  Drain and rinse under cold running running water.

4.  Prepare the asparagus.  Trim the asparagus to include the tips and about 4 inches of the stalks.  Use a swivel blade vegetable peeler to trim off the tough skin from the thicker part of the stems.  In another saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the asparagus and the broccoflower until just tender, about 3 minutes.

5.  Prepare the lobsters. Split the lobsters lengthwise in half down the belly.  Using a teaspoon, remove the dark "sand sack" from the inside the head, this is the only part of the lobster that is not edible.  Separate the claws with the knuckles attached and crack the claws with a heavy knife/  If not cooking immediately, wrap and refrigerate for no more than 2 hours.  The sooner you cook the lobsters the better. 

6.   Cook the lobsters.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a very large skillet over moderately high heat.  Add 2 lobsters to the skillet, meat side down, arranging the claws against the surface of the skillet.  (If the lobsters don't fit, use 2 skillets or cook them one at a time.)  Saute until the tail meat is golden in color, 2 to 3 minutes.  Turn the lobsters over and season the exposed meat of the lobster generously with 2 tablespoons of the Morimoto Special Spice.  Add additional oil and cover the skillet.  Cook until the lobster meat is opaque when pieced and the shells are bright red.  About 3 minutes.  Remove to a platter or large plate.  The claws will take 2 to 3 minutes longer.  Tent the lobsters with foil to keep warm.  Repeat with 2 more tablespoons of oil the remaining 2 lobsters, and 2 more tablespoons of the Morimoto Special Spice

7.  Prepare the cream sauce.  In a chilled bowl, using cold beaters, whip the ream with the sugar until soft peaks form.  Add the lemon juice and salt and whip until stiff.  Cover and refrigerate until serving.

8.  Finish the cook.  Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the same skillet.  Add the cooked beets, carrots, asparagus and broccoflowers.  Toss over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes to warm through.  Arrange the vegetables around the lobsters and serve with the Lemon Cream Sauce on the side.


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