Some days I fantasize about my sister Susana and brother-in-law Jaime’s arroz con bogavante, soupy lobster rice. It usually happens around this time of year, after I’ve come back from my summer in Spain, while their vacation is only starting. The photos they send of their fun times at the beach, or the meals they enjoy, make me hunger for more. I followed Susana’s recipe for the lobster stock recipe I’m sharing today, which can be used as the base in the preparation of many delicate seafood stews and soups. Of course Susana and Jaime’s arroz con bogavante comes to mind, but very soon I’ll post a wonderful recipe of a seafood stew that I’m sure you’ll love, using lobster stock.
A few weeks ago I attended one of my best friends’ birthday party. It wasn’t just any party. It was a lobster bake party for a good number of guests, hosted by other good friends, at their farm house. I am not going to go into describing the beauty of this place, the manicured gardens and farmland and barns themselves, or the attention to detail that went into organizing the event —that would almost require another post.
The very long table inside the barn sat all fifty or so of us, even though my friend would have preferred to have an outdoor party under the porch and by the fire pit where the lobsters and trimmings were going to be baked. But the weather did not cooperate, and at the first drops of rain, the party had to move inside, where the table (in anticipation of the finicky Indiana weather) was already set. Cucumber margaritas, among other drinks, welcomed us, and the most delicate crunchy vegetable dips, individually served in tiny cups, sat above each place setting.
After mingling, chatting and laughing for a while, we sat at the table, enjoyed the vegetable dips and steamed clams, and marveled at the preparations for the main course, which was yet to come: large tin buckets filled and overflowing with lobsters, and platters of corn and potatoes. We served ourselves buffet style and walked back to our seats, where each placemat showed an artistic rendering of a lobster, and step-by-step instructions on how to eat one.
Our host, originally from New Orleans, graciously demonstrated how to go about peeling (or rather, cracking) one, as a form of tutorial. I followed the instructions, but coming from Spain, where crustaceans are part of the diet, I had quite a good idea on how to go about it. I enjoyed cracking every body part, sucking and digging into the lobster’s every tiny nook and cranny, making sure not to leave anything behind. I hadn’t yet finished my lobster feast when I raised my head and found many heads staring at me: everybody had finished long before, and were apparently observing my lobster “surgery”. There were some jokes and laughs, as I wondered how they could have possibly finished already. I continued to crack every tiny leg, for just a few more minutes: I had a hard time letting go of the still unfinished lobster, but the birthday cake was waiting.
It is then that I looked around, and saw full lobsters uneaten, and a great amount of lobster heads left completely untouched. When the party was over, my friend the birthday girl and I went into the kitchen, and with the complicity of the host, we filled a large tin bucket with lobsters and lobster heads. My friend kept the bodies to make salads with their flesh, while I took the heads, that I carefully packaged by twos and threes in freezer bags. So far I’ve made two batches of lobster stock, and it is heavenly.
Now, I don’t imagine lobster parties around very often, at least not in this part of the country, so I don’t expect you to have a large number of lobsters or lobster heads to make lobster stock. But I know many of you eat lobsters, and frown at their heads. Don’t toss them! You only need two or three to make the most wonderful stock, that you can use in delicate dishes like seafood stew or bouillabaisse soup. These dishes are great for entertaining a small group of friends, since they can be made ahead of time, with final assembly before dinner, and with spectacular results.
Caldo de Langosta
1/2 medium onion, quartered
1 leak, white and light green parts only, quartered
1/2 tomato (optional), quartered
1 head of garlic
2 or 3 lobster heads
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
3 quarts water
In a stock pot, heat the oil. Add the onion and leek and sauté until translucent, 7-8 minutes. Add the head of garlic and sauté for another 7-8 minutes (I peeled the garlic cloves but left them whole).
Break up the lobster heads into smaller pieces: on a cutting board, place them belly side down and press with the help of a smaller plate to crack them open; then turn them belly side up and finish opening them with a knife to expose their flesh.
Add the lobster pieces to the vegetables and cook at very low heat for 20 minutes. If using, add the tomato and stir. Cook at low heat for another 5 minutes, then add the pimentón, the salt, the peppercorns and the bay leaf, and continue to cook for about 10 more minutes, stirring a few times.
Add the water, raise the heat to medium and bring to a quick boil. Immediately lower the heat to very low and simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 40 minutes and adjust for salt. If a foam forms on the surface, remove it with a spoon or laddle.
Remove the hard pieces of lobster head and legs and strain the stock through a food mill into a clean pot (if a food mill is not available, use a sieve, pressing down lightly the rest of the fish and vegetables to extract the flavors, before discarding them).
The stock can be used immediately, or it can be cooled and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for many months.