Nothing says a party like food you have to eat with your hands, your elbows firmly planted on the table. In these summer months, if you are lucky, that party food is lobster. Everything else on the table pales in its presence, as it should.
Rare food like lobster demands and deserves a premium price. You can manage that expense by using up every single bit. Gather up the shells and head to the stove for a simple and luxurious lesson in stock making. The briny essence of the sea that is captured in those shells is yours with a few simple steps.
This recipe is based on a version by our wildly creative friend Sally Schneider of Improvised Life. The addition of tomatoes is her stroke of genius. Do take the time to gather the ingredients and make Sally's version at some point. But, if you are like me and find yourself with a relatively empty pantry and spice cabinet when the lobster shells descend, try this simplified version.
Use lobster stock wherever you would rely on a fish stock: shrimp risotto, sauces, gumbo, seafood pasta or fish stew. Be warned, lobster stock has a lovely red hue from those gorgeous shells, so if you want a pristine, clear broth for a recipe, avoid it.
Cook to Cook: If you don't have the time to make the stock immediately, hold the shells in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Or, better yet, freeze them and whip up lobster stock on a cold day when the briny smell will transport you back to summer.
Keeps refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen up to 6 months.
1/3 cup good-tasting olive oil
Shells and legs from two 1 1/2-pound lobsters, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 bay leaf
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
A dash of hot pepper flakes
2 cups dry white wine
1 14-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
Cold water to cover
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Film a large skillet (14-inch) with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the lobster shells, onions, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and hot pepper. Sauté, stirring often, 6-8 minutes, until the onions are softened and the lobster shells are fragrant. Reduce the heat to medium if the onions begin to brown.
2. Add the wine and the tomatoes with their juices, and return to a simmer. Cook another 5 minutes, then add enough cold water to cover the shells. Return to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to gently simmer another 30-40 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and remove from the heat.
3. When slightly cooled, pour the broth through a fine strainer. Let it cool completely before refrigerating or freezing.
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