So, I like to think I'm a capable cook. I can sear and saute, broil and braise, bake and brunoise and mince and mash, and so on. But there are a few things I've never done, never tried, and am frankly pretty afraid of. This is, or was, one of 'em.
I haven't taken a lot of cooking classes -- I sometimes attend free Sunday morning technique classes at Williams-Sonoma, and I did enjoy a lot of the wine and cheese classes at Tria's Fermentation School in Philly, but as far as hands-on cooking, I mostly do that in my own kitchen, learning by trial and error.
You can guess why that technique wasn't going to fly with lobster.
So, when my (awesome) husband found the listings for intermediate-level cooking classes at the Astor Center here in NYC, I looked at the long list of options and picked the one that I really, really needed professional help with: dispatching and cleaning lobster, from the live state to the plate.
Happy to report that it went tremendously and deliciously well.
So, first, we gathered, sipped prosecco, met Chef Emily, and looked over our recipe packets.
It was great to have hands-on cooking, and after dispatching not just one but two lobsters, ripping and cracking them apart to get at the meat, and working for two hours on chopping, blending, simmering, etc., it was also really good to have hands-on wine.
I didn't know what the set-up was going to be, so I was really happy to see we each had our own station:
Each team of four had its own set of burners as well:
So how was the actual lobster-killing part?
Honestly, not as bad as I feared. Chef Emily walked us through it, demonstrating where to put the point of the knife and when to switch hands, how to press, all that. So she choreographed the dispatching of the lobsters and we did the deeds, one, two, three, drop it in the pot.
The only part I actually had trouble with wasn't the part you'd think:
We had to split the tails, and since the lobster is obviously dead at this point seeing as how more than half of it (the half with the head, no less) is no longer present, you wouldn't expect these suckers to move as much as they do when you try to cut them down the middle. But it is QUITE unnerving to roll the thing over, set your knife in place, and get ready to go... then, at the slightest pressure, the tail superquickly rolls up into a ball. Like it knows what you're up to.
Anyway, once that was done, we cooked in teams, working through three recipes. And then, gloriously, we ate our work.
Tasty deep-fried corn-and-lobster fritters with chipotle mayo:
Gorgeous meaty lobster rolls on buttery grilled split-top buns:
And wonderful (rich rich rich) split lobster tails poached in Gewurztraminer and pear nectar (OMG):
(sauce not pictured. why? because OOPS, that's why.)
Oh, and that wine? Great wine.
Including one that smelled like corn -- I have never in my life smelled corn in a wine, but this one practically smacked me in the nose with an ear of Silver Queen. Perfect pairing with the fritters, of course.
So, verdict? It was a great class, nicely set up, with a great instructor and a fun group of classmates. And having tackled live lobster for the first time firsthand, I now think I'm confident enough to try it at home.
Even though I don't have all of these:
I have what I need to make one of these:
Into one of these.
And that's a pretty good outcome, to say the least.