Lobster is a rare treat in Paris, largely because of the price. At my local farmers market the other day, they were selling small live lobsters for 30 euros a piece — far more than you would pay in other countries, or even parts of France where lobsters are grown, for example Brittany. But with the end-of-year festivities coming, I couldn’t resist offering you this elegantissimo recipe for lobster tails bathed in a buttery, vermouth-flavored sauce.
Langouste beurre blanc Noilly / Lobster tails with Noilly beurre blanc sauce
Preparation is relatively easy. The tails are split down the middle and roasted in the oven. While they’re cooking, or before, you prepare the beurre blanc — literally, ‘white butter’. It’s a sophisticated sauce made by boiling shallots in a slightly acidic liquid, usually wine vinegar but in this case the French dry vermouth Noilly Prat, and then adding pieces of cold butter one at a time to form an unctuous and incredibly tasty sauce.
But how to resolve the price conundrum? I did it by shopping at the excellent local frozen food chain, Picard, where I found two meaty lobster tails for 27 euros — 13.50 a piece, a more acceptable splurge. France offers two different types of lobster — homard (with pinchers) and langouste (without). As the langouste is essentially a lobster tail, that’s what I chose. The flavor is virtually the same.
Lobster is often served in France as the star of a Christmas or New Year’s meal, preceded or accompanied by Champagne. If you decide to try it this year, you could start with an oyster plate or seafood platter, then continue with the lobster, pairing it with a seasonal purée, say of sweet potatoes or celeriac, and a salad of tender leaves. A cheese platter could follow, along with seasonal fruit, for example clémentines (akin to mandarin oranges).
While the cheese and fruit are optional, a dessert is de rigueur — perhaps a vacherin (meringue with passion fruit and vanilla ice cream), or the Alsatian cake known as kouglof. And if you have the time and energy to do some extra-special cooking, you could finish the meal with homemade chocolate truffles or mendiants (dark chocolate wafers studded with candied fruit and nuts).
I am posting these holiday menu ideas early this year because my kitchen is being repainted and I don’t know whether I’ll be able to post again before Christmas — and also to give you time to consider whether this is the year for lobster. If all goes well, I’ll be back in two weeks, and if not in three, most likely with the wonderful cake served in France from New Year’s to Epiphany (Jan. 6) — the galette des rois, or ‘cake of kings’.