Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine Tango Mango

Happy Valentine’s Day! Okay, it’s not Valentine’s Day but who has the time to celebrate a holiday that should be leisurely and fun on a weeknight? Who needs the pressure? So today is my Valentine’s Day.

To me Valentine’s Day is the worst day to go out to eat – right up there with Mother’s Day. I’d much rather stay at home and relax while cooking up something special. Over 20 years ago, we had a lovely trip to Key West and ate a great dish at a restaurant then named Café des Artistes, I think the current name is Pisces but I’ve never been there. Lobster Tango Mango. Sounds too cutesy to be good, but it was. So good that on an island crammed with great restaurants, we went back and had it again the next night.

Years passed and one cold Valentine’s Day not at all reminiscent of Key West, I decided to try to re-create the meal. Taste memories change and I am sure that what I ended up with bears no resemblance to the original but it still tastes pretty good. In the first instance, there will be no splitting of lobsters and removal of the precious meat in my house. Nevertheless, the bastardized version is so good that it has become our Valentine’s Day go- to meal ever since.

On another island – Long Island – fresh beautiful lobsters are always available. I love every part of the lobster – the claws, legs, body, roe, tomalley and, of course, the tail. Never having had a whole lobster growing up, the first time Bob saw me devouring a lobster he literally flinched.  But it didn’t take long before he was matching my lobster eating prowess. It’s very regimented and counter-intuitive. First the claws, then the body and little legs – yes, there is plenty of sweet meat there for one who makes the effort to look. Since I intentionally buy as large a lobster as I can without mortgaging the house, by the time I finish the body, the tail is overkill and makes an awesome salad/pasta/whatever leftover. Served with baked potatoes and some steamed sugar snap peas (I know, totally out of season but it's an occasion), no Valentine's Day restaurant meal can equal the special feel for relatively little effort.

As long as I’m heading over to Cor-J Seafood in Hampton Bays (the best seafood around) for my lobsters, it just makes plain sense to pick up a couple of dozen oysters as an appetizer with a Meyer Lemon mignonette. After all, it is Valentine’s Day!

Thank you to my niece, Lisa, who is getting married in Key West this spring – hopefully I will get the opportunity to taste the original – and hopefully fine-tune the re-creation. In the meantime, have a leisurely Valentine’s Day . . .

Lobster Tango Mango

Serves 2
2 2 to 2 1/2 lb. Lobsters
2 sticks butter, cut in 1/4" pats
3 tbsps minced tarragon (and/or basil)
1 pinch saffron
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup seafood stock, clam juice or lobster water
1 large ripe mango
1 shallot, minced
1/4 red pepper, minced
1/4 cup cognac (optional)

1. Bring about 3" of salted water to a boil. Say thank you to the lobsters and place them headfirst into the boiling water. Immediately cover and steam the lobsters for about 12 minutes. Remove the lobsters from the water, saving a little if you are using it instead of the seafood stock.

2. If you are ambitious, split lobsters and douse with cognac. Very carefully, flambé. When the flames subside, set the lobsters aside on a rimmed baking sheet. Preheat the broiler. If you lack the ambition for this step - no matter. Simply serve the sauce as a dipping sauce and it will still be decadent - after all, two sticks of butter?

3. Steep saffron in a couple of tablespoons of hot seafood broth - a little of the lobster water is ok to use.

4. Dice mango, reserving any juice, and place in skillet with minced shallot, red pepper, white wine vinegar and white wine and sauté over high heat until liquid is nearly evaporated. Reduce heat to low.

5. Add butter, two to three pats at a time and whisk over very low heat adding more butter as the pats emulsify into a creamy sauce. Add steeped saffron, reserved mango juice (if no juice then just squish a little orange juice in) and broth as whisking.

6. Keep sauce over low heat. Add tarragon and/or basil and drizzle some of the sauce over the split lobsters. Place the lobsters under the broiler for about 2 to 4 minutes until sauce is bubbling but don't overdo it or the lobster will be dry. Serve with lemon slices and additional sauce for dipping.

Leftover tip - there will be sauce left. If you were disciplined enough to save some lobster, make some lobster salad by adding the mango butter sauce to taste to mayonnaise and add a little curry, some diced red pepper, celery, diced fennel and chopped lobster - or even chicken or shrimp for those of you with less restraint.  Butter sauce can be frozen and used to liven up a panroast.

Update on the Leftover tip - add leftover mango butter to some hot and sweet pepper jam from last summer (more on that next summer when the peppers are in).  Preheat over to 375 degrees.  Sear 1" thick pork chops seasoned with salt, pepper and fennel powder in a cast iron skillet on one side for about 4 minutes without moving around.  Flip the chops, top with the mango butter/pepper jam mixture and roast in oven for 6 minutes.  Really good.

Another tip:  Slip the leftover mango butter under the breast skin of a whole chicken and roast in your favorite manner......someday I'll tell you mine.

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