If you would like to divide this recipe into two stages, you may prepare, sauté, and shell the lobster meat the day before, then finish the dish the next day by starting with melting the butter and sautéing the vegetables. To serve, you may leave the lobster in the shells to serve or shell the meat. It's easier to eat and a bit more elegant to serve if the meat is removed from the shells and warmed in the sauce. Serve the lobster with unadorned rice.
4 lobsters, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds each
4 tablespoons olive oil
Sea Salt, preferably Sel Gris Fine Grain
Freshly ground black pepper (such as Tellicherry Black Pepper)
1/2 cup cognac
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup fish stock or clam juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large (1/2 pound) onion, chopped
8 shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, chervil, or basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
First you will need to kill and cut up the lobster.This can be gruesome for some, so try to do it quickly. Place one lobster on a cutting board. Using an 8- to 10-inch chef's knife, place the tip of the knife behind the eyes of the lobster. Push the knife down all the way through the lobster. Next with the tip of the knife, remove the claws where they attach at the body. Cut the tail from the body and then cut he tail in half lengthwise. Cut the body in half lengthwise and remove the head sac. Repeat with the three remaining lobsters. Now they are ready to sauté.
Have the sea salt, pepper, Cognac, wine, and fish stock or clam juice measured and ready. You will have to cook the lobster in batches. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over high heat. Add half the lobster pieces, cut side down, and cook for 1 minute. Turn over, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, and cook the shell side for another minute. Remove pieces to a platter. Add the remaining oil to the skillet and repeat the process with remaining lobster pieces, leaving them in the skillet after cooking the second side. Return the reserved lobster pieces to the skillet. Add the cognac and let evaporate. Add the wine and fish stock or clam juice. Cover the skillet, lower the heat to medium, and let all the lobster pieces cook for 5 minutes. Transfer the lobster pieces to the platter and set aside. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and set aside.
When the lobster shells are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shells, coarsely chop the lobster meat, and set aside. Recipe may be made ahead up to this point.
Add the butter to the reserved skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onion, shallot, and garlic, stir to coat the vegetables with the butter and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and scrape in the reserved juices with a rubber spatula. Raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the juices until slightly thickened. Add the reserved lobster meat along with the parsley, tarragon, and chives. Heat through, taste the sauce for seasoning, adding a good squeeze of lemon juice if you like and some salt, if needed, and pepper. Serve with rice.
Optional additions to the finished dish:
Sautéed pearl onions, blanched lima beans or baby peas, steamed or sautéed corn kernels, wilted spinach, escarole, or chard, or roasted sweet peppers.