Julia Child brought lobster tails (in the style of lobster Thermidor) back into vogue, making French food approachable to the masses on TV, but some of her recipes tend to be more involved than they need to be. I weedwhacked her recipe quite a bit. On this particular occasion, I got home from the grocery store at 5:30 and had lobster Thermidor on the table by the 6 o’clock news. Not to blow my own horn, but I’d be a pretty hot commodity if I were a 50’s housewife.
I’d show you her original recipe, just to compare, but it’s Copyright © 1961, 1983, 2001 by Alfred A. Knopf. Trust me when I tell you it has a lot of steps, and uses a lot of pans. This is what I did:
In a large pot, I brought about a cup of water and a cup of white wine to a boil with a chopped stalk of celery and a sprig of parsley. Added the still partially frozen lobster tails, covered and simmered until they were bright red and cooked through. Set them aside to cool a bit, then pulled off the underside of the tail, removed the meat and chopped it.
At the same time, I sautéed a cup or two of sliced mushrooms in a drizzle of oil and blob of butter – and a squirt of lemon juice, as per Julia’s instructions – I didn’t dismiss her recipe entirely. When they were turning golden on their edges, I sprinkled over a couple tablespoons of flour, then poured the cooking liquid from the lobster pot through a sieve straight into the mushroom pan and brought it to a simmer. It thickened nicely, and I added about a quarter cup of half & half (ditched the egg yolks and heavy cream, and didn’t miss it) and simmered it into a rich sauce with the consistency of thin custard.
I took the pan off the heat, stirred in the chopped lobster meat and like a twice-baked potato, loaded it back into the empty tail shells. Then I grated some Parmesan over them and ran them under the broiler (she instructed to bake them at 425F, but I was afraid of overcooking the lobster – plus I was hungry).
That was it.
Now, it’s entirely possible that Julia Child’s version would blow this one out of the water. But it was pretty damn tasty, especially in exchange for under a half hour’s work, including navigating the recipe. It was lobster Thermidor in the same time it takes to make Hamburger Helper.