Monday, December 27, 2010

Lobster pasta with cheese sauce

My parents came home with a 7lb lobster. It sat quietly in the sink with its beady black eyes and its large claws tied shut. I named it Robert. Don't you think robert is a suitable lobster name?

Its been more than a year since my parents and I have made a meal together. Since Mama C has moved here, she's been the executive chef. I've been demoted to dishwasher--not that I mind. I’m thankful for coming home from work and have dinner ready for me plus lunch for the next day.

My dad is visiting for a month, and his tastes are like mine. We desire for strong, adventurous flavors. Whereas mom prefers mild and less aggressive foods, example: my dad and I once dined over Sichuan food while my mom ate lunch an hour earlier and watched as we gulped down chunks of spicy hot chicken and chili oil noodles.

As much as I enjoy my mom's cooking, I’m especially happy for my dad's presence in the kitchen. He is not afraid to try new ingredient combinations, like how he makes fried rice with canned tuna, or concocting a miso marinade for a beef dish. I like to think I've inherited his cooking style.

So back to Robert. We decided to make a lobster pasta with cheese. There's a popular Hong Kongnese dish that bakes lobster with cheese on top, almost like a lazy and shapless gratin. My mom loves lobster. I skimmed through Epicurious (my trusty resource for all things culinary) for cheese sauces. The most effortless recipe instructed for milk, cheese, butter and egg yolks to be stirred in a double boiler. Clever! Sly! This way you would avoid burning the cheese and allows for a smooth consistency.

I didn't bother following a recipe; I like to use Epicurious for inspiration when it comes to cooking impromptu. I attacked the sauce based on my gut feeling. I poured the ingredients into a bowl set over a pot of simmering water and whisked. I added some parmesan for good measure, and what was once a lumpy mass became a velvety sauce.

Meanwhile, my dad was attacking Robert like a viking. Draining its wastes, plunging Robert into hot water, allowing his murky green shell to turn fire engine red. Then my dad pondered how to break him apart into smaller pieces. We didn't have a hammer, a nutcracker, nor a chopping knife. I suggested laying Red Robert on a cutting board and cracking him with the edge of another cutting board. Alas! It worked. My dad divided him into dozens of pieces, tossed him into a pan with sizzling garlic. He added rice wine and let the stock simmer. Five minutes later, it was ready. I tossed cooked linguine into the pot, added the cheese sauce, and stirred in the lobster and all its juices.

We settled around our new mahogany table. We toasted our wine glasses and dove into the pasta. Each strand was coated with a complex layering of flavors, first the salty sea washed in my mouth, followed by the silky cheddar sauce, echoed by hints of garlic. The lobster was chewy and meat peeled away easily from its shell. I cracked the shell between my teeth and slurped up bits of tender lobster.

It’s been a while since I cooked a satisfying meal that didn’t consist of soup noodles and boiled wontons. It been even longer since my family cooked together. I’ve missed it. Being separated makes every meal taste even better, just like this lobster pasta.

Cheese sauce
Adapted from Epicurious

-1 ½ cups of cheddar, grated (though I particularly like Swiss cheese, and think it would do nicely)
-½ cup whole milk
-2 large eggs yolks
-1 tablespoon butter


Put all sauce ingredients in a metal bowl, then set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Heat sauce, whisking until cheese and butter are melted, and then stirring with a wooden spoon, until sauce is slightly thickened and clumps gone, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove bowl from pan.
Recipe here!

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