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Lock-Ober lobster stew

When, some years ago, Lydia Shire forsook her own Biba to buy the venerable Lock-Ober Café, she vowed to update any number of traditional dishes that, she thought, had become hidebound. Lock-Ober remains a Boston landmark tucked away within Winter Place, and the food is all that Shire promised. One thing happily has not changed, except that it appears on the menu now as a starter rather than a main; the lobster stew. This, pretty much, is it, except for our own method of cooking lobsters and a few tweaky moments, and it is unsurpassed. You will want to do most of the work a day ahead. Six main course servings or twelve starters.

Locke_Ober.jpg-2 bay leaves
-a lemon
-about 1 cup vodka
-about 1 cup water
-6 lobsters of about 1 lb apiece
-4 oz unsalted butter
-1 cup dry Sherry (fino, amontillado or, best, dry amontillado)
-6 cups milk
-2 cups heavy cream
-¼ teaspoon or more cayenne
-salt and pepper
-another 4 oz unsalted butter
-another ½ cup Sherry
-about 2 Tablespoons minced parsley

  1. Put a shallow steamer rack in a lobster pot with bay, lemon, vodka and water. Bring the liquid to a boil.
  2. Drop the lobsters into the pot and steam them for 5 minutes. Get them out of the pot and into an icy bath.
  3. Once the lobsters cool, shell the tails and claws, roughly chop the meat and refrigerate it in a sealed plastic freezer bag or container.
  4. Crush the shells with a rolling pin or hammer; you do not need to go all postal, just rough them up a little.
  5. Melt the first 4 oz butter in a heavy pot over medium high heat, add the mangly shells and stir them around for a few minutes until they turn a deeper red.
  6. Pour the cup of Sherry into the pot, increase the heat to high and reduce the amount of wine by half.
  7. Add the milk, cream, cayenne, some salt and pepper, and bring the stock back to a boil.
  8. Reduce heat to simmer the stock until it begins to thicken, usually in about 15-20 minutes.
  9. Let the mess cool and refrigerate it, shells and all, for at least 6 hours; overnight is even better (and handier too, if you will be feeding guests).
  10. Strain the debris from the stock.
  11. Bring the stock to a boil, immediately reduce it to a simmer and keep it warm.
  12. Melt the other 4 oz butter in a heavy pot over medium high heat. Add the lobster meat to warm it through, usually in about 2-3 minutes: Do not overcook it.
  13. Add the rest of the Sherry, boost the heat to high and reduce the amount of wine by half, scraping any debris from the bottom of the pot.
  14. Add the stock to the winy lobster, reduce the heat to low, ladle the stew into the appropriate number of bowls and top each one with a scatter of parsley.


- The only other things beside a starter for a memorable dinner are a simple green salad and a crusty loaf or some cornbread.

- Ms. Shire claims that she boils the lobsters in a big pot of water. We have found not only that it makes them a bit… watery, but also that her method leaves the kitchen a bit rank for quite some time. The aromatics and steam eliminate both problems and also impart a nicely subtle tone to the meat.

- It seems like a lot of butter and it is; this recipe is rich and rewarding.

- Lustau bottles an excellent dry amontillado at a fair price.