What Does a Veggie-Pescatarian Eat During Thanksgiving Week?

I’m willing to bet that none of you woke up this morning with the question in this title on your mind. Nonetheless, I am about to answer it, and I have some exciting food moments to share, in case you have any interest. If not, please move on to another post.

Due to COVID, my wife and I decided to have a private holiday with just the two of us. In yet another break with tradition, we decided — since neither of us is a fan of roast turkey — that we would start a new tradition: Thanksgiving dinner featuring a special Lobster and Pasta main course.

Naturally, this move required significant planning. The dish I had in mind takes at least two days to prepare, and obtaining great lobsters this week can be a challenge. A week in advance I contacted my best fish man, Chris, and arranged to meet him on that Monday, during one of his commercial deliveries, with a package of three pound-and-a-quarter each of the best vigorous lobsters. I brought the box home, repacked it with damp cotton towels and freezer packs, replacing the wet newspapers and melting ice cubes in the package. I made room in the refrigerator to store them overnight, and the live lobsters were quietly resting there at 41° F. until Tuesday.

My game plan was based on a recipe I created 20 years ago, Lobster – Shrimp Pasta Special. I had not made this dish in probably 15 years, but I knew the technique and wanted to do a simplified version anyway (skip the shrimp and most garnishes) — especially avoiding trips to the store for obscure items during this hectic and dangerous week.

Filling a 12-quart stock pot with water and a lot of Sicilian sea salt, I boiled the lobsters for 7 or 8 minutes (depending on when one starts counting). That was long enough to firm up the lobster meat but not finish its cooking yet. It also allowed me to remove all the lobster meat and to free up the empty shells to make the stock.

With the lobster meat securely in a bowl back in the refrigerator, I chopped the shells coarsely, along with the tiny legs and other edible but less-accessible parts of the body. and I sautéed them, (plus chopped celery, onion, garlic, leek, scallions, and a little bit of carrot) in two very large, wide pots. After these were sautéed for about 15-20 minutes, I added tomatoes, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, and soon after, some cognac and then white wine. As the vegetables cooked down in volume, I combined it all in the larger pot — my Le Creuset 7.5 quart Bouillabaisse pot, and continued to cook it a bit longer.

When it appeared that we had extracted most of the desired flavor from the carcasses, The stock was strained, first in a coarse strainer to remove the shells, and then through a chinois, to remove finer pieces of matter. The strained broth was then boiled until the volume was reduced by 50%, concentrating the flavor. I decided to add the cream the when assembling the final dish on the holiday.

Thanksgiving Day arrived soon enough. Step 1 was to boil the pasta, in this case 250 g. of linguine. The lobster meat had already been warmed in the strained broth and cut into bite-sized pieces and then separated into two groups: tail meat and claw meat, so I could distribute them evenly.

Our largest pasta bowls accommodated a full portion of lobster, sauce, and pasta, This we sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley and basil from our greenhouse and then accompanied with Barbara’s excellent cole slaw. I tried two white wines, settling on a French Basque wine, Domaine Ilarria from Irouleguy.

Barbara’s straw rodents completed the holiday table, until her Sweet Potato Pie was presented for dessert. Altogether, a happy new tradition, in my view.

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