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Luxurious lobster can be light, healthy

The luncheon following President Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony was held at Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.

There, the president, vice president and guests enjoyed a three-course meal created by executive chef Shannon Shaffer of Design Cuisine. This is the sixth inaugural luncheon for the Arlington, Va.-based catering company, according to CEO Kathy Valentine.

This year’s overall inaugural theme was Faith in America’s Future.

“Part of the theme was to include foods from farms across the country,” said Valentine.

The first course featured Steamed Lobster with New England Clam Chowder Sauce, followed by Hickory Grilled Bison with Red Potato Horseradish Cake and Wild Huckleberry Reduction.

Lastly, they served Hudson Valley Apple Pie with Sour Cream Ice Cream, Aged Cheese and Honey.

The menu also put an emphasis on healthier foods. For example, although the lobster dish has cream, Valentine says it’s “more of a brothy, lighter sauce and not as heavy.”

“And the second course features bison, which is healthy and lean,” Valentine said.

Fear not, fair readers, you, too, can eat like a president.

For today’s recipe, we zeroed in on the lobster first course.

Lobster often signifies a special occasion, so much so that it’s hard to imagine lobster was once considered poor man’s food.

At one time, it was so plentiful, according to the “Food Lover’s Companion” by Sharon Tyler Herbst (Barron’s, $14.95), that it was even used as fish bait.

A real treat, this dish has a light taste, but is very filling.

The brothy sauce is scented by tarragon, which is a nice match for lobster.

This recipe may look daunting, but if you take the time to prepare as much as possible in advance, it will go smoothly. You can even make the lobster hours ahead of time and reheat it just before serving.

And once you do, your guests may very well say, “Hail to the chef!”



Serves: 4 (generously) / Preparation time: 35 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

At the inaugural luncheon, this first course was served with thin strips of fried sweet potato and a sauté of baby spinach.

¼ cup minced shallot

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup white wine

2 cups clam juice or fish stock

20 littleneck clams, rinsed in cold water

½ tablespoon canola oil

1 cup small diced carrot

1 cup small diced celery

1 cup small diced leek

1 cup small diced Yukon Gold potato

½ cup small diced onion

1 pinch kosher salt

1 pinch cracked pepper

2 cups heavy cream

¼ cup tarragon, chopped

4 prepared lobster tails (see NOTE, below)

Combine shallot, garlic, white wine and fish stock in a bowl.

Place a large heavy-bottom pot on high heat for 3-4 minutes.

Carefully place clams in bottom of pot. Pour shallot liquid over clams quickly and cover with lid. The clams will begin to open after a few minutes.

Once clams are opened, remove the pot from the heat and place clams in a bowl to cool (keep shallot liquid).

Remove clams from shells and rough chop (these will go in sauce at the last minute).

Strain shallot liquid and place into a clean saucepot on medium heat to reduce by half (roughly 1 quart).

In a separate saucepot, warm the canola oil over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, leek, potato and onion with a pinch of salt and pepper and sauté 3-4 minutes.

Add clam liquid and heavy cream to the vegetables and bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and allow sauce to reduce until it reaches desired consistency and the vegetables are tender. The sauce should coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add chopped clams and chopped tarragon to the sauce.

NOTE: To prepare lobster tails, assemble additional ingredients, listed in the recipe, which follows: Prepare 2 cups mirepoix — a mix of ¼-inch diced carrots, celery, onions and leeks. Set aside. Have ready 4 thawed lobster tails, about 4 to 5 ounces each. Also, have ready a large bowl of ice water. In a large pot, combine 1 gallon water, ¼ tablespoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon white wine, 3 star anise and the mirepoix. Bring to a boil. Place lobster tails in another large pot. Carefully pour the boiling liquid over the lobster tails and steam for about 6 minutes. Remove tails from liquid and place in ice water for 5 minutes to stop the cooking process. Remove tails from ice and begin to remove lobster meat from the shell. Cut each lobster tail into 6 large pieces, place in oven-safe dish and add 2 tablespoons water to dish and cover with lid or foil. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Reheat lobster at time of service by placing it in a 170-degree oven for approximately 15 minutes.

From executive chef Shannon Shaffer of Design Cuisine in Arlington, Va.

Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. Note: Analysis includes a generous serving of sauce.

523 calories (43 percent from fat), 23 grams fat (12 grams sat. fat), 30 grams carbohydrates, 39 grams protein, 1,200 mg sodium, 185 mg cholesterol, 3 grams fiber.

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