I am writing this post with bandaids on two fingers of my left hand, making typing an interesting exercise, as well as numerous other nicks and small burns just about everywhere else. BUT today in an epic battle of me versus two lobsters, I came out victorious, making all the blood, bandaids and pain totally worth it.
Over the last month and a half, I have worked my way through module 2 (think semesters), which taught me how to sauté, pan-fry, deep-fry, grill, roast, braise, stew, poach, and garde manger (salads and sandwiches). While I’ve done a lot of those before, as I’m sure most of you have, it was very cool to learn the right techniques and we made (and ate) some seriously good food.
Today begins the part of the curriculum I’ve probably most been looking forward to: international cuisine. So we found ourselves in Brittany and Normandy in the Northwest region of France. And this is where my battle with the lobsters begins. Homard à l’Américaine (think a thicker lobster bisque served surrounded by a rice donut – the French culinary masters just collectively rolled over in their graves) was on the menu. We’ve made lobster bisque and other lobster preparations, but blessedly we work in teams and for whatever fortuitous reason (read: I begged it off on others), I haven’t had to actually fabricate the lobster. Debone a pork shoulder? Sure! Filet those 5 fish? No problem! Remove the fat cap and French those lamb chops? Why not? But for whatever reason, lobster terrified me. I remember being a kid and having lobster races on summer family vacations. I wasn’t scared of these giant roaches then, so I’ve been trying to pinpoint exactly when this fear materialized. I would perhaps attribute it to the time Simon and I bought live lobsters in Chinatown who we swear had some sort of aggressive lobster rabies, since even an hour in the fridge did not calm these guys down. Simon and I spent an hour at least running around our 3’x5’ kitchen with tongs shrieking like children as the lobsters, against all laws of gravity and brain capacity, attempted to escape from our sink. Alternately, it could be when I saw cockroaches with greater regularity than I would ever want to really admit in my 5th floor, Hell’s Kitchen walk-up (Disclaimer: I lived above a Chinese restaurant, an Indian restaurant, and a bar. We could have kept all of our food in cryovac containers and roaches would have happened.), and I would just stand over the biggest roach I’d ever seen (every time) weeping until my roommate would wake up and handle it for me. And I’ve watched enough Alton Brown to know that lobsters are the roaches of the sea.
Anyway, regardless of the root of this fear, in killing and dismembering the lobster today I managed to avoid weeping and consider that a huge win. The new chef teaching module 3 today did ask me at one point if I was ok. I had inadvertently (and unbeknownst to me) let out a small shriek, when defying all logic and invoking thoughts of “The Walking Dead,” the lobster continued to move despite being torn apart in my hands. I told her that the lobster juice (innards?) had got me in the eye. I didn’t think explaining my theory of zombie lobsters was really the first impression that I wanted to make.