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February 11: Lunchbreak - Maine Lobster with Vanilla Beurre Blanc and Hazelnuts

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Bistrot Zinc
1131 N. State Street
Chicago
www.bistrotzinc.com

To read more about the restaurant:

metromix.com
Citrus and Shaved Fennel Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette
Serves: Two

Ingredients:
2 blood oranges, one segmented and one for juice
1 grapefruit, segmented
1 navel orange, segmented
1 head fresh fennel, shaved on a mandoline
1 red radish, shaved on a mandoline
1 dozen leaves fresh, Italian parsley
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Champagne vinegar (if needed)
6 Tablespoons blood orange juice (from the whole blood orange and heart of segmented orange)
salt and white pepper, to taste

Directions:
May be done the morning of: Segment the citrus by first removing the rind. Follow the outer seams of the flesh with a sharp knife cutting towards the center, to remove nice, whole segments. Reserve the connective pith of the blood orange to squeeze for juice for the vinaigrette. Whisk together, the blood orange juice, half of the vegetable oil, and a pinch of salt and white pepper. If the vinaigrette tastes flat, you may have to add a touch of Champagne vinegar (1-2 teaspoons) or maybe some juice from the other segmented citrus. If the vinaigrette tastes too sharp add a touch more oil.

To serve:
Toss the shaved fennel and radish, the parsley, some of the vinaigrette (you can always add more but not take it away), and a pinch of salt and white pepper. Taste for seasoning. Add more vinaigrette if you wish, but don't make the salad too soggy; it should have bright flavor and some pleasing crunch. Center the salad on the plate and arrange the segments how you wish (some on top of the salad, some around it on the plate.) Enjoy.

Maine Lobster with Vanilla Beurre Blanc and Hazelnuts
Serves: Two

Ingredients:
1 Maine lobster, 1 1/4 pounds
1/4 vanilla bean or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 cup dry white wine
1 medium-sized shallot, thinly sliced
12 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
6 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, small dice and cold
8-12 ounces of Brussels sprouts
1/4 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts
salt and white pepper, to taste

Directions:
Preparing the lobster:
This may be done the day before or morning of. With a twist, separate the tail and two claws from the lobster body. Yes, the lobster is alive at this point so the task can be a little startling (your fish monger would probably do this part for you.) Place the two claw pieces into boiling salted water (about the same, liberal amount of salt you would use for cooking pasta) and let the water come back to a boil for three minutes. Now add the tail piece and let everything boil for another eight minutes. Remove from the water and let the lobster cool in your refrigerator until cool enough to handle. Consult a favorite cookbook or search online for a "video of how to clean a cooked lobster." In this case, the visual far more effectively conveys the technique involved. Once cleaned, do make sure to give your lobster a quick rinse under cold water to remove any bits of shell; uncomfortably picking bits of shell from your mouth during your romantic dinner is a sure mood dampener. Keep the prepped lobster wrapped in the refrigerator until it is time for service.

The Brussels sprouts:
These may also be prepped the day before but you will quickly sauté them just before service. Remove any dried part of the stem, halve the sprouts, remove any unsightly leaves, and then thinly slice the halved sprouts. Refrigerate until service.

The vanilla beurre blanc:
To be done at the time of service. Reduce the white wine, sliced shallot, black peppercorn, and bay leaf in a small pan until only about a quarter cup of wine remains. Strain the mixture being sure to press the shallots against the sieve to extract as much flavor and wine as possible. Add the strained liquid to a small sauté or sauce pan, and over low heat, swirl in a couple of pieces of butter at a time. You want the burner to be hot enough to melt the butter but not so hot as the butter/wine mixture boils. Once all the butter has been incorporated add half the vanilla and season with salt and pepper. If the amount of vanilla in the sauce is to your liking, stop there. Otherwise you may add more to your taste. Have the lobster close at hand.

To serve:
An hour or so before service, remove the lobster from the refrigerator to come up to room temperature. This will allow a more gentle heating in the vanilla sauce yielding better texture and a more stable sauce. You can start to sauté your Brussels sprouts at this point. Cook the leaves long enough to remove the raw flavor but not so much that they lose all of their crunch. Place the pieces of lobster in your finished sauce and gently heat, being sure to turn the larger tail and claw pieces over a couple of times to ensure even heating. Place the sprouts in the center of each plate. Arrange the warmed lobster on the sprouts in a way pleasing to the eye, spoon a touch more sauce over the dish, and garnish with the toasted, chopped hazelnuts.

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