Fabulous Food — the kind that deserves upper-case F’s — doesn’t have to be complicated.
One example: Grilled lobster with Pastis creme, a dish that’s simple to prepare yet delivers big in the flavor department.
I created this recipe one summer when I was vacationing in Maine. I was eating lobster every night. I drink Pastis, an aperitif made with herbs and spices, so it was on hand. The Pastis, with a flavor similar to tarragon and licorice, makes a perfect cooking partner — especially with shellfish and green vegetables. (If you can’t find Ricard Pastis, readily available Pernod has similar taste qualities.)
Looking for a change of pace from lobster with drawn butter, I mixed my Pastis with creme fraiche and basted the lobster. The result was so light and delicious that I made it again and again, and it is now my official summer recipe for grilled lobster.
The key to this recipe is cutting the hard cartilage from the belly of the lobster and cooking the lobster shell-side down the entire time. This will expose the meat for basting with the Pastis creme and prevent it from getting scorched by the grill. The easiest way to cut the cartilage out is to use sharp kitchen scissors and cut both the sides and at the end of the tail to remove the rectangular-shaped piece of cartilage. If you are looking for a pair of good all-purpose kitchen scissors, my favorite are made by Joyce Chen and Messermeister.
Lobster Tail with Pastis Creme
If you want to prevent the lobster tails from curling up, insert a metal skewer through the tail and grill. Remove the skewer just before serving. This will keep the lobster tails straight and make them easier to baste.
Start to finish: 20 minutes
4 lobster tails, 5-7 oz. each, defrosted if frozen
1 cup creme fraiche (homemade or purchased)
1/4 cup Ricard Pastis (or substitute Pernod)
4 sprigs fresh or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
Using kitchen scissors, cut the hard cartilage off the belly of the lobster. Cut on each side and across the tail to remove the long rectangular-shaped piece.
Brush tails with oil, season lightly with kosher salt. Set aside. Meanwhile, make the Pastis creme by combining the creme fraiche and Pastis. Place the lobster on the cooking grate, shell side down, and grill until the shells begin to turn bright red, about 2 minutes. Spoon the Pastis creme generously into the belly of the tails.
Continue grilling until the flesh is just cooked through, 5-6 minutes more. Remove from grill and garnish with a tablespoon of creme fraiche, top with fresh tarragon and serve at once.
Nutrition information per serving: 274 calories; 93 calories from fat; 10 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 155 mg cholesterol; 421 mg sodium; 8 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 26 g protein.
Homemade Creme Fraiche
This is my favorite thing to make in a jar. Creme fraiche can be used in so many ways — try dipping strawberries in it. Homemade not only tastes better than store bought, but it is less expensive and a fun at-home edible science experiment. In this recipe, creme fraiche is lighter than butter and pairs perfectly with the Pastis to flavor the grilled lobster.
Makes about 3 cups
2 pints heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons buttermilk
Pour heavy whipping cream in a clean glass jar with a lid. Add the buttermilk, shake gently and close lid. Place jar in the warmest part of your house (i.e., on top of the refrigerator) and let sit for 2-3 days until mixture has thickened. When the cream has cultured, use immediately. You can store this in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pit master at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and the author of three books, including “Taming the Flame.”