The Great Australian Southern Rock Lobster
My husband, Len, and I recently took a holiday to Robe, South Australia – a quaint village about 210 miles (350 kms) from Adelaide, in the state’s southeast. We loved the walks along the clifftops, looking out over the bay and sparkling ocean waters- and of course, our stomachs were happy that lobster fishing is a main industry in this area. With 32 fishing boats, Robe harvests about 350 tonnes of Lobster each year-about 90% of it exported to Asia.
The Australian Southern Rock Lobster (also called “Cray” by the locals) is different than the American lobster- it does not have the huge flat claws of the American kind but it is just as delicious.
No longer $1 per pound! Len tells a story of being able to buy lobster for $1 per pound right off the boats in Maine in the 1960’s – but no more! It cost us about $35 per pound or $77 per kilo.
‘Throw another lobster on the barbie’?
I was in a quandry – should I just do the Australian thing and ‘throw another lobster on the barbie’? No, this time I decided to go all out and make Lobster Thermidor, a French recipe where the cooked lobster meat is mixed with a creamy white sauce, flavored with a bit of mustard and cayenne pepper, then placed back in the lobster shell for a great presentation. It’s a bit of an extravagance but well worth it!
For a successful Lobster Thermidor, the white bèchamel sauce should not overwhelm the lobster meat and the mustard and cayenne pepper seasoning should come through so that it gives the lobster mixture ‘a lift’ without being too overbearing.
It takes a bit of time to slice the lobster in half and to clean the insides (maybe you can get your ‘fish man’ to do it for you), but after that, the prep time is only about 30-40 minutes to get the sauce ready and the lobster ready to serve.
1 cooked lobster – cut in half
White Bèchamel Sauce
- 1/3 cup plain flour
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 1/3 cup milk
- 1/2 cup thickened cream
- 2 shallots (or 1/3 cup onion) finely chopped
- 1/3 cup cognac or dry white wine
- 1 1/3 cup fish stock or chicken stock (salt-reduced)
- 1 tbsp dry mustard
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 tbsp fresh or dried tarragon (optional)
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- pinch cayenne pepper
- salt and black pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 425 °F (220° C) on the ‘grill’ function.
- Cut the cooked lobster in half lengthwise and discard the intestinal tract and other ‘innards.’ Scoop out the lobster meat and cut into small pieces and set this aside.
- For the bèchamel sauce, melt the butter in a pan over low heat and whisk in the flour to make a paste. Add the milk and whisk over medium heat until the sauce thickens. Now stir in the cream.
- In a separate pan, add the cognac (or white wine) and diced shallots together and simmer for a few minutes. Now add the fish or chicken stock to the pan and reduce this mixture to 1/3 of the original volume.
- Now add the bèchamel sauce, mustard, lemon juice, parsley, tarragon and parmesan cheese.
- Stir in the lobster meat; add salt and pepper to taste and the pinch of cayenne pepper. Mixture should be nice and smooth and ready to add to the lobster shells.
- Spread the mixture evenly between the two lobster shells; sprinkle some more Parmesan over the shells and a pinch more cayenne.
- Place the shells in the top part of the oven and grill for 5 – 10 minutes until the tops are golden color – careful not to burn them. Serve immediately.