I assume you’ve heard the news about lobster. How there was briefly an abundance of it, due to overfishing, which had driven down the price to ridiculous lows. So we have some soft shell lobster up in this joint, and need a new way to spin our favorite local delicacy. Is something still a delicacy if it costs less than a can of Spam? Have we artificially inflated the pleasure we take in eating such an ugly bug? We all know the story about how it was illegal to feed lobster to prisoners more than a few times a week, it was considered so inhumane and disgusting. Silly humans. Let’s dispense with the history and eat. But how shall we prepare it?
We’ve steamed lobster, of course, and served it straight up with drawn butter, corn on the cob, clams, and baguette for numerous dinner parties. Last labor day, we threw a lobster feed and baked them in the ground. This was only a partial success culinarily but as an event, a performance piece, it was quite a sight to behold. We’ve made a lobster club, a lobster dip, and a Maine lobster roll, complete with homemade bun. One of these days, I will honor my slightly southern statesmen with a hot-meat-and-butter roll in the style of Lenny and Joe’s, the greatest seafood place between Westbrook and Madison, Connecticut. It will be awesome. That is, if Malcolm lets me.
For tonight’s feast for two, we went with Fra Diavolo. Which comes from the Latin for “Brother Devil”, and refers to one of the ways in which Medieval monks self-flagellated during Lent. The preceding is what I like to call “a fake fact” – they are my specialty. It just means spicy bits up in yo’ mouth. Okay. This dish turned out to be magic for a number of reasons. You guys, and you know I’m serious you guys, this was amazing. You know how sometimes you have a plate of pasta and the sauce and macaroni are separate and distinct and sometimes it unifies in this harmonious and mystical alchemy? This was most definitely the latter. It was buttery though there was no butter and creamy without any cheese.
I ate so much of it my belly hurts right now and I don’t even mind. The lobster was sweet to complement the heat and the angel hair is appropriately delicate. Oh, and the sauce seeps into the lobster and the lobster imparts its flavor into the sauce. It’s symbiotic like that. And it’s wonderfully, artfully messy. You’re jamming on this marvelous pasta with lots of hunks of garlic and spice and then you have to dig in with your hands to crack open the shell to access the meat. And there’s red sauce on your face and wine glass and napkin and somehow your ear and you are so incredibly happy and grateful for this dinner at your own dining room table.
It’s definitely a little retro. It’s like sitting in Little Italy in the 1960’s, a Chianti candle slowly catching its death on the straw, and discovering a new world – from the Old World – of flavor. Sophia Loren should be there while you eat this wearing a ridiculously risque peasant top, looking for all the world like a shifty gypsy mermaid. There’s definitely something sexy about Fra Diavolo. Spicy, messy, and decadent.
Lobster Fra Diavolo
Adapted from a recipe in Saveur; Serves 2
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2-lb. lobster, tail cut into 4 pieces, claws cracked, knuckles separated from body
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup fish stock
- 1/2 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes in juice
- 1 bay leaf
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 lb. angel hair pasta, cooked
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
In a stock pot or dutch oven, heat oil over high heat. Dispatch the lobster by driving a knife straight down through it’s head, between the eyes, and remove tail, claws, and knuckles. Cut tail into four pieces, twist kuckles to remove from claws and bodies, and strike claws with the back of a knife to crack the shell.
Toss lobster pieces in flour, shake off excess, and add to pot; cook until shells turn red, about 4 minutes. Transfer lobster pieces to a plate; set aside. Add red pepper flakes, oregano, and garlic to pot; cook until spices bloom, about 3 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook until lightly caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add white wine, and cook until almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add stock, tomatoes, and bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook partially covered until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Return lobster to pot, and cook until lobster is cooked through, about five more minutes. Add pasta and toss with sauce. Transfer to a large serving platter; sprinkle with parsley.