Lobster Salad with Corn and Tomatoes
Touches like Minus 8 vinegar (an ultra-fancy vinegar made from ice wine; see www.minus8vinegar.com) and grapefruit-infused olive oil add a level of complexity to this dish
that reflect James's sensibilities as a chef as well as the almost routine opulence that characterizes
his cooking at Studio, his restaurant in Laguna Beach.
But beyond the fancy trappings, this is actually a simple dish, with three components lobster warmed in butter, lightly sautéed corn, and great tomatoes accented with vinegar. If you approach it one part at a time, you can make quick work of the dish once the lobster is shelled. And, if you don't want to search for scarce ingredients, substitute the best-quality wine vinegar you've got for the Minus 8 and good extra-virgin olive oil for the grapefruitinfused oil.
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Salt and black pepper to taste
4 (1-pound) live lobsters
Large bowl ice water
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 sprig fresh thyme
Kernels scraped from 2 large ears corn, preferably white
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, preferably white
4 assorted heirloom tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 to 2 tablespoons (or to taste) Minus 8 vinegar or good red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
Finely minced zest of 1 orange
Grapefruit-infused or extra-virgin olive oil
1. In a large pot, combine the white vinegar, peppercorns, bay leaf, and a handful of salt with 1 gallon water and bring to a boil. Poach the lobsters for 4 minutes, just until their shells start to turn bright red, then plunge them into a bowl of ice water. When the lobsters are cool, break them apart and extract their meat. Split the claw meat into 2 pieces and cut the tail meat into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Reserve.
2. Put 2 tablespoons of the butter in a small sauté or saucepan over medium heat. When the butter melts, add the shallot, garlic, and thyme. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened but not colored. Add the corn and balsamic vinegar and cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the corn is browned and no longer tastes starchy. Cool briefly, taste, and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small sauté or saucepan (you could transfer the corn to a bowl and reuse that pan) and warm the poached lobster-you don't want the lobster to cook much further-until glazed with the melted butter. Meanwhile, toss the tomatoes with the Minus 8 vinegar and chives and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
4. Portion the tomatoes among 4 plates (cut sides down, so they lay flat), mound a few generous spoonfuls of the corn on top of the tomatoes, then top each of the corn and tomato piles with the lobster, laying the neatly sliced tail pieces on the top. Season each salad with a spoonful of the butter the lobster was warmed in, a drop of Minus 8 vinegar, and a pinch of orange zest. Drizzle a ring of oil around each salad and serve.