Antoine’s in New Orleans has many classic dishes on the menu, but my most memorable is their Lobster Thermidor. Most restaurants guard recipes zealously, especially when they have been in the family for generations, but Roy F. Guste, Jr. the proprietor published a cookbook.
When planning the menu for my French Creole dinner, this became the second course, representing my homage to Antoine’s.
The Plot Thickens
I bought a copy at a local bookstore with a clear agenda in mind. Our group had a reservation that evening. The menu was entirely French but the cookbook included translations. I was ready to impress at dinner. It was also a gift for my wife, suffering back home in the dead of winter. She collected cookbooks and I hoped she might use it to prepare a tasty creole meal for me.
I waited almost forty years, but never tasted a single dish from that cookbook. Recently, when a trip to New Orleans reignited my desire for creole food I decided to have another taste of lobster thermidor. Since I’m the cook now, there was nothing standing in my way.
To make this you must learn how to make a blonde roux, then use it to make bechamel. It’s one of the five “mother sauces” of French cuisine.
You can make bechamel sauce in advance and that’s a good way to start. Doing so eliminates some of the timing pressure in bringing the dish together. This was my second attempt, the first ending in total disaster. I used that practice to tweak the instructions, to make them easier to understand for cooks like me. This time, it all came together perfectly!
Bechamel Sauce – makes 3 Cups
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced white onion
- 1 pinch ground nutmeg
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and white ground pepper to taste
- 3 cups bechamel sauce
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 3 cups lobster (about 4 tails) – cut into 1″ pieces
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup grated swiss cheese
- 1–1/4 cup sherry
- 1/4 cup grated romano cheese
- 1/4 cup grated provolone
Making the Bechamel Sauce
- In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter, add the flour a tablespoon at a time and cook for about 2-3 minutes each time, stirring constantly, to form a paste. Remove the roux from the heat and set aside
- In a separate saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the milk, onion, nutmeg, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 4 to 5 more minutes
- Reduce heat to low and whisk the roux into the milk mixture until it has been completely combined. Simmer for about 2 minutes, or until the sauce will stick to the back of a spoon
- Thin with more milk if it has thickened too much
- Whisk in salt and pepper to taste
- Remove the bay leaf
- Cover and set aside or tightly cover and refrigerate for as long as a day
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees
- Place ramekins on a baking sheet
- Shred your cheeses and mix with the bread crumbs
- Slowly begin heating your bechamel sauce. Stir to avoid burning, thin with milk if necessary and hold just below a simmer
- Bring the sherry to a boil in a separate pan
- Cut the lobster into 1″ pieces and cook until the sherry is reduced by half
- Reduce heat to low, add the bechamel sauce and cook a few minutes more to allow the flavors to harmonize
- Remove from heat and divide evenly into the ramekins
- Top each ramekin with the cheese and breadcrumb mixture
- Bake until cheese begins to brown, about 12-15 minutes
- Remove from oven, cool 5-10 minutes and serve warm
And one more thing…
If your lobster traps were empty this morning, you can substitute shrimp, or if you have a mudbug farm in your backyard, crawfish tails work quite well!