With a little vino? Have I taken this too far?
Crustaceans have a distinct aroma when cooked. It is a nutty, buttery, almost popcorn like smell. Perhaps this is something I shouldn’t admit, but I have often imagined heaven smelling something like this. Most other fish, and even meats, do not easily reach these types of aromatic notes that are normally produced when amino acids and sugars react at high temperatures. This reaction is known as the Maillard Reaction, which can be achieved for meat at very high temperatures. With crustaceans, this reaction occurs at much lower temperature. It is thought that the unusual concentration of amino acids and sugar in their muscle tissue allows for the reaction to occur at low temperatures.
Crustaceans are often cooked in their shell as the cuticle reduces odor and adds flavor to the flesh. However, the shell also quickly damages the meat once the animal is no longer alive. That is the reason why most lobster is bought and cooked while still alive, and most shrimp is bought frozen and often also precooked.
Inspired by: Giada De Laurentiis. Makes about 10 cups.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes + more to taste
1/2 t crushed saffron threads
2 teaspoons salt
pepper to taste
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
4 cups vegetable stock (this normally calls for fish stock, but if you can’t find it vegetable stocks works fine. I thought it had a good amount of ‘fishy’ taste)
1 bay leaf
2 lobster tails (frozen)
1 pound shrimp uncooked, peeled and deveined
1 pound (or one box of Trader Joe’s steamer) clams
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
1 T chopped fresh basil
Heat oil in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel and onion and saute until the onion is translucent, about 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic and 3/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and saute 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add wine to deglaze bottom of pan. Add tomatoes with their juices, vegetable stock, saffron and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
Add lobster and when cooked (tail starts to turn in, about 10 min) add shrimp and clams. Reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer for 5 minutes. When shrimp are cooked and clams open cover and turn off heat (discard any clams and mussels that do not open). Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and red pepper flakes. You can eat immediately or let sit to let flavors combine. Add cilantro and basil five minutes before serving.
*Note – Shrimp may be cooked in their shells as well if you don’t mind putting in the effort to de-shell prior to eating. The lobster shells can be taken off right before serving and you can even chop the tail meat into bite sized pieces and toss back into the soup. But I won’t say that I would deny an entire tail in my bowl either.
And I finally invested in Snapseed!!! Thankfully I had some Apple money – cashing out $20 for this app was a bit pricy. But boy did I have some fun editing photos with it. Can you tell?