Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lobster Newburg: An American Classic








There are few seafood dishes as rich and luxuriant as Lobster Newburg. An American classic, it was among the most popular dishes served in the American Pavilion at the Paris Exposition of 1900. But where did this dish originate and who on earth is Newberg? 




Paris Exposition circa 1900


The most popular theory on the history of the dish is that it was created by Delmonico's Restaurant in New York City, when the recipe was brought to chef Charles Ranhofer by a West Indies sea captain named Ben Wenberg. It was an immediate hit, especially with the after-theater crowd, and owner Charles Delmonico honoured the capatain by naming the dish Lobster à la Wenberg. But unfortunately, Wenberg and Delmonico had a huge falling-out, and the restauranteur took the dish off the menu, restoring it only by popular demand.


Delmonico's NYC

So with a typographical slight-of-hand, Delmonico changed the spelling from 'Wenberg' to 'Newberg,' and Lobster Newberg was born. Rich, creamy, saucy and delicious, this easy Lobster Newburg recipe is lusciously prepared with fresh or frozen lobster mixed with cream, butter, tomato, fragrant spices, cognac and a dash of sherry, ladled over buttery puff pastry shells or a bed of Spanish rice, and finished with a garnish of snipped chives. An elegant entrée for any special occasion, it can also easily be tweaked with shrimps, scallops or any other fine seafood that would honour old Captain Wenberg.



Lobster Newburg
Serves 4

8 puff pastry vol-au-vents pastry shells
4 tbsp flour
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
pinch of cayenne
7 tbsp unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
2 cups cream
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup sherry
2 lobster tails, shelled and chopped into bite-size pieces
1 bunch of chives; half chopped and half left whole


Combine the flour, paprika, curry powder, nutmeg, cayenne and salt to taste, in a small bowl and set aside. Melt 4 tbsp of butter in a large saucepan over low heat and add the minced shallot. Cook 3 minutes until it begins to brown. Add the flour mixture and stir well until well mixed with the butter. Then add the sherry ad brandy and whisk until smooth. Meanwhile, in small saucepan, bring the cream and tomato paste to a low simmer over medium heat, being careful not to let it come to a boil. Add the hot cream mixture to the flour gradually slowly, whisking constantly until the mixture is creamy and thick. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside.

Bake pastry shells according to manufacturer's instructions and set aside.

In a sauté pan, melt the remaining 3 tbsp of butter over medium heat and when it starts to bubble, add the lobster and 1 tbsp of chopped chives. Cook until the lobster are just cooked through, then add enough Newburg sauce to cover, and simmer 2 minutes. If sauce is too thick, add some more cream and adjust seasoning.

Serve the Lobster Newburg over the vol-au-vents pastry shells and garnish with chopped and whole chives.