Fregola is a Sardegnan couscous but I've given it a bit of a French Twist. I try not to argue with folks on the east coast about which lobster is “best" (nor do I want to step in between Sards and Corsicans to break up a knife fight). It gets down to the fact that in season spiny is the best, freshest lobster I can find here at home because it's locally caught, but a sleepy Maine lobster from a tank is just fine. The market availability can be limited because much of the catch goes to Asia. I put on kitchen gloves in order to facilitate Monsieur Homard’s dispatch. If he does or doesn’t have claws he can still surprise you with a wicked tail flip. —pierino
your best friend
live lobster per person
your best butter
yellow onion chopped
celery rib chopped
celery leaves chopped (please don't waste these)
clove garlic, chopped
14 oz can of diced tomatoes (fire roasted are ideal)
hot pepper flakes
1 generous pinch of saffron threads
¼ cup Spanish sherry
all of Monsieur Homard's shell fragments
salt and pepper
to 10 ounces fregola grossa (the large grain style) or small, depending on availability
Fill your biggest pot with water and get it boiling. Give your lobster a clean death, a soldier’s death so that he can wake up in Elysium with kelp waiving in his antennae. This can be a problem because the carapace of spiny lobster in the area of eyes and brain is heavily armored on both sides. You might like to turn him on his back and plunge a heavy knife in that area, but if you whack off your thumb Monsieur wins. See note to cook below.
The average weight for a California spiny is about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ lbs. Plunge the lobster into the pot and cook for about 10 minutes. Extract your lobster (now in Elysium) and allow him/her to cool down.
Monsieur Homard is pretty easy to break up. Separate the head from the body and you will probably have a lot of green tomalley running out which you should try to capture. If it happens to be Madame Homard you could be lucky enough to collect some roe.
Most of the meat will come from the tail, but you might be able to get a little bit of cheek meat from the head. Using sturdy kitchen shears cut down the belly and pull out the tail and carefully clean out the nasty bits. SAVE THE SHELLS. With some patience you can get a bit more meat from the legs.
Chop up the tail meat and refrigerate until ready to use, although actually it might be easier to dispatch your lobster in the morning, refrigerate the tail and do the chopping along with your prep work for the sauce.
In a pan large enough to contain the sauce and the cooked pasta heat the butter over medium heat. Don’t let it brown. Once you have hot butter add the shallot, onion, garlic, celery and carrot one at a time stirring all the time. Add broken up lobster shells and continue to stir. Add the hot pepper if using, the saffron and the chopped celery leaves. Add the white wine and simmer for about five to seven minutes (I tend to judge by aroma and color before moving on to the next step). Season with salt and pepper.
Add the tomatoes to the pan and bring to a simmer to reduce by about half. After a few minutes start your water boiling for the pasta.
When you feel the sauce is close to your satisfaction add in the sherry, season with salt and pepper and continue to cook a few more minutes. With kitchen tongs remove the shell pieces and discard. Put the sauce through a food mill over a bowl, strain through a chinois and then return to the pan
Now add the cut up lobster meat to the sauce.
Cook the fregola to package directions. It should be just short of al dente.
Drain the pasta add directly to the sauce. Taste for seasoning. No cheese should be added.
Note to cook with regard to the demise of Monsieur Homard: just about a week ago I witnessed an interesting technique. A live lobster was trussed lengthwise to a wooden spoon in preparation for his watery grave. Apparently this keeps the tail rigid during cooking. I've not yet tested this method but shortly I will.
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.