Thursday, July 21, 2011

the best thing i ever ate - citronelle's lobster begula pasta

once or twice someone has asked what the best thing was that i ever ate. it's called the lobster "begula" pasta at citronelle in washington dc. it's based off the french technique "trompe l'oeil" (fool the eye). that's an art thing, but this plate of food is a work of art! it comes out in a caviar tin looking like beluga caviar but marked "begula":

it's not until you start to dig in that you realize that something is tricking you. what is it? (well, unfortunately i'm about to ruin the surprise.) it's lobster, hollandaise sauce, and a poached egg. and israeli couscous. here's what it looks like under the hood:
rich. creamy. decadent. i wish i could eat the stuff out of a trough instead of a tin. here's the recipe so you can give it a whirl yourself.

lobster begula pasta, from happy in the kitchen
by michel richard of citronelle

part 1: the lobster
one 1 1/2-pound lobster (about 8 ounces shelled). bring a large pot of water to a boil. fill a large bowl with ice water. put lobster into boiling water, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. remove the lobster and place in ice water until cold. later, remove lobster and drain well. working over a bowl, break lobster apart and reserve any juices. remove meat from tail and claws and reserve. discard body, or reserve for stock or another use. then, cut lobster meat into 3/4" pieces. by the end there should be about 1 cup meat and about 1/2 cup of juice. place meat in a small bowl and strain juices through a fine-mesh strainer over it. (lobster can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)

part 2: the poached eggs
1/4 cup white vinegar, 4 large eggs, fine sea salt. fill a large saucepan with at least 5 inches of water and bring to a boil. fill a medium bowl with ice water. add vinegar to the boiling water. crack an egg into a small bowl, reduce heat to a simmer, and move pan halfway off heat. then carefully pour egg into the simmering portion of the water, and after 5 seconds, with the help of a large slotted spoon, push egg white together around the yolk and move egg to opposite (nonsimmering) side of the pan. cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until white is set but yolk is still runny. with slotted spoon, remove egg from water and place in ice water. repeat with remaining eggs. (eggs can be held in ice water in refrigerator for several hours.)

part 3: the begula pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, 1/3 cup diced (1/4") yellow onion, 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, 3/4 cup israeli couscous, 2 tablespoons dry white wine, fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, 2 teaspoons squid ink. melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. next add onion and sauté for about 3 to 5 minutes, until translucent. in a small saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. reduce heat and keep the stock at a simmer. add couscous to onions and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until lightly golden. pour in white wine and stir until the liquid is almost gone. couscous may seem a bit pasty. pour in 1/2 cup of the stock, and cook, stirring often, until the liquid is almost evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes; do not let pasta dry out! season with salt and pepper. add another cup of stock and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the liquid is almost gone again. then add 1/2 cup stock and cook until the liquid is almost gone and the couscous is glazed, about 2 minutes. the texture of the couscous should resemble rice - not too soft, but a bit softer than al dente. if it has too much bite, add the remaining 1/4 cup stock and cook until glazed.

now, stir in squid ink to evenly coat and color couscous. stir in remaining tablespoon of butter and remove from heat. season to taste with salt and keep in a warm place on top of stove.

part 4: the hollandaise
reserved lobster liquid (from above), 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon simmering water, fine sea salt to taste, cayenne pepper to taste. pour lobster liquid from lobster into a small saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, and reduce to 2 to 3 tablespoons. then remove from heat and set aside. bring water to a boil in the bottom of a double boiler. reheat reduced lobster liquid and stir in butter until melted, then keep warm, without simmering. in the top of the double boiler, whisk together the egg yolk, lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons of the simmering water. continue to whisk for 30 seconds. slowly, little by little, whisk in the lobster butter. continue to whisk for 2 to 3 minutes, or until thickened. add the remaining teaspoon of water to slow the cooking process. season to taste with salt and cayenne. (if you are not ready to assemble the dish, keep the sauce warm over the barely simmering water, whisking from time to time.)

part 5: finish the dish!

preheat the oven to 200°. remove eggs from ice water and dry with a towel. with a knife or scissors, trim away any unruly strings of egg white. season eggs with salt and place each egg in a cleaned caviar tin or 6-ounce glass. dry the lobster briefly on paper towels. divide lobster among 4 tins, placing it to the side of the eggs. place tins on a small baking sheet and then into oven to slowly warm lobster and eggs. remove tins from oven and spoon hollandaise over eggs and lobster to coat. top with a layer of couscous that reaches the top of the tins. using a small offset spatula, smooth the top of the couscous level with the tops of the tins to make a solid layer resembling caviar. return tins to the baking sheet, place a damp towel over the top, and return to oven for 3 to 5 minutes until warm.

serve immediately. serves 4.

nb. i could have swore that the recipe called for the lobster meat to be butter poached. here's how to do that:

learn to do it at ehow or...
kitchen girl blog


  1. Have you ever made it? Is it reproducible?

  2. I believe it is. With practice. You can ask Ande about it... There's nothing extremely rare or technically difficult in the process. It was just the brilliance in coming up with the idea. And execution.

  3. I don't really like hollandaise sauce or poached eggs, but this looks sooooo good. I want to know if it is reproducible either... if so, you and Ande should reproduce it for us.