Beautiful Northern Lobsters from Maine are back in the kitchen this week, and really, what odd extraterrestrial looking creatures they are. Hard to believe that beneath that foreboding carapace, gleaming with extraordinary color, is the softest most succulent white flesh in the Crustacea kingdom. The work to get at what’s inside is well worth it, even if all you end up doing is gobbling it off a small fork, sea water dripping from your chin. Ryan’s plan for them was a bit more evolved however, Ryan being Ryan. Imagine a tower of freshly cracked lobster meat gently mixed with lightly pickled red cabbage, mascarpone, tarragon and lemon zest, gently tucked inside a giant saffron ravioli. Delicious. I especially loved the dish being paired with cardoons glazed in brown butter in an al dente mirepoix of vegetables as a bed for the ravioli.
Cardoons, another beautiful freak of nature, look like they come from ancient times, which in fact they do. Often mistaken in the garden to their cousin the artichoke (also known for its pairing with lobster), they have spiky celery-like stalks topped with thistle flowers that bloom a gorgeous imperial purple. The expressive geometry of the cardoon flowers look like something designed by Rei Kawakubo, but are all but inedible. The stalks on the other hand, if harvested before the flowers bloom, are delicious. Like celery, cardoon leaves and stalks need TLC, trimmed carefully to render them string less. I've never seen them sold in supermarkets and even around here they disappear from farmers markets this time of year. We usually get beautiful cardoons from Preston, but this week they arrived from Knoll Organic Farm in Brentwood.
Pancho, our consummate pasta guy, was entrusted with making the saffron pasta, then enclosing the lobster filling in perfectly air tight ravioli so the shellfish and herbs steam through without any water slipping in. Slide a fork through one of these heavenly bundles and a heady perfume of sea and garden inundates the senses for a brief few seconds. What you taste picks up the theme from there, and for a few perfect mouthfuls you could be facing the sea, dreaming of a trip to Italy.
We are serving this luxurious dish as a winter starter. Elegant and surprisingly light, it's a perfect first course before a heartier stick-to-your-ribs entrée. It will also be one of the choices on our NYE menu. I have no idea if any seats remain for the 31st but Natalie tells me the response to us scaling down the price and opening the gallery to a midnight dance party for guests dining with us has been impressive. We have a few surprises up our sleeve - the more Eat the View readers present, the better. (always the case, of course).