The first time I had Lobster À la Plancha was quite a while ago in a small restaurant in Lyon, France. The name seemed rather exotic, but when the lobster arrived I learned “À la Plancha” merely referred to the fact that the lobster had been cooked over an open flame on a steel plate or a griddle. Since that time I have learned that this method of cooking is quite popular in Spain and southern France and other parts of the world as well. The food is cooked on a flat metal grill plate, hence the name “plancha”, the Spanish word for plate. Many restaurants and tapas bars in Spain have large steel planchas as an integral part of their kitchen. Planchas are also an important part of the numerous fiestas that are held, both indoors and outdoors, each year in Spain and can now also be found in many Spanish and tapas restaurants in the United States. In Europe the plancha for a home is frequently a cooktop made from steel or cast iron. In the United States a planchs is generally sold for use on a grill or stovetop
A plancha is an extremely effective method for cooking a wide variety of meats, seafood, fruits and vegetables. I especially like the way it works with seafood. Cooking on a hot plancha that is just starting to smoke, quickly sears the tender fish and shellfish, leaving a beautiful golden-brown crust. The wide variety of options for cooking “a la plancha” are illustrated in Liliane Otal’s book, “Plancha, 150 Great Recipes For Spanish- Style Grilling." You can use a large steel pan on your stove, a griddle that fits over several burners on the stove or use a plancha on your grill. Emille Henry has an all natural, ceramic plancha for a grill, Weber has a non-stick, enamel covered cast- iron plancha that I am very happy with and Williams-Sonoma has a really attractive cast- iron plancha that works on the stove and in the oven as well. Once you try it, you will be hooked.
Lobster A la Plancha With Ginger & Garlic Butter
Serves 4 as a starter
4 lobster tails, 8 to 10 oz 1 4-inch piece of fresh ginger,
peeled and finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 fresh red chili pepper, seeded, stems removed and cut into small dice, or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or a dash of sriracha sauce, to taste
1/2 cup of clarified or melted unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
2 or 3 lemons cut into wedges
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare a bowl of ice water large enough to hold the lobster tails. Add the lobster tails and boil for 4 minutes to partially cook them.
You can also steam them over boiling salted water for 4 minutes. (Vary the cooking time according to the size of the lobster tails, see Cooking Fishmonger )
Remove the lobsters, drain and place in the bowl of ice water for several minutes.
Remove the soft underside of the lobster shell with kitchen shears and cut the lobster meat lengthwise with a sharp knife, taking care not to cut through the shell. The lobster shell should be in one piece, but the meat should be butterflied.
Insert a metal skewer into the lobster meat if you want it to remain straight.
To prepare the ginger & garlic sauce, put the clarified butter in a sauté or fry pan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced garlic and sauté for about 1minute. Add the ginger, red chili pepper, a pinch of salt and pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant and the ginger and chili pepper are soft, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Divide the butter sauce into 2 bowls. Brush some of the ginger & garlic butter from 1 bowl over the lobster and reserve the rest of that bowl for basting. Let the lobster sit for 30 minutes.
Heat the plancha on the grill over high heat for about 10 minutes. Brush the lobster meat with some additional ginger & garlic butter and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Place the lobster tails, meat-side down on the plancha and cook until slightly charred and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Turn the lobster over, brush with a
generous amount of the ginger and garlic butter and continue cooking until just cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Continue to brush the lobster tails with additional ginger & garlic butter as they cook. (Adjust the total cooking time for the actual size of the lobster tails, as described in the link above.)
Remove the lobster from the plancha and serve with the second bowl of ginger & garlic butter (reheated if necessary).
You can serve the lobster with caviar and crème fraîche mashed potatoes and piquillo pepper sauce, (recipes below), sautéed baby bok choy, , some lemon and drawn butter or with any side that you prefer.
For a wine selection, you might try an Albariño, such as the 2012 Niner Wine Estates Albariño Jepersen Vineyard,a good unoaked chardonnay from Chablis or a rosé from the south of France.
Caviar & Crème Fraîche Mashed Potatoes
2 pounds of yukon gold potatoes, or potatoes of your choice, peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 or 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup of crème fraîche (You can vary the amount of butter and crème fraîche according to your own taste. You can also add a bit of warm milk or cream if you prefer.)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, black or white
About 4 ounces of caviar of your choice.
The Gourmet Food Store has a nice selection of good quality domestic, as well as imported caviar, at reasonable prices.
Place the potatoes in a steamer rack and place the rack in a pot with about 2 inches of water in the bottom. Bring to a simmer, turn the heat to medium-high and steam the potatoes for about 20 minutes or until they pierce easily with a sharp knife. Add additional water to the pot if necessary.
Remove the potatoes, drain and process through a potato ricer or food mill. Add the potatoes to the empty pot and over low heat, add the crème fraîche and butter. Whisk until smooth and fluffy. Taste, add additional butter or and crème fraîche if they are quite creamy enough. Season with sea salt and pepper and stir in caviar or top the potatoes with the caviar. You can make the potatoes as much as 2 hours ahead. In that case, do not stir in the caviar, cover the potatoes and let them stand at room temperature. Rewarm over low heat, while stirring frequently. Taste, adjust the butter, crème fraîche, salt and pepper. Then mix in the caviar or add to the top of the potatoes and serve.
Roasted Piquillo Pepper Sauce
1 cup of roasted piquillo peppers from a jar, drained, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium shallot, diced 1 small red chili pepper, seeded, ribs removed and diced, you can substitute a pinch of cayenne pepper or a dash of sriracha sauce, to taste
1 cup of fish stock
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a sauté or fry pan over medium heat. Add the piquillo peppers, garlic, shallots, chili pepper and a pinch of salt. Sauté for about 5 minutes and then add the fish stock. Continue cooking the sauce for about 10 minutes. Puree the sauce with a hand blender, food processor or blender. Stir, taste and add salt, pepper and perhaps some more sriracha sauce, to your taste.
All of theses recipes can also be found in our RECIPES section