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Lobster Napoleon with Herbed Potato Tuiles

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Yields four appetizer-size napoleons.

  • by Charlie Trotter from Fine Cooking
    Issue 27

This showstopping appetizer is complex, but many of the components can (and should) be made in advance so that the final assembly is simple. Smoked salmon is a delicious substitute if you’re not in the mood for lobster.

For the basil oil:
  • 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 cup very fresh canola or grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
For the papaya:
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns 
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/2 jalapeño, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 ripe papaya, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced crosswise (about 1/2 cup)
For the vinaigrette:
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or chervil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 shallots, peeled and roasted in 1/2 cup olive oil at 350°F until soft (20 to 30 minutes)
For the tuiles:
  • 1 medium (10 oz.) Idaho potato, baked at 400°F for 1 hour and peeled while still warm
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 4 egg whites
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (combined) finely chopped fresh basil and flat-leaf parsley
For the avocado:
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 Tbs. chopped shallots
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the lobster:
  • 2 live lobsters (1-1/2 lb. each)
For the greens:
  • 1 cup mixed tiny fresh herbs or mixed baby greens (or larger herbs, snipped)
Two days ahead, make the basil oil:

Blanch the basil and parsley in boiling salted water for 20 seconds, and then shock them in ice water. Squeeze the herbs dry in a dishtowel, and then chop them coarsely. Purée the herbs with the canola and olive oils in a blender until the mixture is uniform and bright green, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Strain the oil through a fine sieve, discarding the solids. Refrigerate overnight. The next day, decant and discard the sediment.

Pickle the papaya:

In a small, nonreactive saucepan, simmer the water, rice vinegar, sugar, salt, spices, ginger, and jalapeño for 2 minutes. Cool the pickling juice; strain into a nonreactive bowl over the papaya. Let the mixture sit, covered in the refrigerator, for at least 1 hour but no longer than overnight. Strain before using the papaya.

Mix the shallot vinaigrette:

In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, rice vinegar, parsley, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in the roasting oil. Mince the roasted shallots and add them to the bowl.

Make the tuiles:

While the peeled potato is warm, pass it through a ricer (a warm potato makes the batter easier to spread). Whip the potato with the butter on medium until smooth, about 1 minute. Mix in the egg whites until incorporated, about 3 minutes.  Add the salt, pepper, and herbs.

Make a template by cutting a 2-1/2 -inch round from a plastic yogurt or sour cream lid, slitting an X in the middle so you can cut out the center easily. Leave a 1/4-inch border and cut a small tab handle. Heat the oven to 350°F.

Lobster Napoleon with Herbed Potato Tuiles Recipe

On nonstick sheet pans or regular pans with a nonstick liner, drop a generous teaspoonful of batter in the center of the template. With an offset spatula, spread a very thin layer of batter into the center of the template. Repeat until you have at least 16. It’s a good idea to bake extra in case of burning or breakage (and to nibble on).

Lobster Napoleon with Herbed Potato Tuiles Recipe

Bake the tuiles until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the pan at least once. Start checking after 5 minutes, removing browned tuiles individually as soon as they’re done. Cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Pulp the avocado:

In a small bowl, mash the avocado, shallots, and lime juice together with a fork until almost smooth. Fold in the cilantro; season with salt and pepper.

Prepare the lobster:

Tie a spoon or blunt table knife to the lobster tails to keep the tail straight during cooking (a straight tail is easier to slice). Plunge the lobsters into a large pot of boiling salted water. Boil until just cooked, 9 to 10 minutes, shock in ice water, and drain.

To extract the lobster meat, snap off the claws and extract the claw meat. Twist apart the tail and head; discard the head. With scissors, cut along the center of the tail’s underside and then pull the sides away from each other. Extract the tail meat, removing the dark vein if necessary. Set the meat aside unsliced. Just before you assemble the napoleon, slice the meat and toss it with 3 Tbs. of the shallot vinaigrette.

For the final assembly:

Line up all the components on your workspace. Put 1 tsp. pulped avocado in the center of each plate. Center a tuile on top of the pulped avocado, pressing down lightly to secure.

Arrange a few greens on the tuile, and lay a few lobster pieces on top of the greens. On top of the lobster, set a few pieces of pickled papaya.

Top with a teaspoon of pulped avocado and center a tuile on top, pressing lightly to secure. Repeat the layering until you have three layers of lobster and a tuile on top to finish.

Garnish by spooning the remaining shallot vinaigrette around the plate and by drizzling the basil oil around the vinaigrette. Finish with a few grinds of black pepper.  Serve immediately.

Make Ahead Tips

The strained basil oil will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : with 1/2 tsp. basil oil; Calories (kcal): 290; Fat (g): 16; Fat Calories (kcal): 150; Saturated Fat (g): 5; Protein (g): 12; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8; Carbohydrates (g): 28; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2; Sodium (mg): 710; Cholesterol (mg): 35; Fiber (g): 5;

Photo: Ben Fink

I made this appetizer a few years ago and I absolutely loved it. It is time-consuming and one has to be aware of the need of advanced prep and good use of organizational skills, especially around the rest of the meal. Also care has to be taken when layering the different ingredients or it will topple! It is a show stopper when placed in front of guests and it is equally delicious. I love it when Fine Foods offers challenges for us foodies!

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