A salad to sink your teeth into…September 15, 2006
I have a confession to make: I am not a rabbit.
Maybe that’s not clear. Let me try again… I mean to say, I am not a salad person. That’s right. A big old pile of raw leaves, even with some carrots and cucumbers thrown in, doesn’t make me want to chow down. I’ll pause to let your recover from your shock.
But I can be tricked into eating salads if the right temptations are piled on top of said raw greens.
Lobster, for example. (Also, fried chicken, assorted meats, olives, beans, nuts, cheese of any sort, and delicious dressing.)
I know that I should eat more salads, of course — and probably not put so much dressing and cheese on top of them. Apparently, my husband agrees… because he has tricked me into eating a very healthy salad without cheese OR bacon.
His lobster salad is delicious, delicate and fresh — and I devoured it. The sweet, fresh taste of lobster is paired perfectly with a zesty lime viniagrette. And the lobster meat, while luxurious and flavorful, is light enough that it makes for a substantial starter or lunch, but doesn’t spoil a meal.
So, go ahead, fellow non-rabbits. Eat this salad. It’s good.
It’s the end of summer here in the DC area. So, this is the last of the summer gifts from us to you.
This salad couldn’t be any simpler. The vinaigrette is made in advance, and the lobster is quick cooking. Really, there is only one big story to tell here: the vinaigrette. (Warning: It contains a raw egg yolk. If you have fears of salmonella, then you should steer clear. I, however, am pretty confident in the freshness of the eggs we have here.)
The question is, Why use the egg yolk at all? Well, it’s simple. Eggs are magic. OK, not David Copperfield vanishing the Statue of Liberty magic or David Blaine staying in an underground box magic (which I’m not sure is actually magic either). But eggs are chemical magic.
Eggs have so much going on at a chemical level that they take up whole sections in cooking science books. But the property we are enjoying here is the yolk’s ability as an emulsifier. What is an emulsifier?, you ask. It’s like the best kind of cooking alchemy that I can think of — making oil and water mix. Yes, those two star-crossed lovers are joined by egg yolk, the chemical yenta that can bring them together.
Egg yolk has a compound that attaches to both oil and water, allowing the two substances to blend. Hence, in the vinaigrette, it will allow the oil to mix smoothly with both the key lime juice and the olive oil.
If you’re scared of raw egg yolk, though, you can make the vinaigrette without it. You need to whisk quickly and then slowly, slowly, slowly add the oil to the other ingredients. It will separate in an hour, so you should make the vinaigrette just before serving.
Two final thoughts: First, key limes are very tart and sour, and so is the vinegar. So sugar is key to tone down that acidic tartness while keeping the distinct key lime flavor.
Second, if you can, you want to use extra virgin olive oil. This oil comes from the first part of the first pressing of the olives and therefore has the most flavor to it. It also has a greenish hue compared with normal olive oil, which is more golden. Overall, the more flavorful the olive oil, the better the results will be for the vinaigrette.
Salad with Lobster and Key Lime Vinaigrette
4 Lobster Tails (shell on)
6 cups spring salad mix (four big fistfuls or 1 bag)
1/2 medium onion (chopped)
1 cup grape tomatoes (chopped)
Sections from one orange
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup fresh squeezed key lime juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp fresh crack pepper
1. In a bowl or dish, soak the bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. You are going to put these on the grill and the soaking will prevent them from burning. So, please don’t skip this step.
2. Rinse and prepare your salad greens. Pat them dry with a paper towel or toss them in the salad spinner and place in a serving bowl. Chop the onion and tomatoes.
3. Preheat your grill. Note: You can also use your oven’s broiler.
4. Skewer the lobster tails. Run the skewer through the center mass of the lobster meat and then force it out through the tail. This is important to keep the lobster flat; otherwise, during cooking, the meat will contract and cause the tail to curl. This will prevent you from cooking it evenly. So skewer them.
4. Place the skewered tails on the grill top. Cook each side for four min over high heat. (Note: The tails used in this recipe are not large. If you use larger tails, you’ll need to adjust the time.)
5. Remove lobster. Let rest for 5 minutes.
6. While the lobster is resting, prepare the salad by laying down a bed of greens, topping with a bit of tomato and onion. Add orange segments. (To get segments: Peel the orange using your knife. Now each jewel-like segment is exposed. Cut each one out with your knife — separating that sweet flesh part from its skin.)
7. Using a pair of kitchen shears or a knife, cut the meat of the tail free from the shell. There are two real presentation styles. First, you could do as I did and cut the meat free and serve it whole. Or, second, with your shears, you could cut along each segment of the shell and make little medallions of tail meat to lie atop the salad.
8. Dress the salad with vinaigrette.