Some people get nervous about baking breads with yeast, which can be finnicky and unpredictable. Other people avoid cooking whole fish or poultry because they don't know the first thing about deboning. And me, at least until this past week, I shied away from lobster.
Lobster's a pretty reasonable cooking fear. Not only does the cook have to kill it themselves (and then choose among several methods of execution), but on top of that, the things have threatening claws, a rock-hard shell, and an unnerving number of appendages. Delicious as they are, lobsters are... well, kinda freaky.
What inspired me to conquer my fear? Having grown up eating a diet virtually free of seafood, I discovered the lobster very belatedly. It wasn't until my early 20s that I even tasted lobster straight out of the shell. When I did try it, though, I discovered what the rest of the world has always known — it's a delicious meat, sweet and especially good when doused in a more-than-healthy amount of butter. And thus, fast-forward to this week's first-ever lobster cooking venture.
The preparation is pretty simple, but the flavors aren't. Served on a bed of saffron rice, the lobster is drizzled in a butter and white wine sauce that's perfumed with woody, fragrant Madagascar bourbon vanilla bean. It's everything a good meal should be — fancy-seeming but also fast and satisfying.
Rinse the rice of excess starch in cold water until the water runs clear. In a medium saucepan, add the rice and water and heat over medium-high heat. Add the salt, pepper, and saffron. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat to a low simmer and cover. Cook for approximately 15-20 minutes, checking once or twice to ensure that the rice is not too dry. Add a small amount of extra water if necessary. After about 20 minutes, the rice should be cooked. Fluff with a fork before serving.
Over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Once the butter has melted and is hot (but not in danger of scalding), add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, until soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the white wine and let reduce for 2-3 minutes.
Turn the heat down to low. To the saucepan, add the remaining 6 tablespoons of the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking to incorporate after each addition. The sauce should be pale yellow and creamy in appearance. Split the bean in half and scrape the tiny black seeds into the butter sauce, stirring to incorporate thoroughly. Then add the bean itself to the sauce and cook over very low heat for an additional 3-5 minutes. Remove the bean before serving.
Fill a very large pot about 2/3 of the way full with water. Salt liberally, and bring to a rolling boil. Once the water is boiling, snip the rubber bands off the lobster's claws and plunge the lobster into the pot. As soon as the lobster is in the water, cover the pot completely with a lid.
Cook the lobster for 9-10 minutes until it is fully cooked — the shell should be bright red, the tail meat should be firm, and the internal temperature should be about 180 degrees. Remove the lobster from the pot and set aside; begin to extract the meat as soon as it is cool enough to handle comfortably. Remove the claws by twisting the joint near the lobster's body. Using a hammer wrapped in a kitchen towel (or the blunt end of a cooking knife), crack open the claws and remove the meat to a plate covered in foil.
Flip the lobster on its back and, using kitchen shears, cut through the carapace all the way down the lobster's tail. Remove the tail meat. Reserve the head and the excess shell to make lobster stock, if desired.
To assemble, scoop ½ cup of the cooked rice on a plate and top with the lobster meat. Drizzle over with the butter sauce and garnish with the chopped chives.