The devil made me do it, and it was glorious. Lobster fra diavolo, a messiah of a recipe. Lobster, the prodigal ingredient that in the last 100 years gone from prisoner food to haute cuisine. More often than not, I find lobster bland and boring. Unless accompanied with enough butter to make Paula Dean blush, lobster tend to be overcooked, chewy and under-seasoned. Thankfully, the Italians know damn well how to make anything tasty and in this case, smothering lobster with chilies and garlic. Perfect for the holidays – typically a staple in the Feast of Seven Fishes – or special occasions.
Lobster fra diavolo is a classic. There are many renditions of it – a tomato creamy pasta, grilled, or baked in the oven. Regardless of method, there are two constants – plenty of garlic and chili peppers (fresh or dried crushed red pepper flakes). In some versions, tomatoes and/or tomato sauce are utilized. In this rendition, I take the lobster fra diavolo and cook it stir-fry style – fast and hot in a saute pan over open fire. I’m a fan of this version because a smoking hot pan (filled with olive oil and butter, of course) impart such deep, charring flavor on garlic slices and bring out the inherent smokiness of dried red pepper flakes, making this lobster fra diavolo not only spicy, but layered with surprisingly harsh and yet pleasant tastes. And as if the generous showering of garlic and red pepper flakes are not enough, the sweet tomato sauce and milky heavy cream make the dish all the more luscious. With all of this noise, somehow, the lobster still remains the star of the dish. Enjoy this stir-fry rendition in a multitude of ways (like on rice, bread, noodles, or mashed potatoes) or as is.
Ingredients (serves two):
- 2 lobsters, cooked & lobster meat de-shelled (claws and tail), reserve lobster tamalley
- 8-10 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2-3 tablespoons dried red pepper flakes
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup tomato sauce
- 2-3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
Prepare the lobster before starting the cooking. The easiest way to cook the lobster is to boil it for 10-15 minutes in salted water. Make sure to stab the lobster in the back of the head before dunking them into the hot water. Permit the lobsters to cool down before dismantling them. Scissors and knuckle crackers are a good idea. Remove the tail and claw meat, and be mindful to keep all the lobster tamalley (aka the green stuff, a delicacy). Slice the lobster meat into bite-sized pieces and remove the piece of cartilage in the lobster claw. Keep the leftover lobster heads and bodies for another use.
Bring a medium sized sauté pan up to heat, over medium-high heat. The trick here is to really get the garlic cooked hot and fast, almost to the point of burning them. Add the butter and olive oil, and then add the garlic with some salt. The pan should be hot, with the butter bubbling and the garlic franticly sizzling. Also add the dried red pepper flakes and give it a couple of swirls to make sure they are coating all the garlic. After 1-2 minutes, the kitchen should smell smokey; fragrant with the intoxicating charring garlic with wafts of spicy pepperiness. If you have any lobster tamalley, add them now.
Once you feel like the garlic are on the edge of coming up to a burning (couple minutes of cooking time), add the tomato sauce. The tomato sauce should start bubbling almost immediately. Promptly add the cooked lobster meat to the super garlicky and smokey hot tomato sauce. Coat the lobster pieces and add the cream. This will thin the sauce and give it a pleasant lighter red color. Adjust the thickness and amount of sauce coating the lobster by adding more tomato sauce and/or cream, if necessary. The sauce should coat all of the lobster, with only a little remaining sauce left as a run-off.
Give it a tasting and add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, if necessary. Finish it with a small dab of butter, and serve. This rendition can be enjoyed as an appetizer as is, or served over a risotto or pasta or as a crostini.