Cooking shellfish is one of the toughest skills that a chef can master.
Undercook it and the result is something akin to sculpted snot. Overcook it and you’ll be left with a centerpiece that’s the texture of a rubber boot. It is a fine tightrope to walk.
Even if you do emerge from the perilous process with your shellfish relatively in tact and edible, there still remains perhaps the most daunting task of the whole operation – actually getting at the meat.
As any regular seafood restaurant patron will tell you, while the rewards of eating shellfish may be great, it is a messy, labour intensive exercise. Just as you burn more calories chewing celery than you gain by ingesting it, attacking a particularly stubborn crab with a small mallet can serve to work up quite a sweat. For many, this strenuous eating practise is precisely the reason for not persevering with shellfish.
Fortunately for lobster lovers everywhere, Gordon Ramsey has leapt into the breach to show us all how it’s done. In a clip from his latest show, “Culinary Genius”, everyone’s favourite yeller-in-chief expertly extracts the tail, dismantles the claws and even prises minuscule yet delicious servings of sweet meat from the spindly legs of the pre-cooked crustacean, all before presenting with typical fine-dining aplomb.
As Ramsey demonstrates, the key to safely removing as much meat as possible is precision. Rather than adopting the mad axe murderer approach of many less skilled amateurs, knowing where to cut and in what order guarantees stunning results.
When working with ingredients this exceptional, and expensive, it pays to know a bit about what you’re doing.
Each aspect of the lobster requires a specific and precise technique. The tail, for instance, is crushed by hand, whereas the claws are dealt with by knife. The delicate legs are operated on with, perhaps surprisingly, a rolling pin. He may be shouty, but on occasion it is worth listening to what Ramsay has to say.
The whole concept behind “Culinary Genius” revolves around demonstrating potentially treacherous cooking techniques to enthusiastic amateur chefs. Beyond the preparation of lobster, contestants have been asked to slice and serve salmon fillets, correctly butcher meat and dice peppers – tasks that may seem simple but are easy to carry out incorrectly. The amateurs then compete against each other to successfully replicate the skill demonstrated by the professional for a cash prize. It may look simple, but if the lobster is anything to go by, looks can be deceptive.
Shellfish can be a great weapon in a chef’s arsenal, when handled correctly. Lobster may not be one of the easiest ingredients to come by, nor one of the most cost effective, but if you ever feel the urge to splash out for a special occasion, Ramsay’s presentation is sure to be useful. Grab some garlic butter and a brioche roll and get cracking. Eating and enjoying this amazing ingredient will be forever easier.