Marco Pierre White prepares lobster with sauce vierge

06 September 2007
Marco Pierre White prepares lobster with sauce vierge

Marco Pierre White's unique talent as a three-Michelin-starred chef was to recognise great dishes and take them up a notch, making them his own.

Sauce vierge is a modern classic that was popularised during the 1980s by Michel Guérard at Eugénie-les-Bains. In its original form it was a Mediterranean dressing that contained plenty of garlic. It was eaten either cold or hot after infusing the herbs in the oil.

White's take is more Italian than French. He has cut out the garlic, balanced the oil with lemon juice, added black olives for colour, and sprinkled the herbs over the dish to retain their freshness. His two-stage approach to cooking the lobster is equally clever. He part-cooks it in a court bouillon, rests it to settle the meat, then finishes by roasting it in the oven, basted with oil and butter.

This is a self-contained dish, with no garnish and no attempt at prettiness, that allows for no compromises. It has to be done from scratch, to order.

Marco Pierre White prepares lobster with sauce vierge

Basic court bouillon for lobster

Because the lobster in this recipe is only part-cooked by the liquid, the composition of the court bouillon is not critical. White prefers to omit salt, and he doesn't want the broth to taste of stewed vegetables.

Basic court boullion for lobster

(Makes about five litres)
4.5 litres water
Zest of a lemon
1kg (in total) of leeks, onion, shallots, carrots - coarsely chopped
20 black peppercorns, crushed
Fresh herb stalks to taste - such as fennel, tarragon, parsley
1 star anise
1.25 litres dry white wine (or 1 litre wine and 250ml white wine vinegar)

Method Put the ingredients in a pan except for the wine. Boil, and simmer 20-30 minutes only. Add the wine, return to the boil, take off the heat, cool and strain.

Oil and butter "pommade"

Ingredients (Makes about 500g)
250g unsalted butter
250g extra virgin olive oil

Method Soften and then cream butter in a mixing bowl. Incorporate an equal amount of extra virgin olive oil, a few drops at a time, to form a soft emulsion. Fill a piping bag (plain tube). To store, avoid temperature extremes - they'll either split the pommade or make it harder to pipe.

Lobster with sauce vierge Essentially, this is a simple recipe. What makes it challenging is timing. Its success hinges on à la minute cooking rather than complex advance preparation. For example, cooking and portioning the lobster ahead of service would not make it a bad dish, but it would not taste as good as when it's done to order.

Ingredients (Serves one main course or two fish courses)
5 litres court bouillon
1 x 600g lobster
11/2 ripe plum tomatoes
Handful black olives
100-150g oil and butter pommade
1tsp coriander seeds
100ml extra virgin olive oil (good-quality)
1 lemon
Fleur de sel or Maldon salt
Fresh basil
Fresh tarragon
Fresh coriander leaves

Heat the court bouillon to 85°C in a pan with a diameter just large enough to take the lobster. Drop it into the simmering liquid. Set a timer for three minutes. If you are concerned about killing lobsters directly like this, leave them in the freezer for an hour before they are cooked - but poach for an extra 30 seconds.

Remove the parboiled lobster from the court bouillon - it won't have completely turned red. Transfer it to a bowl just large enough to contain it. Cover with clingfilm (1).

Leave in a hot part of the kitchen. Carry-over cooking allied to the hot environment will not finish the cooking process, but it will be enough to cook the claws. At the same time, the meat in the tail will relax, making for more tender, succulent eating.

While the lobster is resting, peel the tomatoes without blanching them. Seed, quarter and dice them. Reserve. Slice slivers of black olive off the stones.

In a small pan, toast the coriander seeds until fragrant. Cool the pan. Pour oil over the seeds. Add lemon juice - three parts oil to one of lemon. Set aside. Don't cook the oil or it will lose its fragrance. Reserve.

Preheat the oven to about 240°C. Pull off the whiskers from the lobster and reserve for garnish. Break off the two claws from the carapace.

To prepare the claws
Break each one into its three natural joints (2). Pull off the lower sections of the two pincers and extract the pointed flesh (3). One claw cuts, the other crushes, but the meat can be extracted from both in the same way.

!MPW lobster masterclass]( ![MPW lobster masterclass]( ![MPW lobster masterclass]( Hold the pincer firmly by the curved end. It should rest on the board with the ridge pointing upwards. To crack the claw, use the middle part of a chopping knife's edge (4). Aim at a spot halfway along the thickest part of the claw. Chop down hard enough to cut through the top of the shell. Leave the blade in the cut and twist it sharply in both directions. The shell around the claw-meat snaps cleanly and you can prise the flesh away in an undamaged single piece. Extract the transparent cartilage that runs through the middle of the pincers. Split open the other claw joints to remove their meat. They are covered in a milky protein - wipe this off with kitchen paper or a clean cloth. To split the tail and carapace Lay the lobster flat on the chopping board. With a heavy-duty knife, cut through the middle of the tail with a single downward stroke to achieve a clean cut (5). ![MPW lobster masterclass]( ![MPW lobster masterclass]( ![]( Cut through the top of the carapace from the tail end to a point between the eyes, so as to halve the lobster. Extract the entrails running through the middle of the tail. Remove the stomach sac from either side of the head behind the eyes (6 and 7). Clean out both halves of the carapace (reserving any coral, which will not yet have turned red, for sauces, bisques, etc). Rinse and dry the carapaces (8). ![MPW lobster masterclass]( To separate the tail meat into its natural segments Put the two lobster halves on a shallow-sided roasting tin or tray. Pipe a strip of butter-oil pommade through the tail cavity and along the carapace (9). Replace the tail meat in its shell (10). Lay the claw meat on the carapace. Pipe extra pommade on top of the lobster meat (11 and 12). Bake for three minutes in a very hot oven. ![MPW lobster masterclass]( ![MPW lobster masterclass]( ![MPW lobster masterclass]( ![MPW lobster masterclass]("> Dry out the diced tomato under the salamander for about two minutes. Add it to the warm oil and lemon juice. Add the black olive slivers. To dress the lobster Take it out of the oven and put it on a service flat (13). The butter-oil emulsion will have drained on to the roasting tin - it can be discarded. Sprinkle a little fleur de sel over the lobster. Spoon the warm sauce vierge on top. Season lightly with salt. Tear or roughly chop the fresh herbs and sprinkle them generously over the lobster. Decorate with the two lobster whiskers to give a little extra height to the dish, and serve. ![MPW lobster masterclass]( Buying lobster Chefs who buy live lobsters have a choice between cheaper imported North American ones and those from British waters. White buys imports for his chain of Luciano's brasseries, where lobster meat is used in a pasta dish selling for about £15, but would prefer home-grown ones for a Michelin-starred situation. It's more a matter of condition than any intrinsic difference between them. Kept alive in tanks, all lobsters lose weight, even though their size and appearance remain the same. It's as well to bear in mind that, if poorly handled, they deteriorate whatever their origin, and a healthy imported one may be better value for money. Colour is only an indicator of provenance. When live, many, but not all, UK lobsters are blue. Some are blackish, like their North American counterparts. Sex and condition will also influence eating quality. Lobster shells are at their hardest before they moult, which is when the meat is at its plumpest. After moulting, when the flesh is softer, it might taste as sweet, but there will be less of it relative to the size. Hen lobsters tend to be broader in the beam across the tail. The cocks are a little more streamlined and have spines on the underside of the tail. The best signs of a good lobster are "heaviness in the hand" and liveliness. Marco Pierre White As a young man, Marco Pierre White epitomised the kitchen adrenalin junkie, working 16-hour days without complaint for a string of star chefs - Pierre Koffmann, Nico Ladenis, Albert Roux and Raymond Blanc - desperate to acquire the skills that would make him rich, respected and famous - not necessarily in that order. Still in his early 30s, he won three Michelin stars after relocating from his first restaurant, Harvey's in Wandsworth, south London, to the Hyde Park hotel (now the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park). He later relocated the restaurant to the Oak Room at the Le Meridien Piccadilly hotel and scored a double by earning a maximum five red knives and forks to go with the Michelin stars. He hung up his whites at the age of 40 to become a restaurateur and entrepreneur, and has just embarked on filming a new TV series of *Hell's Kitchen*. He has retained enough high-octane passion for his craft to make Gordon Ramsay seem like a pussycat. Photography by Lisa Barber ([]( [View all chef jobs on Caterersearchjobs here >>
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