I love the fact that the Italian obsession with seafood during the holidays coincides with the time when lobsters from the New England coast are at their succulent best. One of the best ways to enjoy this crustacean is in a soup–because the making of the broth extracts every ounce of flavor.
Lobster soup with broken fettuccine, from Seafood alla Siciliana, is based on a dish from Ristorante Bye Bye Blues, located in Mondello, a beachside suburb of Palermo. As is typical of Sicilian restaurants offering this delicacy, Chef Patrizia Benedetto requires diners to reserve not just a table but the soup itself. Once you’ve made it, you’ll see why—this soup deserves to be eaten as soon as it’s ready.
For an ambitious Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve or a festive New Year’s Eve dinner, this soup could be an elegant first course. But if your plans are more modest–as mine are this year– it won’t disappoint as the focus of a holiday meal. Just bump up the serving size and follow with my favorite post-seafood salad: a layering of greens, sliced navel oranges (from Florida, naturally) and fennel, with a few pomegranate seeds thrown about.
Lobster Soup with Broken Fettuccine
(from Seafood alla Siciliana)
Makes 4 servings
2 lobsters (about 1 1/4 pounds each)
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
Several flat-leaf parsley sprigs
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 cup dry white wine
6 whole peeled canned tomatoes, chopped
Sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 pound dried fettuccine
1. Chill the lobster in the freezer (after 10 minutes or so, it will be considerably less feisty) while bringing 2 cups water to a boil in a large, broad saucepan. Drop the lobster in the pan, clap on the lid, and steam over medium heat for 10 minutes. Reserving the cooking liquid in a bowl, transfer the lobster to a cutting surface and cool to room temperature.
2. To remove the lobster meat: Twist off the tail; place it flat side down on a cutting board and press down with the palm of your hand until it cracks; pull the sides apart and push the meat out one end. Twist off the claws; crack the shells and joints with the help of a nutcracker or small pliers, and tug out the meat. Clean out and discard the contents of the body, reserving the shells. Cut the meat into small pieces. (Recipe can be prepared several hours in advance up to this point; refrigerate the lobster meat and shells.)
3. Drizzle 1/3 cup olive oil over the bottom of the same saucepan, and arrange the lobster shells and claws in a single layer. Add the onion, celery, a few parsley sprigs (save the rest for the garnish), and the peppercorns. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften and the shells deepen in color. Add the wine, letting it sizzle until nearly evaporated. Add half of the tomatoes and the lobster cooking liquid, plus enough water to barely cover the shells (about 6 cups liquid in all).
4. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partly covered, for about 15 minutes. Cool until warm. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing down on the shells to extract the juices. Discard the solids. At this point, the lobster broth and meat can be held for an hour so.
5. Return the broth to the cleaned saucepan and bring to a brisk simmer over medium heat. Season to taste with salt. Break the fettuccine into short lengths and add to the broth, stirring to submerge the noodles. Cook until al dente, adding the remaining tomatoes during the last few minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed.
6. Warm 4 shallow soup bowls and divide the lobster meat among them. Ladle the broth over it. Garnish each serving with torn parsley leaves and a thread of good olive oil.