Since the finale of the original Iron Chef series, I’ve been meaning to try and make this dish. I really wanted to taste the dish that was considered one of the ten best dishes from Iron Chef: The Official Book (p 48,49), especially given the comments of the judges. Was it really that good?
Time Indices (9:06-9:48,24:10-24:51/24:59-25:22,29:31-30:46,40:07-40:23,47:20-48:30
Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai says that his Steamed Red Snapper With Wakame is a variant of the dish he prepared in the King Of Iron Chefs Finale. That recipe can be found here: http://www.g-chef.com/english/recip/sk002_e.html ; what is of interest is the tomato sauce that he pairs with that particular dish. Might that sauce also pair with the lobster since I paired it successfully with the monkfish course in my Christmas omakase meal?
According to Iron Chef: The Official Book, Iron Chef Sakai’s recipe for the lobster in the finale (p. 49) started with the ingredient list:
2 30cm pieces of toshishiri (Did they mean rishiri?) konbu
200g raw wakame seaweed (~7oz) [I used a 17 ounce package of salted wakame]
4 lobsters [I used 2 lobsters about 1 1/4 lb each]
1 kg (2.2 lbs) clams [I used 1 lb of steamer clams]
1 red chili pepper
20 white peppercorns
1 L bouillon (court bouillon?) [I ended up having to used 2 L]
salt/pepper to taste (for plating, see the video near the end of judging)
The video also makes mention of laurel/bay leaves and italian parsley.
For the bouillon, I would use the recipe from Chef Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook (p.50)
8 c water (2 qt)
2 carrots (cut into 1/2″ rounds)
1 1/2 c coarsely chopped onions
1 leek split length washed and cut into 1/2″ pieces (~1 c)
1 medium fennel bulb coarsely chopped (~2 c)
1 bouquet garni
6 black peppercorns
1 c crisp dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc)
1/2 c dry white wine vinegar
So I spent the better part of a late afternoon preparing the court bouillon by getting a pot of water ready
as well as dicing up a version of mirepoix, except without the celery.
Once the carrots were peeled and cut up and prepared a roughly ‘chopped’ spanish onion
as well as the leek. So as not to be wasteful, I grabbed the outer leaf of leek to serve as the envelope for the
bouquet garni and cut up the lengthwise split and washed leek into 1/2″ half rounds.
I must say I was surprised that I was going to have to use the whole fennel bulb without the stems
though I also wondered if the fennel was there to accentuate the aroma of the court bouillon.
Once the fennel was prepared I turned my attention to the bouquet garni.
The bouquet garni ingredient from the French Laundry Cookbook was:
3 outer green leek leaves to serve as an ‘envelope’
5 sprigs italian parsley
5 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
(p. 60 – use leaves as an envelope bundle of the herbs)
In making the lobster dish, Iron Chef Sakai pours the boiling bouillon into his pot layered with konbu, lobster, clams, chili,
peppercorn, and wakame,
and lets it simmer for about 10 minutes (in his red snapper/wakame variant, he steams the whole thing for 15 to 20 minutes).
In the finale version, he dumps in burning hot stones with 5 minutes before serving and lets the whole thing steam before
plating. Since I didn’t have Chef Sakai’s cooking vessel nor the hot stones, I presumed he was poaching whole lobsters.
So, I needed an alternate way to cook the lobsters. I would start by following Iron Chef Sakai’s instructions by plunging the
konbu into water just to get it wet and serves as a bed for the cooking process. Half the wakame would form a bed for the
lobsters and then the clams go on top of that.
The whole chili pepper is then added along with the peppercorns and then the
whole entire thing is covered with the remaining wakame. At that point, I would follow Chef Keller’s technique (Shellfish
Platter, Bouchon, (p.38,39) ) by pouring the boiling bouillon into the pot, bring the whole thing to a gentle boil, boil for 1
more minute after that then remove the pot from the heat and let the lobsters stand in the stock for 10 minutes (and in Chef
Sakai’s case, stand it in the stock, covered).
In retrospect, it seems to me that this was a refined version of a New England clambake for the kitchen, done in a pot with heated beach stones [where can I get me some food grade beach stones?!?!], konbu/wakame standing in for New England rockweed and court bouillon. In undertaking this endeavor, I gained an appreciation of the preparation of court bouillon (thank you Chef Keller). As Chef Sakai said, there was nothing difficult to this dish and that, “All I did was to steam (poach?) the homards (lobster) with the salt from the seaweed…that was enough to give its taste and delightful aroma” (p. 48)
On tasting the dish, both my wife and I observed that the lobster was much softer than what we’ve been normally served in restaurants – with the consistency and texture of well prepared fish. And while Iron Chef Sakai provides a small mound of salt and a small mound of black pepper on the plates, both my wife and I felt that it was not needed. It had just enough salt (from the salted wakame) and the delicate flavor of the lobster as well as the mild aroma of the ‘poached’ lobster. We enjoyed these lobsters (and clams) clambake style, breaking open our own lobsters, etc instead of my having to disassemble, extract and plate the lobster meat. Both my wife and I agreed that was this was a very nice dinner; and I can see why the judges offered the comments that they did. Thank you Chef Keller for sharing your recipe for the court bouillon; and thank you Chef Sakai for sharing this King Of Iron Chefs recipe!
SO – now the question is: do I make this dish as part of the Thanksgiving or Christmas tasting menu this year?
Salted Wakame – HMart,Burlington, MA
Rishiri konbu – Mitsuwa, Edgewater, NJ
Lobster/Clams – Legal Seafood Market, Chestnut Hill, MA
Matanzas Sauvignon Blanc – Marty’s Fine Wines, Newtonville, MA