Another tasty recipe for lobster. A ‘pirogue’ (pee-roag) is a Louisiana term for the wooden canoe used for fishing and negotiating the swamps and lakes, Ponchartrain included. By extension, it also means a vegetable that’s been hollowed out and filled. I’ve used aubergine here; you could equally well use large courgettes, marrow, squash or a butternut squash except with the last you’d have to be pretty ingenious to create the canoe shape.
This dish is dedicated to the Rev. Tony Ricard, late of Star of The Sea, New Orleans, the finest ‘sky pilot’ I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to and meet. I first had a version of this dish in an informal restaurant outside ‘N’Awlins’, the name of which I’ve long since forgotten.
2 large aubergines
1-2 tbsp olive oil
4-5 scallions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 hot red chilli, cut up very small
1 thumbnail-sized nugget of ginger, cut small
1 tsp tomato purée
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp cumin
grating of nutmeg
1 glass dry white wine
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to season
2 egg yolks
2-3 tsp Tabasco or 1-2 of Tabasco plus 1 of Peychaud cocktail bitters (some like it hot!)
60 cheddar cheese cut into small dice
350g cooked lobster meat, cut into pieces
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
A few breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 220ºC. Cut the aubergines in half and hollow them out, leaving approx 1 cm of flesh on the skins (a melon baller or an old dessertspoon with the leading edge filed sharp is a perfect tool for this job). Brush with olive oil and place on a baking sheet (a small ‘flat’ shaved off the underside will make the ‘boats’ stable so they don’t rock or fall over when you plate up). Bake the shells for 8-10 minutes and remove before they start to crumble or collapse. Reserve.
Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat. Add the scallions, garlic, chilli, ginger and tomato puree and sweat for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the flour, cumin, paprika and nutmeg and stir with a wooden spoon until the flour and butter combine. Add the wine, stir, then add the milk and the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, lower the heat immediately and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring to achieve the consistency of a bechamel. Remove from heat and discard the bay leaf. Whisk in the egg yolks and the Tabasco or Tabasco/bitters, then add the cheese, lobster meat and flat leaf parsley.
Fill the aubergine ‘boats’ with the mixture. Sprinkle a few breadcrumbs over the top and return to oven until the dish is bubbling and the crumbs are browned. Serve very hot, either with a green salad or with some boiled rice, ideally a mixture of white and ‘black rice’.*
* technically, ‘black rice’ is not a rice at all