Each week, luxuo and Relaxnews invites a master chef to share insights into the gourmet kitchen by presenting a favorite ingredient. Hervé Nepple, head chef at the Maison Blanche restaurant in Paris, shares his enthusiasm for European lobster.
What led you to choose this ingredient? What is your fondest kitchen memory associated with this ingredient?
My choice of European lobster stems from fond memories of my early days alongside the chef Jacques Pic in Valence, during my first experience in a Michelin-starred restaurant. I will never forget the day he chose to bring me on board.
Along with his daughter, Anne-Sophie Pic, I was charged with the task of shelling and shucking all the shellfish — crayfish, spiny lobster and European lobster, among other things.
When is this ingredient in season?
The prime season for European lobster runs from May to September.
What is the best way to prepare it? Can you share one of your recipes?
The absolute top preparation method is a classic lobster boil, with onion, carrots, fennel, thyme, bay leaf, sea salt and whole peppercorns in the pot. My simplest recipe involves simmering the lobster in this stock and then serving it chilled with mayonnaise. Maryvonne Pinault [wife of French businessman François Pinault] liked this when I worked as a personal chef.
What other products can be combined with the European lobster to delight and surprise the taste buds?
Semi-salted butter: after first halving the lobster lengthwise, brown both sides in a pan and then roast in the butter. Finally, deglaze the pan with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
What are the most common mistakes made when preparing this ingredient?
The most common mistakes involve cooking time. It is a shame to ruin the delicate and refined flavor of lobster by cooking it too much or too little. When boiling, count on around 10 minutes for the first pound, plus 2 to 3 minutes for each additional pound. The cooking changes slightly depending on whether the lobster is male or female.
How do you offer this ingredient on your menu?
Each season, the Maison Blanche offers a new regional-themed menu. After focusing on Corsican specialties in the spring, we are returning to the cuisine of Brittany this summer, and the European (or Breton) lobster is featured.
We were inspired in part by a starter on the menu at Jacques and Laurent Pourcel’s restaurant, Le Jardin des Sens: lobster cannelloni, served with mozzarella di bufala and tomato gazpacho.
Lobster is also found on the Maison Blanche menu in a dish featuring fowl glazed with lobster bisque and Paimpol white beans. This is a recipe I created in homage to Pierre Gagnaire for the 20th anniversary of his three Michelin star rating.
What wine (or other alcohol) is best married with this ingredient?
Upon the recommendations of our sommelier David Desplanche, wines from the Loire Valley, such as a Pouilly Fumé Les Blanches from the Domaine de Jean Pierre Bailly, with notes of citrus and sweet spices. Or a white wine from the Burgundy region, such as a Pernand-Vergelesses from the Domaine Laleure-Piot, a young wine with notes of citrus, white flowers, and wild mint over a smoky, mineral background.