Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's Lobster Newburg Day!

If I hadn't stumbled upon a Lobster Newburg Day post at Della's 365 Foods, chances are we'd be celebrating Triticale, (trit-i-KA-lee) Pecans, or Waffles today. Here's why:

1. Nobel Peace Prize winner and American agronomist Norman Ernest Borlaug was born today in 1914. Why is that of note you ask? He was one of the fore-fathers who laid the ground work of the Green Revolution, the agricultural technological advance that promised to alleviate world hunger. He help developed the wheat/rye hybrid grain called triticale which has a higher yield and protein content.

Dr. Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his success in developing high-yielding wheat varieties and reversing severe food shortages that daunted India and Pakistan in the 1960's.  Credited with saving millions of lives, his work virtually eliminated recurring famines in South Asia and helped global food production outpace population growth. In 1987, Dr. Borlaug created the World Food Prize, the foremost international award recognizing the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving food security in the world.  Dr. Borlaug received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007, the highest civilian award, for his lifetime contributions to improving international agriculture and global food security. (United States Department of Agriculture)

I apologize, I just can't bring myself to discuss triticale today. Perhaps some time in August when the Whole Grain Council celebrates Rye and Triticale as Grains of the Month. As for Pecan Day and International Waffle Day (both also today:) been there done that here and here:) I did, however, leave you a free links below if you would like to explore more about Tritcale with some recipe links of course:)

I'd much rather discuss Lobster Newburg and it's "shady" history. After all, aren't many of you gearing up for the Mad Men House Party tonight?

Mad Men’s Vodka Gimlet Moment: The Gimlet is Betty Draper's drink of choice. After a Season 1 dinner with her husband's boss Roger Sterling and his wife, when she’s queasy in the car, Betty notes: “Lobster Newburg and Gimlets should get a divorce. They're not getting along well." (Drinking with Don Draper)

I've never seen the show Mad Men before. If by chance I should happen upon it while flipping through the channels, I just keep going. As you might remember, I'm not much of a television person. However, I find it rather sad, not seeing the episode and all, to learn that Betty Draper had a bad experience with Lobster Newburg. Lobster Newburg is a classic. As a matter of fact, it was conceived much earlier than the 1960s. Here's what Maria Parola, one of the most popular cookbook authors of the 1880s, had to say about Lobster Newburg in 1885!

Lobster Newburg: If provision is to be made fo six or eight persons, use the meat of a lobster weighing about four pounds, or that of two small lobsters; four tablespoonfuls of butter, two of brandy, two of sherry, two teaspoonfuls of salt, one-fourth of a teaspoonful of pepper, half a pint of cream, the yolks of four eggs and a slight grating of nutmeg.

Cut the meat of the lobster into small, delicate slices. Put the butter on the stove in a frying pan, and when it becomes hot, put in the lobster. Cook slowly for five minutes; then add the salt, pepper, sherry, brandy and nutmeg, and simmer five minutes longer. Meanwhile beat the yolks of the eggs well, and add the cream to them. Pour the liquid over the cooking mixture and stir constantly for one minute and a half. Take from the fire immediately at the end of that time, and serve in a warm dish.

Lobster Newburg may be served as a fish course in a dinner or luncheon. A garnish of triangular bits of puff paste may be added or the lobster be served on toast. No mode of cooking lobster gives a more delicate or elegant dish. Special care must be taken to stir the mixture constantly after the cream and beaten eggs are poured over the lobster until the frying pan is taken from the fire. (source)

Lobster Newburg a la Bookbinder's
The Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places

So when it comes to Lobster Newburg, the question is not when, it's more like who, what, why? By most accounts, the Signature Dish originated at the infamous Delmonico's Restaurant in New York City one day in 1876.

Lobster Newberg:...originally named after Ben Wenberg, a wealthy sea captain engaged in the fruit trade between Cuba and New York. When on shore, he customarily ate at Delmonico's Restaurant. One day in 1876, home from a cruise, he entered the cafe and announced that he had brought back a new way to cook lobster (where he originally got the idea for this new dish has never been discovered). Calling for a chafing dish, he demonstrated his discovery by cooking the dish at the table and invited Charles Delmonico to taste it. Delmonico said, "Delicious" and forthwith entered the dish on the restaurant menu, naming it in honor of its creator Lobster a la Wenberg. The dish quickly became popular and much in demand, especially by the after-theatre clientele.

Many months after Ben Wenberg and Charles Delmonico fought or argued over an as-yet-undiscovered and probably trivial matter.  The upshot was that Charles banished Wenberg from Delmonico's and ordered Lobster a la Wenberg struck from the menu. That did not stop patrons from asking for the dish. By typographical slight-of-hand, Delmonico changed the spelling from "Wenberg" to "Newberg," and Lobster Newberg was born. This dish has also been called Lobster Delmonico.

Delmonico's famous chef, Chef Charles Ranhofer altered the original recipe to add his own touch.

In his book, The Epicurean, published in 1894, Charles Ranhofer gives the following recipe for Lobster a la Newberg:

Cook six lobsters each weighing about two pounds in boiling salted water for twenty-five minutes.  Twelve pounds of live lobster when cooked yields from two to two and a half pounds of meat with three to four ounces of coral.  When cold detach the bodies from the tails and cut the latter into slices, put them into a sautoir, each piece lying flat, and add hot clarified butter;   season with salt and fry lightly on both sides without coloring; moisten to their height with good raw cream;  reduce quickly to half;  and then add two or three spoonfuls of Madeira wine;  boil the liquid once more only, then remove and thicken with a thickening of egg yolks and raw cream.  Cook without boiling, incorporating a little cayenne and butter; then arrange the pieces in a vegetable dish and pour the sauce over." 

There are those who beg to differ. Although Chef Jean Conil doesn't make mention of the origins of Lobster a la Newburg in his book For Epicure's Only, He does discuss its origins in the June 1957 edition of The Epicurean Monthly.

In spite of the "a la" connotation this is not a French dish. It is strictly of American origin. The story goes that around the turn of the century when Delmonico's was one of the few top restaurants in New York City where gourmets, connoisseurs of fine food, made their headquarters, this dish saw the light of day.

One of the discriminating patrons was a physician whose wealthy clients enabled him to dine there regularly. The menus in Delmonico's were in French as was customary in metropolitan cities all over the civilized world in that era. The good doctor was very fond of lobster and instructed his waiter one day how he would like his favourite crustacean prepared and served, previously cooked, lobster tail cut in slices, sauteed in butter and served in a sauce similar to Terrapin Maryland Sauce.

This request was duly passed on to the chef who instructed the fish cook accordingly. The order was made with meticulous care and the lobster tail chunks were served in a rich sauce consisting of sweet cream, thickened with egg yolks and finished with a dash of dry sherry.

The chef promptly added the new concotion on the menu as "Homard a la Neuberg" because that was the doctor's name. However, Doctor Neuberg strenuously objected to having his name identified on the menu in connection with a dish. Therefore it was changed to Newburg. There is a town by the name of Newburgh in New York state so no objections could be made. Now we find Lobster Newburg, which should be served in a chafing dish all over the country. Of course some unavoidable changes have been made, the cut up lobster claws are also used and cream sauce is used to prevent curdling, particularly when made in advance as a du jour dish, or for parties. A sprinkling of paprika is used to effect a pinkish colour and hot toast is always served with this dish. We also find Shrimps a la Newburg and other seafood served Newburg style.

While we're discussing "Newburg style", I should probably mention that you mark your calendars, Crab Newburg Day is in September:)

I can only describe Lobster Newburg as delicately delectable and delicious! Yes, I adore it. Although, it is a dish reserved for exclusive occasions, say my birthday, for instance, it also makes a gorgeous presentation at holiday brunches. I'm thinking of preparing these Lobster Newburg Crepes I uncovered at The World of Crepes for Marion and I on Easter morning. What do you think?

I'm not in the habit of "snatching" images without asking but I plum ran out of time. This one was harvested from Pinterest. I must say, The World of Crepes was a delicious stop. I will go back and let them know:)

I'm delighted to report I finally figured out the reply to comments code on blogger. It was giving me one heck of a time but I finally got a reasonable answer after posting a help question on the google help forum. If you too are having a problem getting it to work, may I suggest you visit the google help forum. I thought I saved the link to the site but apparently I lost it in my saved emails. (I probably inadvertently deleted it:) Anyway, what this means is I'm very Happy I can reply to your comments more quickly. As for the Pinterest post I spoke of, it's a comin'...

1. Lobster Newburg Day @ Della's 365 Foods
2. Triticale and Bourbon Salad
3. Triticale Bread
4. Triticale Honey Bread
5. Triticale Berries with Peanuts and Asian Seasonings (Dean & DeLuca)
6. Triticale Sprouts
7. What to Serve at Your Madmen Watching Party
8. How to Drink Like the Characters of Mad Men