Monday, December 12, 2011

Subordinate Claws

An earlier effusion from the Bard of Buffalo Bayou dealt with an amorous oyster and a scallop that was playing hard to get, so now it’s time to examine two louche and lustful lobsters—Lobster Newburg and Lobster Thermidor, to name names.
The two dishes are pretty similar, consisting usually of butter, cream, cognac, sherry, eggs, paprika, and Cayenne pepper—and, oh yes, a little lobster meat, if you’re lucky.

Lobster Newburg (or Newberg) was created in 1876 when a sea captain named Ben Wenberg asked Charles Ranhofer, the chef at Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York, to recreate a dish he had enjoyed in South Africa. After adding a few culinary touches of his own, Ranhofer put it on the menu as “Lobster à la Wenberg.”

But one night Wenberg got into a drunken brawl at the restaurant. Owner Charles Delmonico banished him from the premises and removed the dish named for him from the menu.  Patrons complained so loudly, however, that Delmonico restored the lobster dish—but rearranged the letters in Wenberg to read “Newberg” on the menu.

Lobster Thermidor, which adds Gruyère cheese and mustard to the Newburg ingredients, was devised Chez Marie, a Paris restaurant, in 1894.  It honored the opening of Victorien Sardou’s play Thermidor, which took its name from the eleventh month of the French Revolutionary calendar. Corresponding to July-August in the Gregorian calendar, Thermidor means “gift of heat” in Greek.

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou does not regard heat as a gift, especially when the heat is on, as it is in this little ditty:

            A tough New Jersey mobster,
            Said, “I want some lobster, 
            Lightly steamed wit butter--
            It makes my tummy flutter
            Just thinkin’ of my favorite food in all da woild.”       

            But he found it wasn’t tender,            
            And he said, “Retoin to sender—          
            You may think dat I am selfish,     
            But I gotta teach dis shellfish            
            Dat I’m de only one who gets to be hard-boiled.”

No comments:

Post a Comment