Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Marco Polo's Lobster Fra Diavolo

, who was born in Venice, Italy in 1234, is probably the most famous Westerner who traveled the . His journey through lasted 24 years taking him further than any of his predecessors, beyond Mongolia to China. He became a confidant of Kublai Khan (1214-1294) and traveled the whole of , finally returning to tell the tale which has become one of the greatest travelogues of all time. This favorite Italian has been named after Marco Polo because of the unusual combination of Italian ingredients and Chinese Peppercorns which transform this usually fiery dish into a subtle blend of aromatic herbs and spices which can be served with pasta or saffron rice.

Ingredients (this serves 3 using 1 lobster per person, but often half a lobster per person is sufficient)
3 lobsters
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
3 tbsp. onion minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups tinned Italian tomatoes
2 tsp crushed Szechuan pepper
1 tbsp. vinegar
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil (or 1 tsp. dry)
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. marjoram
salt and pepper to taste
1 small bottle clam juice

1. Prepare the lobster: Have the lobsters split, the tails cut into two or three pieces and the carcass in half again, and the claws cracked. Remove the sack near the eyes and reserve the liver and coral if any. Often the fish store where you buy the lobster will prepare the lobster for you.

2. Heat olive oil in a saucepan, add lobster pieces, season with salt and pepper and saute, stirring frequently until all pieces are bright red.

3. Sprinkle with onion and garlic, add wine, stir and cook until most of the wine has evaporated.

4. Add all the other ingredients, stir well, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add more clam juice if lobster looks dry.

This meal can be served over pasta or saffron rice (recipe below) with a green side salad.

To make the saffron rice

A good pinch of dried threads
Cup boiling water
1 tbsp. olive oil
Approx. 2 oz long grain rice per person (I prefer long grain) - do not use quick cook rice
Bay Leaf
Cup of dry white wine
Small bottle clam juice

1. Steep a good pinch of saffron in a cup boiling water for about 10 - 15 minutes. This ensures that the fullest flavor and color of the saffron is distributed in the rice.

2. Heat the olive oil in a pan and when hot add the dried rice. Allow the oil to coat the rice completely and stir for about 1 minute.

3. Add the saffron liquid to the rice, followed by the white wine and half the clam juice and bring to the boil.

4. Add the bay leaf, cover with lid and lower temperature to a simmer.

5. Cook for approx. 20 minutes until rice is tender, checking regularly to make sure liquid has not dried out. If it has, add more clam juice.

Serve lobster sauce over rice.