I'm in love with the Red Hook Lobster Pound. Fresh Maine lobster for $10.50/lb, and the little guys are kept in two huge tanks, where they actually look pretty happy. Owner Ralph is a wonderful host. Here's a great way to spend an afternoon if you live in Park Slope or thereabouts:
Put on your iPod and walk down Union Street to Red Hook. It takes about 45 minutes and you'll see some fun junkyards.
Refresh yourself with a martini and some deviled eggs here.
Stagger down the street and buy some lobsters to take home. Ask for females, since their roe gives a beautiful color to lobster salad. Buy some extra shells at $2/pound if you have time to make bisque.
I always kill my lobsters with a knife, while thanking them for their sacrifice and wishing them better luck next time. I think this is more humane than steaming them alive, but what do I know? As WG Sebald wrote in Rings of Saturn:
A hundred years later, the number of herring caught annually is estimated to have been sixty billion. Given these quantities, the natural historians sought consolation in the idea that humanity was responsible for only a fraction of the endless destruction wrought in the cycle of life, and moreover in the assumption that the peculiar physiology of the fish left them free of the fear and the pains that rack the bodies and souls of higher animals in their death throes. But the truth is that we do not know what the herring feels.
makes eight rolls
six 1 1/2 lb lobsters, preferably female, steamed and shelled, (use the shells and steaming water below)
1 or 2 stalks of celery, finely diced
1C or so Hellmann's mayo (adjust volume to the amount of lobster meat -- you want a lot of dressing)
juice of one lemon
1 Tbs dijon mustard
roe from the lobsters, crumbled
2 Tbs ground pink peppercorns
2 Tbs chopped capers
1/4 cup or more minced herbs (i like a blend of tarragon, chervil, and chives)
salt, pepper, and Tabasco to taste
Mix sauce in a big bowl, then toss with chopped lobster meat. Adjust seasoning.
To serve, spread ample softened butter over hot dog buns. (They should be white trash style--don't get whole wheat or spelt or any of that crap.) Toast on grill until golden, then overstuff with lobster salad.
All you need on the side is a little tossed salad. Great with beer or champagne.
If time permits...
CREAM OF LOBSTER SOUP
Adapted from Jacques Pepin's wonderful Art of Cooking.
shells from above, plus 2 extra pounds, chopped into smallish pieces (a poultry shears works great for this)
1/4 C butter
2 large onions
the water you used to steam the lobsters above
6 plum tomatoes, chopped
4 Tbs tomato paste
6 cloves garlic, skin on, crushed
2 Tbs sweet paprika
2 tsp dry thyme
6 bay leaves, crumbled
2 C dry vermouth
1 C sherry (an off-dry amontillado is nice)
12 C water
Saute chopped onion and leek in the bottom of a stockpot until they begin to brown. Pour in reserved steaming liquid and stir all around to dissolve browned bits. Add all other ingredients. If necessary, add a bit more water so that shells are covered. Bring to a boil and cook gently for 3 or 4 hours. Strain through a chinoise or fine-mesh strainer. Measure the volume of broth, and if it's more than 8 C, boil down further.
1/3 stick of softened butter
1/4 C flour
1 1/2 C cream
1/4 C cognac
salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste
some roe reserved from above, ground in a mortar and pestle if clumpy
Make a beurre manie' by working the flour and butter together into a uniform paste. Bring stock to a boil and whisk paste rapidly into stock. You need to whisk furiously to get it completely smooth (though you can always run it through a chinoise again if you want). Bring it to a boil and cook gently for 5 minutes. Add cream and cognac and correct the seasonings. You don't need to bring it back to a boil to serve, just make it steam. Serve in warmed soup bowls, and sprinkle roe on top to garnish.
Exciting new findings from a DNA study of Tut have me doing my funky mummy dance!
King Tut is the biggest household name among the ancient pharaohs. This is because his tomb was discovered nearly intact. It yielded an incredible trove of artifacts that greatly enhanced our understanding of ancient Egyptian culture, including the famous solid gold death mask that's on the cover of almost every book you'll ever read about Egypt.
Yet King Tut was a pretty minor figure in ancient Egyptian history. He ruled for only nine years, and the recent genetic tests showing that he was sickly, walked with a cane, and suffered from malaria aren't really surprising. He was one of three weak, intermediate rulers who filled the gap between the crazy-religious-freak pharaoh King Akhenaten and the angry-generalissimo pharaoh King Horemheb. This is called the Amarna Period, and it is wicked cool.
King Akhenaten was born with the name Amenhotep IV. He was the son of the powerful King Amenhotep III, a strong leader who ruled Egypt for almost forty years. Amenhotep III's reign was a time of great prosperity for Egypt, and his son inherited a kingdom that was in pretty good shape for some reigning in peace. A few thousand dancing girls, some date wine, a gigantic tomb: you would have thought Amenhotep IV would just kick back and enjoy the gangsta life.
But you would be wrong. Because Amenhotep was kind of a mystical guy. He was fed up with the excesses of the priest class and with a state religion that had become highly corrupt. He had a vision for a new religion that would - shockingly - be based on only one god. He called this new god the Aten. The Aten was a sun god and was more abstract than the other ancient deities.
He changed his name to Akhenaten, smashed all the old idols, killed all the old priests, and built himself a beautiful new capitol which he called Akhetaten. The new capitol was the site of a lot of art, mystical activity, and daily sun worship. I imagine it was a little like Sedona.
King Akhenaten was into the ladies. He was sort of a momma's boy, his mother Queen Tiye remaining an unusually prominent figure during the first part of his reign. And he married the magnificent Queen Nefertiti, whose bust is probably on the cover of any book that doesn't have King Tut's death mask on it.
Nefertiti gets a lot of play in Akhenaten's monuments and decrees. She is almost as large as her husband in much of the art, breaking from the convention of displaying queens as miniature figures, and she is shown doing "kingly" actions such as bestowing wealth and smiting enemies. Akhenaten may have been the first women's rights advocate as well as the first monotheist. It seems significant somehow that he and Nefertiti had only daughters, six of them.
Here's the exciting part of the new DNA findings, are you ready? They establish that Tut is the son of Akhenaten! We always sort of thought that but nobody was sure. They also show that Tut's mother was Akhenaten's sister! (It was not unusual for pharaohs to marry their sisters, and they all had multiple wives.) This sister-wife of Akhenaten who gave birth to Tut was not Nefertiti but one of his minor wives, perhaps a woman called Kiya.
Akhenaten managed to rule for almost twenty years, a tremendous feat given the huge amount of rebellion he must have had to suppress from the followers of the old state god Amen-Re.When he died, everything fell apart.
Amenhotep IV AKA Akhenaten
There is a quick succession of three intermediate pharaohs after Akhenaten's death -- Smenkhare, Tutankamen (AKA King Tut), and Ay. Nobody rules for long, and, in fact, the identity and gender of Smenkhare are a matter of debate. Some think he is actually Nefertiti herself, who fades from the record in the later part of her husband's reign. Some think he is King Tut. Whoever he was, he only lasted a year. Tut lasted nine, which isn't too bad considering the tumult of the time and the line he had to walk between the old faith and the new. Ay ruled for four years.
During Tut's reign, the religion of the Aten was slowly abandoned. Tut changed his name from Tutankhaten to Tutankhamen (swapping out his father's "Aten" for the old god "Amen") His wife and half-sister Ankhsenpaaten changed her name to Ankhsenamen. The beautiful spa city the Sun King built was largely abandoned.
If Tut's rejection of his father's faith seems a little disloyal, it's nothing compared to what Horemheb did. The last ruler of the Eighteenth Dynasty, Horemheb was apparently of common birth and rose through the ranks of the army. He seized power and immediately destroyed all of the old Amarna rulers' monuments, smashing Akhenaten's statuary and forbidding any mention of his name.
The Amarna period has always fascinated artists with its crazy religious drama, strong personalities, violence, and sex appeal. It's the topic of the dated and yet still fabulous historical novel The Egyptian by Mika Waltari. And it will be the topic of a future novel of mine, if I can stop blogging long enough to finish it.