Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Lobster Killers

It was breezy on Friday evening. There was a slight chill in the air, as if Mother Nature was breathing a sigh after working all week to keep the days nice and warm. But maybe that chill I felt on my deck was not so sweet after all. Maybe the chill I felt was in fact a harbinger of the menace that would soon come to my Brooklyn home, the upheaval of all that is kind and good in my kitchen.

Yes, dear reader, on that Friday evening I would soon witness a brutal triple murder, carried out by a cold blooded killer whose icy imperviousness to cries for mercy would stun even the most hardened of assassins.

How could I know what lay in store when Adam called that afternoon, nonchalantly suggesting that we do a little grilling on my deck that evening? Sounds nice right? Lovely evening, BrooklynLady going out with some friends, hang out with the guys, enjoy a little wine and some dinner off the grill on a deck with what must be among the more bucolic views available in the area...goes to show you that you just cannot predict the events of the day. You wake up and anything can happen - a freak snowfall, an unexpected kiss, a chance meeting with an old but not forgotten friend, and yes dear reader, at any time on any day, the cruel hand of death can intervene, and persuade even a gentle soul to commit the harshest of crimes...

But back to the innocent times before the terror, the light spirited and jazzy times in the kitchen on a warm and breezy Friday evening. Adam arrives with two large bags of provisions and I set about making a couple of aperitifs. He opts for an old favorite of mine, one that I learned to love in France - anise liquor with cold water. I don't know the name of this drink, but it's just delicious. I use Pastis, the nut-brown colored French spirit, about two fingers worth in a tall glass. Then present it to the drinker along with fresh cold water, preferably in some sort of cute little pitcher. Slowly pour in about four parts cold water and the mixture turns cloudy white. It is aromatic, spicy anise tasting but very cool and refreshing. Try it next time you're at a bistro and you'll see. Perfect for before dinner.

I went with another old school favorite, a negroni. Some folks call this an Italian martini, as it involves Campari, the Italian red herbal/medicine flavored liquor. You simply stir 3 parts gin, 2 parts red vermouth, and one part Campari in a shaker with ice. Pour over a couple of cubes in a rocks glass and bliss, my friend, bliss. Standing and shooting the bull with Adam over drinks, I noticed one of his bags moving ever so slightly, but I quickly dismissed it, chalking it up to the heady negroni on an empty stomach. But no, there it goes again.

"What's in the bag, buddy?" I ask.

"Lobsters, dude. I brought lobsters for the grill."

"Wow, very impressive. Do we boil them first or something?"

Now if this was a private detective flick set in 1950's LA, this is the part where I sit in my office alone after dark, light from the street lamps coming through blinds on the window, smoking my umpteenth cigarette. A beautiful dame knocks on the frosted glass door of my office, bringing with her a whole world of trouble.

"Nope, we don't," Adam says. "We just cut them in half and put 'em on the grill," He sniffles a bit, and stared blankly off into the distance.

As I begin to calculate how exactly that will work, imagining hacking a live lobster in two, wondering if there is any way to prevent the obviously insane Adam from carrying out this gruesome act in my kitchen, I am startled by the buzzer. Jake's here too now. Big Jake, all 6 foot 4 of him. Maybe he can restrain Adam while I call the ASPCA.

Jake comes in and after a few hellos there is an awkward quiet. Adam, a gleam in his eye, grabs a long kitchen knife and begins to hack at a couple of fennel bulbs, scalping them, if you will, removing all the green hairy parts. He slices up the bulbs and drops them in hot olive oil with salt and pepper.

"I'm gonna cook these suckers down for a while, really braise them good," he says. Is that drool in the corner of his mouth?

"What are we grilling?" says Jake.

"Lobster." Adam sings the word, stretching it into at least 3 syllables. He and Jake stand smiling at each other like the lunatics that they clearly are. I am now along with two lunatics, one of them 6 foot 4, the other holding a long kitchen knife, my sleeping daughter in the other room.

Out of the bag quickly come the 3 doomed beasts, waving their rubber-banded claws violently as Adam holds and examines them.

"Do you know about lobster claws?" Adam monotones, never breaking eye contact with the crustacean. "One is the pincer, one is the crusher. This one," and he holds the claw only inches from his face, "this one is the crusher."

Jake stands near Adam, hands twitching. The lobster jerks her (Adam got all female lobsters, as he likes to eat the eggs) tail into a ball and Adam drops her. She's on the cutting board making a run for it.

"This is gonna be just like Annie Hall" I say, and laugh nervously. " Annie Hall guys, remember, with the lobsters?"

They have no idea that I'm even in the room. Adam grabs the lobster and turns it on its back. Jake holds it down by the tail. Adam looks up at the ceiling for a moment and closes his eyes, and then brings the blade down between the lobster's eyes.

"This wills stun it before the kill," he says.

It stops moving, mostly. He then in one stroke calmly cuts the lobster in half lengthwise. There is some twitching, but mostly, the animal is quiet. Adam wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.

"Let's do the others now," he whispers.

"I will go get a shovel so we can bury them," I say, starting for the door, but they're having none of it.

"DON'T move," Adam says without looking up from lobster number two. "We're gonna finish this thing right now."

I make myself another negroni, but without the Campari or the vermouth. It's straight gin now, pal, and I deserve it. There is black lobster water/juice all over my cutting board and counter.

Next thing I know there are 6 lobster halves and 6 dismembered claws on a white platter. The hardwood coals on the grill are approaching optimum heat - you can keep you hand over them for a few seconds. Jake stands over them, gazing into the grill. Adam talks quietly to the lobster pieces as he rubs olive oil and salt onto their flesh.

I try to image a wine that will pair well here. What goes with braised fennel, green salad, bread, grilled lobster, and murder? How about a 1996 Francois Cazin Cour-Cheverny Cuvee Renaissance? The bright white made from Romorantin, in this case, botrytized grapes, creating a sweeter wine. This is the beautiful dame knocking on my office door, all honey and acid, with a lingering finish. She is aromatic, with notes of kerosene to complicate her honeyed fruit. But it's on the palate where she knock you out, such purity, such great texture, like a silky honey blanket and then a slap of bright acidity.

Adam removes the lobsters from the coals and plates them along with the fennel. The steam curls into the night air, eerie in the candlelight.

"Sit down where we can see you," Jake says, and puts a plate in front of me, one with both a pincer and a crusher on my plate.

"All of us are going to eat this," Adam says solemnly, and he raises his glass. We drink, and the dame is indeed beautiful. Adam and Jake begin to eat from the corpses of the lobsters. After a few moments they stop look up at me, their lips glistening with oil.

As if in a trance, I take a piece of tail from the shell and lift it to my mouth. I eat it, and it is good. I drink in more of the dame, and she is still in a loving mood. The rest of the meal goes by like a dream, empty shells piling up in a silver bowl. Fennel - gone. The dame? By now, she is gone too. The three of us limp at the table, finally sated.

"We better get moving," Adam says to Jake, and like that, they are gone. Five minutes pass and BrooklynLady returns from her night out. She kisses me and says "what's that you've been eating? Where is the baby?"

I look at her, my beautiful wife, and I am grateful for her and for my daughter.

"Lobster, baby. I've been eating lobster. Adam and Jake killed it, and we all ate it. And I loved it!"

I know that some of you might be disgusted by this tale of wanton violence, but I warn you, don't even bother going to the cops. My place is completely clean. And Adam? Last I heard, Adam was skulking around the docks on the Maine coast. And no one has heard from Jake since he left my house that night. So let's just let this one be, dear reader, just let it be. I live out each day, damned to star as the main character in the charade that is my peaceful law abiding life as a devoted husband and father. Only I know what happened that night, and what it is that I am actually capable of, the evil within.

So take my advice and forget all of this. But if you come across that '96 Cour-Cheverny, grab it.


RougeAndBlanc said...

I totally agree with your evaluation of Cour-Cheverny. I tasted a 2002 Domaine des Huards and the 1st impression that came to my mind was 'honey covered skittles'. It was interesting that you mentioned the kerosene notes. I shall buy 1 or 2 to put away to see if the Huards can evolve in the next 5 years.

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Andrew - honey covered skittles, huh? i don't believe i have ever encountered that in a wine before. sounds kind of fun though. i have never tasted Huards wine. How does it compare to the Cazin?

Sonadora said...

Great post! Love the storyline. I can never cook the lobsters, I feel too bad dropping them in a pot of boiling water, let alone slicing them in half live!

RougeAndBlanc said...

I have never tasted the Cazin although I have heard that this producer makes good wine consistently. Wish I can find the same wine of the same vintage to do a AB test.

Brooklynguy said...

Thanks Sonadora, appreciate the kind words. Sorry to hear of your loss, by the way, and I hope you have peaceful trip out west.

Andrew - you're a Chambers-head, and you haven't tried Cazin?!? I have 4 words for you: Cazin 2004 Cour-Cheverny. Honestly, it's a must.

Anonymous said...

Lobsters without Riesling? This is sacriledge! -- No Internet Connection Except Right Now

Brooklynguy said...

welcome back Jack!