Thackeray's Lobster

Thackeray's Lobster
Recipe type: Shellfish
Serves: 4
  • 1 very large lobster
  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 1 Tablespoon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon Catsup
  • 1 Cup vinegar (white wine if possible)
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  1. (Amounts are approximate: the above measurement should be increased or decreased depending on the size of the lobster. You want about a cup of sauce per two people.)
  2. Thackeray's original follows: "You take a lobster, about three feet long if possible, remove the shell, cut or break the flesh of the fish in pieces not too small. Someone else meanwhile makes a mixture of mustard, vinegar, catsup and lots of cayenne pepper. You produce a machine called a "despatcher" which has a spirit lamp underneath it that is usually illuminated with whiskey." (He appears to be talking about a chafing dish with a pretty aggressive flame.) "The lobster, the sauce, and near half-a-pound of butter are placed in the despatcher, which is immediately closed.
  3. When boiling, the mixture is stirred up, the lobster being sure to heave about the pan in a convulsive manner, while it emits a remarkable rich and agreeable odor through the apartment.
  4. A glass and a half of sherry is now thrown into the pan, and the contents served out hot, and eaten by the company. Porter (i.e. stout) is commonly drunk, and whisly-punch afterwards, and the dish is fit for an emperor."
  5. Unfortunately the day of inexpensive three-foot-long lobsters has passed, even in Ireland (lobsters of this size are still taken off the west coast, however).
  6. In modern terms: Clean and shell the lobster as indicated above. Mix the mustard, vinegar, catsup and cayenne to taste (some people might prefer to cut the sourness of the vinegar by substituting a half-and-half mixture of vinegar and dry white wine).
  7. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, saute the lobster briefly in it, not allowing it to color at all; then add the mustard/vinegar/cayenne mixture, mix well, cover, and allow to stew over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.
Thackeray and his friends seem to have not eaten anything else with the dish, but they seem to have drunk a great deal; he remarks in the next paragraph of the excerpt on ways to deal with the hangover....

Boiled new potatoes would go very well with this, or baked potatoes, or plain buttered rice.

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