Julia Child And The Art Of Cooking…With Lobster

Julia Child Cooking Lobster

Photo via the JC 100 blog (http://tmblr.co/Z40SqvLXw0JS)

Today marks what would have been Julia Child’s 102nd birthday. To celebrate, I watched the ‘Lobster Show’ episode of The French Chef. If you are a Julia Child fan, a lobster lover or both, the video (just $1.99 on Amazon) is 29 minutes of pure viewing pleasure.

Julia takes her audience on a culinary journey which starts with how lobster is caught through to storing, cooking, picking out and serving lobster. Filmed in 1971, the show features an old wooden lobster trap and Big Bertha, a 20+ pound monster lobster (not legal in Maine even back in the 70’s). Some of the lobsters she cooks with even have the old wooden plugs vs lobster bands.

Julia’s recommendations on how to cook a lobster, once the water has come to a steam or boil,  are as follows:

  • A 1 and 1/4 pound lobster – cook for 10 to 12 minutes
  • A 1 and 1/2 to 2 pound lobster – cook for 15 minutes
  • A 2 and 1/2 to 5 pound lobster – cook 20 to 25 minutes

This guidance is helpful to a point. When I cook lobster, I often steam multiple lobsters of varying sizes in the same pot. Getting the timing right can be tricky. At times, the smaller lobsters or the lobsters at the bottom of the pot can end up slightly overcooked in an effort to ensure all the lobsters are cooked through.

Julia does not address this dilemma in ‘The Lobster Show’ but she does suggest plunging a meat thermometer into the chest of the steamed/boiled lobster to make sure the crustacean is properly cooked. If the temperature registers at 165 to 170 degrees, the lobster is done.  My suggestion, after years of trial and error, is to divide the lobsters into several pots for cooking or, if you’re using a single pot, to rotate the lobsters part way through cooking.

If you are looking for guidance on how to get the most out of your cooked lobster, Julia is a great guide. When she takes viewers through picking out a lobster, the master chef even covers how to extract meat from the body. The cavity of the lobster holds some of the most sweet and tender meat, yet people often discard the lobster body and miss out on these magnificent morsels all together.

Julia Child’s passion for lobster is evident not just through this video but also through her many renowned lobster recipes. I have yet to master the art of cooking lobster Julia Child style (one of the items on my very, very long to do list) so I have no adaptations or advice to share with you here. What I do have are links to a few websites and blogs which feature some of her most famous lobster recipes – either reprints with permission or adaptations. Enjoy!

Julia Child’s Most Famous Lobster Recipes

  • Lobster Thermador: Perhaps Julia Child’s most famous lobster recipe. This creamy mixture of cooked lobster meat, egg yolks, and cognac tastes divine but involves many steps to execute.
  • Lobster Bisque: As an update to this post, I have now made Julia Child’s lobster bisque and am able to share my experience of cooking this recipe.  It was extremely labor intensive but very educational and fun.  For my adaptation of and advice on Julia Child’s lobster bisque, click here.

Happy Birthday Julia!

Christina Lemieux

About Christina Lemieux

Christina Lemieux Oragano grew up in Cutler, Maine, where her family have been in the lobster industry for four generations. She worked as a stern'man' on her father's boat for ten summers before graduating from college and beginning a career in advertising. While her job has taken her from Maine to San Francisco, New York and then to London, she has remained committed and connected to the Maine lobster industry. Her blogging, book writing, and experimentation with lobster recipes are testimony to her devotion to America's favorite crustacean.