Today would be a really terrible day to combine our food holidays into one meal, because
IT’S PEANUT BUTTER DAY AND LOBSTER THERMIDOR DAY!
Lobster whatidor day? We didn’t know either. But first, peanut butter. We thought we’d keep it simple with some Skippy we had around the house, since the real culinary thrills were to come later in the evening.
Yesterday we went to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships since it was in St. Paul this year. As we were leaving, they were handing out Jif peanut butter bars to everybody (because Jif is an event sponsor) so we were able to save a couple for Peanut Butter Day as well. Impeccable timing!
And now for the exciting part. Going into today, we knew very little about lobster thermidor and expect that most other people didn’t either. So, here are our findings:
- At the end of the 18th century/turn of the 19th century the French Republic was trying to take religion and royalism out of their government (including their calendar), and thereby renamed the 12 months of the year. What’s left when you can’t name stuff after gods and kings? Nature! So, Thermidor was a summer month running from mid-late July to mid-late August. Also, there were 10 days of the week for some reason and this whole French Republican Calendar business was only used for 12 years before they apparently gave it up. Pretty weird stuff… check out the Wikipedia page.
- Like a hundred years after the Republican Calendar was used for anything, a playwright named Victorien Sardou wrote a play about a coup during the French Revolution known as the “Thermidorian Reaction,” named for the month during which it occurred. Remember how Louis XVI was executed on the guillotine? One of the guys who made that happen was Maximilien Robespierre, and he was the dude whose turn it was to get overthrown and executed during the Thermidorian business. He also didn’t really want stuff (like the calendar) to be de-Christianized, and the French Republican Calendar became a thing right after they knocked his block off. So take that, Max!
- In 1880, a little over 10 years before Thermidor (the play) had its debut at the Comédie-Française (which is maybe a block or two away from the Louvre), Auguste Escoffier was working at a Paris restaurant and devised a lobster recipe (remember him? He went on to later invent Peach Melba in honor of the opera singer!). It’s a lengthy and complicated process, but essentially the lobster meat is removed, cooked and mixed with various other ingredients including but not limited to egg yolks, and put back into the lobster shell. Years later, once Thermidor had debuted in the nearby theater and become popular, the lobster recipe was renamed Lobster Thermidor.
We were only able to find one restaurant in all of the Twin Cities area that serves Lobster Thermidor, and that’s Blackstone Bistro. Bless them. Can you imagine us trying to make something like this ourselves?! They’ve been open in St. Louis Park since last March, and we hope they’ll be open for a long time. Their menu is as varied as it is extensive, and not a single thing we ate was disappointing.
And finally, our main objective:
There was definitely some mood lighting going on, so it was a whole heck of a lot prettier in person. Below the lobster tail was a bed of spinach, and the cream sauce from the lobster soaked into it and tasted so nice and savory. We dipped everything we could into that sauce. The outer layer of the mixture is crisp, sort of like the top layer of a baked breadcrumby mac & cheese, and the gooey inside with tender lobster chunks was a perfect complement. For those who tend to be anti-seafood: nothing about this dish smells or even really tastes fishy. It’s more creamy and almost cheesy than anything else.
Wouldn’t you know it, this place also has beautiful and delicious desserts!
Lobster Thermidor was a surprise hit! That said, there’s no way we’re ever cooking it ourselves.
Tomorrow, we two coffee non-drinkers will take on Irish Coffee. Wish us luck.