A “stuffy,” just in case you don’t know, is the Rhode Island term of art for a baked stuffed clam, although I can vouch for its use as far north as southern Massachusetts. Typically, buttered and seasoned breadcrumbs do-si-do with chopped clam, usually but not always) atop a quahog on the half-shell and baked. It’s a filling, poor man’s seafood treat, which is not to denigrate it, just to note that it may not be the place to go if you’re looking to sate your bivalve love. Jody’s stuffy climbs up a notch on the menu, subbing lobster for clams, and adding andouille sausage and green pepper for a Cajun twist. Lobster-Andouille Stuffy – the stuffy for our times.
With the exception of our annual family lobster orgy every summer on Cape Cod, I rarely eat lobster as a main course. On those rare occasions I not only have to be hungry, I have to be hungry for something rich. A few times a year is enough. But as an appetizer, mixed with other good things, I like it a lot. Old school French menus used to feature first courses like “Vol-au-Vent of Lobster and Sweetbreads;” that is, a small puff-pastry cup with pieces of lobster and sweetbreads aswim in a cream sauce flavored with lobster stock, cognac and morels. I’m the guy who ordered that. I’d order it now. And then I’d order a duck for my main course.
Against that context these stuffies are light. Lobster meat will take you a long way down the river as an ingredient, especially if you’re only traveling as far as appetizers. We portioned less than 2 ounces of lobster meat per person. Believe me, that’s enough. Most people won’t want more than that for a starter and a lot of people may want less. Which is how it should be. A taste of luxury, rather than an avalanche. And with the culinary revenants of Holidays Past hovering about, each awaiting to descend on festive tables over the next two weeks, who would want more? Remember, you can always serve it in puff pastry shells. Enjoy. Ken
Makes 4 appetizer servings
- 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons red onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
- ½ cup milk, at room temperature
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ cup green pepper, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice
- Minced chili pepper—the amount you use will depend on the heat of the chili and your taste.
- ¼ cup andouille sausage, skin removed and cut into ¼-inch dice
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ¼ cup white wine
- 7 – 8 ounces of cooked lobster meat (I slightly under-steamed 2 1-pound lobster culls, removed the meat from the shell and cut it into 1-inch pieces.)* You can also simply buy cooked lobster meat.
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon chopped tarragon or thyme
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Shells of two lobster tails, split lengthwise to hold the stuffy mixture; or 4 good size scallop shells, clams shells or just four gratin dishes
*For everything you ever wanted to know about lobster, I recommend Jasper White’s classic Lobster at Home.
- Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper and cook 5 minutes or until tender. Add the flour and cook until the mixture is golden brown and crumbly. Add the milk, bay leaf and season with salt and pepper, cook 4 – 5 minutes. The sauce should be very thick. Cool. Remove the bay leaf.
- In a small sauté pan, melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the peppers, sausage, and garlic and cook until the sausage starts to render and the peppers are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the white wine and reduce to a glaze. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl. Stir in the cream sauce and allow to cool. Fold in the lobster, parsley and tarragon or thyme. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Spoon a half cup or so into each of 4 lobster tail halves or other containers, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, drizzle with olive oil and set on a baking sheet or skillet. Bake 10- 12 minutes. The crumbs should be toasty and the mixture hot. Serve immediately.
Although I grew up in New England and spent summers on the Cape, I never heard the term “stuffies” until a few summers ago. We didn’t go to many clam shacks and stuffed clams weren’t something my mother made. I had to ask a couple of my chefs what they were talking about. Although most stuffed clams don’t do anything for me, the name just stuck in my mind, waiting for its opportunity. This year I wanted to do something fun with lobster at my Feast of the Seven Fishes Cooking Class at Rialto and suddenly there it was–a lobster stuffy! While bechamel, or cream sauce, holds it all together, I think the andouille and green pepper in the mix give it a very American flavor, our little contribution to Christmas Eve dinner on this side of the Atlantic.
I’m actually drooling. Onto my keyboard. In the office.
Well that must be a pretty sight. Hang on until lunch. :-) Ken
Wow, Jody and Ken. This is such a photogenic recipe, a Christmas gift for the eyes. And it sure sounds delicious, eventhough I must admit I have never eaten either lobster, or andouille (I know that American “andouille” is different from French “andouille[tte]”). I love how the name “Stuffies” makes it sound so cozy, whereas it looks so fancy and elegant! Now I will find myself daydreaming about tasting lobster!
Happy holidays to you as well, Darya. Thank you for the kind commentary. If it’s not intrusive, how is it you’ve never tasted lobster–religious or just personal taste? I ask because so many of the Maine lobsters this time of year are shipped to France, where there’s much more of an association with it with holiday meals than there is here. Ken
Well, as a child, I probably would simply have refused to eat anything that didn’t look like a steak or a chicken breast. Now I would be curious to try.
I had no idea that France imported lobsters from Maine, but I guess those would be the pre-cooked, frozen kinds we find at the supermarket; I’ll take a closer look next time. If you want a freshly-caught, live lobster from Brittany, Normandy, or the Côte d’Opale, they can be found during summertime, and their price is quite prohibitive! (especially to somebody like me, who has never cooked a live lobster). I guess that explains why I have never tasted lobster :)
My understanding is that they’re being sold live–for Christmas and New Year’s Eve dinners. Maybe it’s a hotel thing? I’ll see if I can dig up the article from the Boston Globe last year and send you a link. Also, the article did mention that they were quite expensive in France. Ken
Great post K&J.. wife Donna has been on a “stuffy” kick of late, both store bought and homemade. Both have their place, but this pegs the needle. Since we, being non-restaurant owners, have a little holiday down time, will give this a go. Can’t believe Darya has never had lobster or andouille, but I have never had truffles or sea urchin. On my short list for 2014! All the best to you both – and your extended teams – for the holidays!
Thank you, David. May your holidays be as happy as ours, with perhaps a little less scheduling. Ken
quel beau produit, surtout à l’époque de Noël !… quelle belle recette et surtout quelles belles photos !… Bonnes fêtes de fin d’année !…
Merci, Lydie. Je te souhaite un également joyeuse bonne année. Ken
Really excellent. That half shell shot is pure art. The finished dish is not far off that either. Beautiful.
Thank you, Conor. The shell shots were fun. Ken
Don’t those look grand? I was just saying the other day how stupid it is that I haven’t made anything with lobster in years. And here we have the world’s largest inland lobster tank right by the airport (has to do with us being a UPS hub). So, there’s really no excuse.
Ha! Michelle, that is SO strange I’m almost speechless, the mere title conjures frissons of… what? “…the world’s largest inland lobster tank.” I don’t even know what an inland lobster tank is. Sounds very X-Files. Happy holidays to the entire population of Gourmandistan. We anticipate another year of good international relations. Ken
I know. The strangeness of it is one reason that keeps me away. A company from Nova Scotia ships them here where they’re held for distribution to restaurants, etc. all over. I suppose even lobsters have layovers. Happy holidays to you all as well, Ken.
Looks delish! I see a white plate with what looks like a drawing of a fish in blue and something scribbled in red. Where is it from?
Happy holidays ♪
I believe it’s from Anthropologie–a catchall store that sells housewares, cookbooks, kitchenware, etc. A major source, for us, of photo props. Happy holidays to you too! Ken
Thanks for the info. I like it. It almost looks Japanese. ;-)
This is stunning! I completely agree with you, by the way, on the lobster portions — there’s nothing more uncomfortable than being stuffed on lobster and butter! Your guests will be so grateful that you’re serving them just the right amount. Beautiful post, thank you for sharing!
You’re too sweet! I hope you have a Merry Christmas–with just the right amount of lobster. :-) Ken
This is my dream recipe. Your photos are stunning and there is nothing like New England “lobsta”. What a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays. Thank you for sharing this feast for the stomach as well as the eyes. Just perfect!
Amanda, you’re very generous. I may have to cut back on the photographs–a recent article in the NYT Science section discussed a new study in which participants who looked at appealing photographs BEFORE eating the actual food found the food itself less satisfying than those who didn’t see the pics beforehand. :-) Ken
Well we are in the same boat then. We are setting ourselves up for disappointed guests!
How did I miss this post? I was just reading through Jody’s book last night, reading about making lobster stock, and thinking about the lobsters we had in Scotland.
I started reading Jody’s book on boxing day, and wanted to tell you how much I’m enjoying it. I want to make so many of the recipes, and what keeps me reading all the way through is the headnotes for each recipe and the ingredient notes. The approach to food is how I would like to cook and eat (and often try to). So, a big thanks! I don’t blog about savoury food often because I don’t like to delay dinner, but will be making recipes from the book even if not blogging about it.
Hope you and your families have had a wonderful Christmas!
That is SO sweet of you. The book was intended to be a statement about Jody – “this is my take about food.” We’ve mellowed a bit since then. While we realize that we might like to make soupe de poisson, for example, from scratch, not everyone else is necessarily dying to do so. Also, as I mentioned in another comment, some things that were relatively rare here when we were writing the book (e.g. farro) have become fairly well known since then. But we still believe that food comprised of things that regionally grow up together have powerful resonance, especially in the Mediterranean. I’m happy you’re enjoying the book. We did have a wonderful Christmas (the goose and risotto in the book, by the way, along with pommes anna, all made their required appearances) – our son was here. We spent time with friends. I hope yours was equally satisfying. Good luck with cooking in 2014! Ken