Boston is renowned for its diversity of culinary options, with food from every ethnicity you can name. Mike’s City Diner, run by Lebanese Jay Hajj, is a must-visit when you’re in town. His fusion of New England classics with elements from his native Beirut is a big crowd-pleaser, and his new cookbook is packed with phenomenal recipes. Try this Lobster Savannah from one of Boston’s most iconic dining establishments, and treat that shellfish right.
Lobster is New England’s signature seafood, the one most people associate with Boston and the region in general. I never ate lobster until arriving in Boston, where almost every restaurant serves it in some capacity — whether the casual seafood shanty lobster roll or rich and decadent fine-dining lobster Savannah.
Lobster Savannah was the signature recipe of the former Locke-Ober restaurant in Boston’s Downtown Crossing, for over 100 years the city’s most famous dining landmark. About 35 years after arriving in Boston as a boy from Lebanon, some business partners and I purchased the famous Locke-Ober building on Winter Place. As we walked around the site of the late, great restaurant, I came upon a big folder full of Locke-Ober recipes — including this recipe for its signature lobster Savannah!
We eventually auctioned off much of the equipment, art and furniture left in the building, and before long Locke-Ober was replaced by Yvonne’s, a modern supper club that pays tribute to the legacy of the space and has since become a new Boston dining landmark. But I held on to that pile of Locke-Ober recipes for myself — a bit of Boston culinary history right here in my hands.
- 4 2-pound lobsters
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 12 large white mushrooms, chopped to 1/2 inch
- 3 shallots, finely chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped to 1/2 inch
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 1/2 cup cream sherry
- 2 cups heavy cream
- Pinch of paprika
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
For the lobster
Steam the lobsters for 10 minutes. Remove the meat from the claws and knuckles and set aside. With kitchen shears, cut a long wide rectangle out of the top of each body, about 1½ inches wide and about 5 inches long. Keeping the body in one piece, carefully pry the meat from the tail and set aside. Remove any meat from the body cavity, as well as the green tomalley and set aside. Rinse the lobster bodies and reserve.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the lobster meat into 1-inch chunks, and set aside in a bowl with the tomalley. Place a large sauté pan over high heat and melt the butter. Add the mushrooms, and stir until they begin to release their juices, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the shallots and red pepper, and stir until the liquid has evaporated and the shallot is translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the brandy and sherry. Carefully touch a lighted match to the mixture to flame it. When the flame subsides, place a pan over medium-high heat. Add the heavy cream, paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Add the lobster meat and tomalley to the pan and stir. Add the lemon juice and adjust the seasonings to taste. Allow the sauce to simmer until the lobster is heated and the sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Place the reserved lobster bodies in a large baking pan. Place equal portions of the lobster mixture in the cavities of the bodies, and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake until the cheese is lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.