Thinking about Christmas – a lobster and fennel stew

I must admit to you that the last few weeks I have been crazed.

Moved by the positive reviews my book has been receiving (read here, here, here, here, here)…

… but also learning what it takes to put my work out there for the world to see and read. I know I do that every time I post in this space, but somehow this time feels different.

It’s magnified and intensified

So amongst all the work and the traveling, I find comfort in my kitchen. My parents are visiting from the Basque Country and we are thrilled they will be spending Christmas with us. My dad is teaching Jon and Miren how to paint, they take walks and explore. We also cook a lot. My mom and I are constantly in the kitchen developing new recipes or cooking old favorites. There has already been arroz con leche, which is the official welcoming treat.

We have begun planning our Christmas menu, which we never take lightly. This is what was on my mind this week. Perhaps my trip to Boston last week triggered lobster craving, but I had to have some. I think this will make it onto our menu, or perhaps a more traditional version of Basque fish soup. Regardless, there will be fish and shellfish – we know it as there always is one in our Christmas dinner. Ever since I can remember, spiny lobster and langoustines were on our Christmas table. Sometimes “a la americana” with brandy sauce, sometimes with a simple aioli or vinaigrette – my grandfather was a big fan and so was everyone else. I really wish I could show you photos of our dinner table when at least forty of us gathered for the holidays. It was pretty impressive.

So with this bit of nostalgia, I leave you with this recipe, which might be perfect for your weekend if you are craving lobster like me.

And tell me, what are you planning for your holiday dinners?

I’m excited.

Lobster and fennel stew

serves 2

1 pound (450 g) lobster
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 ounces (110 g) shrimp shells (optional)
2 sprigs thyme
1 tablespoon whiskey (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 medium leek, sliced
1/2 small fennel bulb, sliced
1/2 cup (125 ml) unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup (125 ml) heavy cream
Fine sea salt
Chervil, optional

1) In a small pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the lobster and cook for 5 minutes. The meat will not be fully cooked. Remove the lobster from water and let cool slightly. Reserve the cooking liquid. When lobster is cool enough to handle, separate the shell from the meat. Dice the meat. Reserve the shells.

2) Heat a small pot over medium high heat. Add the olive oil, reserved lobster shells, shrimp shells (it’s ok if you don’t have shrimp shells they are for extra flavor) and thyme. Stir over medium high heat until the shells start to toast. Add the whiskey and cook until alcohol evaporates. Add the reserved cooking liquid and bring to a simmer. Cook for 8 minutes or so until reduced. Strain the liquid and discard shells. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of cooking liquid.

3) Heat a medium pot over medium heat. Add the butter, leeks, fennel and a small pinch of salt. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until tender but not browned. Add the diced lobster, cooking liquid, coconut milk and heavy cream. Cook for 1 more minute until all ingredients are heated and lobster is fully cooked. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with chervil and a drizzle of olive oil.

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53 Responses to “Thinking about Christmas – a lobster and fennel stew”

  1. Giulia says:

    I’ll always have something that includes lobster, no convincing needed. I love this shot and your new marble surface – the light is so lovely in Florida right now compared to here ;)

  2. Chloe Moon says:

    I’ve never had lobster soup…it must be delicious!! =)

    Ergo – Blog

  3. I’m so happy you shared the recipe! I loved the idea when I first saw your pic on IG..
    In Italy we do celebrate both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, dinner and lunch respectively. Fish menu on the Eve and meat on Christmas Day.
    I’m originally from Milan and we do not normally have a big dinner on the Eve up there, just a light supper with some fish.
    In Rome, where I live, they make it quite sumptuous instead, with a lot of deep fried vegetables and fish (and this just as a starter!).
    We are a kind in between, a nice but light dinner with fish, so I will try this nice lobster soup which would perfectly work for our Chrsimas Eve dinner.

  4. Lobster is one of my favorite indulgences, and this stew looks delicious. When I was a kid, my mom always made lasagna on Christmas eve, and I continue the tradition. The husband is from Ireland and having a turkey dinner with all the fixins is important to him on Christmas Day. I’m looking forward to all the good food shared with family and friends. Merry Christmas!

  5. Melissa says:

    Looks perfect. Love the sounds of your family gathering, how amazing. We make perogies on Christmas Eve with braised cabbage, sausage and other yummy things. Traditional turkey dinner for Christmas with all the fixings.

    We joined in a tradition with friends a few years ago for New Years Eve where we dine of lots of seafood- oysters and big piles of crab with lots of garlic/herb butter! A great way to ring in the new year.

    Happy Holidays Aran!

  6. thyme says:

    There is a traditional cajun dish that is often served in Louisiana during the holidays. It is “Lobster Rice Dressing”. I still remember the first time I had it as a child was also the first time I tried lobster. I am planning Xmas for 15 people this year. We’ll start off with a huge pot of gumbo and some cornbread. Xmas day will be turkey with cider sauce, oyster cornbread dressing, sweet yams, rosemary bubble top rolls. I can’t wait to write the article about the holiday. Have a wonderful time with your family…your blog is always an inspiration and a delight.

  7. I have loved every single one of your soups that I’ve tried, and I’m sure this one will be no exception, a lovely choice for a Xmas dinner.

  8. Sarah says:

    Aran, I’ve been poring over your book from front to back and relishing every bit of it – the mouthwatering photographs, the recipes, the tips you give through out… I love it! I know a lot of hard work went into that – thank you!
    You inspire me!

  9. Aran says:

    that is wonderful to hear. thank you for sharing.

  10. Elisa says:

    beautiful recipe!
    my family too has always had fish and shellfish for Christmas Eve… but Christmas Eve’s dinner is usually hosted by my grandma, so is she who takes care of the menu :) We will think about the Chrsitmas day menu instead ( a much less ” important” day for us here in Italy ), because we will welcome my dad’s great family for his mum’s 80th birthday. Balslamic Vinegar Salmon and maybe even lasagne will find a way to sneak into our menu for sure :).
    Enjoy this moment, both for your work and your family: your children learning to paint from their grandfather sounds just great! they will surely remember fondly these days :)
    happy Holidays!

    • Aran says:

      I’m seeing lots of italian traditions on this board :)

      Christmas Eve was also more important for us. Christmas Day lunch was usually the leftovers from the night before and a *very* lazy day. Happy holidays!

  11. Erin Orr says:

    I am in love with your cookbook. It is inspiring, beautiful and unique. I have never bought a cookbook from a blogger before and was worried that it would somehow not feel worthwhile. Your book has proven that, as many ideas as you have put forth on-line,you have more to share in written form. Also, the book is such a beautiful object. The pictures, layout and feel of it is very special. You must be so proud!

    with admiration,
    Erin Orr

  12. Dena says:

    Aran: This looks delicious! I think it is something my son would love and I will incorporate it in to his homecoming dinner next week, when he is back from university. Because you asked, my family likes Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding Christmas Eve; I am Sephardic, so we are having some Sephardic dishes this week for Hanukkah. Glad to see all the rave reviews for your book. I am making the Squash and Spinach Tortilla for dinner tonight. YUM.

  13. Sarah says:

    Wow. This looks beautifully elegant. I think the lightness and fragrance of this dish would be a very welcome addition to any holiday table. So often more is more at Christmas, but this looks perfect.

  14. Marianne says:

    I will be alone working out of town on Christmas Eve(hospitals dont close)……maybe this would be just the thing to warm my evening

  15. This soup looks and sounds divine Aran! Will definitely be making this for the Holidays or New Year celebration! Happy Holidays to you and your family :)

  16. Meera says:

    The stew looks yummy and so elegant. The photography is beautiful. Will try your recipe one of these days :)
    Happy holidays !

  17. Diana says:

    Making this on Christmas Day since I don’t eat the traditional Portuguese meat. Looks so comforting and delicious!

  18. this dish looks so pretty yet I sure it packs some serious flavour. What a sophisticated and lovely way to eat a “stew”

  19. Leslie Plumb says:

    Hi Aran,

    My husband and I really enjoyed meeting you at Tatte Bakery in Cambridge. Being new to the whole GF thing is a little overwhelming sometimes, and your book is a real inspiration. I can’t wait to try your pastry recipes for the holidays. If you’re ever up this way again do let us know and we’ll show you around the Cape. Have a wonderful holiday!


  20. I long to take a food styling class/session/trip with you every time I see your beautiful pictures of food. I’m not in the right stage of life right now for that, so for now I’ll continue to love your photographic gifts of making my tummy rumble. :) I hope you enjoy your time with family!

  21. so very very lovely. i love fennel and am always looking for new ways to pair it–hadn’t thought of lobster, but it sounds and looks divine

  22. Your soup recipe sounds delicious and it’s been years since I’ve had lobster. YUM! Not sure what I’m cooking on Christmas this year but something simple for sure. I’m still enjoying going through your cookbook and have shown it to many people. The pictures are beautiful and recipes sound wonderful. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

  23. Maritxu says:

    Kaixo, Aran!
    Merry Christmas eta Urte Berri On!
    El otro día David de Jorge mostró tu libro en su programa y me hizo ilusión verlo. Qué gracia, en mi casa también el día de Navidad es muy perezoso y de comer los pingos de la cena anterior, jajá, muxu asko, happy family!

  24. Aran eta familia,
    Gabon zoriontsuak eta urte barri on.
    Aspaldiko partez gu be danok alkartuko gara gabonetan, eta mahai inguruan itzel disfrutauko dogu.
    Besarkada bat eta gorantziak, badakit zure gurasoak be hortik dauzela.

  25. Hi, Aran! Congrats on your book. I acquired it a few weeks ago… I’m enjoying both to read it and glare the gorgeous pictures. I love the fact that you have organized by seasons.
    As always, we’ll have a casserole for Christmas breakfast, which will be a savory bread pudding this year. As a Brazilian, panettone is a must-have at my table…I am already craving it!!! :) It brings me wonderful memories from my homeland and family. Eating it is like to be transported back home and hear their voices and laughs.
    Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!!!

  26. OrGreenic says:

    This lobster fennel stew looks amazing. The holiday season seems like the perfect time to go all out.

  27. Heide M. says:

    Can’t wait to try this. Thanks for posting this recipe. Have a blessed holiday.

  28. I am truly amazed at how beautiful your food is. You have such an amazing eye for details that seem small but makes a truly large impact – like those lovely curling parsley greens, the frothy and velvety white soup…I’ve never been so inspired to eat and cook! That said, I have your cookbook and it’s just marvelous from the first page to the last! My favourite cookbook by a mile – easy!

  29. Oh yuuuuuum! This looks delicious. I just discovered your blog this week and am in awe of your photography, just amazing. I am going to enjoy reading through your older posts and trying your recipes :) Have a wonderful holiday!

  30. nusrat2010 says:

    I could a bucket full of this frothy, snow-white glamorous soup of yours! You’re a magician who has a magic wand and some magic dusts, I believe!
    How come every single this you do on this blog is sheer magic!

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