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Lobster's Rich Legacy

October 07, 1998|LEILAH BERNSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When the Los Angeles Times sponsored a cooking contest in 1911, women throughout Southern California mailed in their favorite home recipes. Each week, The Times featured those contributions--for jams, marmalades, puddings, pies, meats, fish and soups--in its pages, under headlines heralding the "dainty dishes" and urging readers to send even more. "Remember to write legibly," The Times advised, and address letters to "The Chef."

On June 18, 1911, The Times printed dozens of recipes for "clams, crabs, lobsters, oysters and other succulent shellfish." Apparently, "The Chef" approved. According to one of the headlines, these were "Shellfish Secrets as Told by Expert Cooks."

Although Mrs. S. H. Rigby's recipe for lobster cutlets didn't win the $5 first prize (or even the $1 third prize), it was reprinted in "Los Angeles Times Cook Book Number Four" later that year. The Times cookbook is long out of print, but Rigby's recipe is not one to be forgotten.

It is very similar to lobster cutlet recipes described by several early American cookbook writers. Fannie Farmer, who wrote "The Original Boston Cooking-School Cook Book" in 1896, called for nutmeg and chopped parsley in hers, in addition to the cayenne pepper. So did Sarah Tyson Rorer, author of "Mrs. Rorer's New Cook Book: A Manual of Housekeeping," in 1898. By 1906, Mary J. Lincoln's "Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book: What To Do and What Not To Do in Cooking" suggested seasoning the lobster with a little dry mustard.

Like crab cakes, Rigby's lobster cutlets have a wonderful golden crust with a soft, moist interior. The combination of white sauce and lobster meat, in fact, is very rich and satisfying. It is so delicious, you may find yourself closing your eyes as you eat.

For presentation at the table, place a lobster leg in each cutlet, as if to simulate the bone in a lamb chop. Then serve with sliced lemon and buttered toast.

*

LOBSTER CUTLETS

Salt

2 (1-pound) lobsters

Cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup whipping cream

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup cracker crumbs

Bring large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add live lobsters. Bring water back to boil and simmer until lobsters turn red, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from water and cool.

Remove meat from shells and dice to make 2 cups. Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper. Set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring. Add whipping cream and cook, stirring, until very thick. Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper. Let cool.

Stir lobster meat into cooled sauce. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

Form cold mixture into 8 lamb chop-shaped cutlets. Dip into beaten egg, then into cracker crumbs to coat. Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours.

Melt 1/2 cup butter over medium-high heat in skillet large enough to hold all cutlets at once. Add cutlets and fry 2 1/2 minutes per side, turning once, until golden.

8 servings. Each serving:

305 calories; 388 mg sodium; 133 mg cholesterol; 27 grams fat; 7 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams protein; 0 fiber.

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