Several years ago the USDA advised against consuming tomalley—the soft green innards that function as a lobster's liver and pancreas—because it can contain high levels of the toxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning. The red tide that prompted the warning has since subsided, and most sources say that tomalley is now safe to eat in moderation—but Jake Bickelhaupt was still suspicious of the delicacy. "I don't like tingly heads and tingly toes and maybe respiratory failure; it's not my kind of thing," he said. "Hopefully Noah [Sandoval] doesn't kill me today."
Bickelhaupt had tasted tomalley before but said he rarely cooks with lobster, so he hadn't worked with the green stuff inside much either. "It's sweet, has a little salty fish taste, that iron-y kind of funk to it," he said. "It doesn't taste like lobster. It tastes more like sea urchin, with that creamy, sweet sea … but sea urchin doesn't have poisonous … I'll be fine."
Tomalley is usually eaten on its own (it's often spread on toast) or used to flavor sauces. Bickelhaupt, who uses quite a few modern techniques in the underground restaurant he runs from his apartment, cooked it gently in cream with iota carrageenan (to make it gel) and soy lecithin (to emulsify it). As the cream mixture warmed up, Bickelhaupt observed, "The color is gross. I don't think I'd ever serve this." After straining out the bigger bits, he let it cool before putting it in an iSi canister to make a tomalley foam.
He came up with a play on shrimp and grits, serving the foam with polenta, lobster claw, an egg yolk poached sous vide, fava blossoms, and popcorn coated with powdered freeze-dried corn. "This dish, it's got this briny—I'm just going to call it funk," he said. "Like dirty socks. But not in a bad way. It's good."
Bickelhaupt also made a second dish: tomalley "air" with carob bubbles and trout roe. He steeped tomalley with hot milk, white chocolate, pink peppercorns, and soy lecithin, used a hand blender to add air to the mixture, and then froze the whole thing. On top he spooned the trout roe and carob bubbles: water mixed with carob, egg white powder, sugar, salt, and xanthan gum, then aerated with an aquarium pump. "It's one of those weird things: roe and chocolate actually kind of pair together," he said. "I doesn't know why, it just does." He topped it off with grated freeze-dried pineapple.
Bickelhaupt liked that preparation too. "Again, with the sea and the funk. I keep saying funk, but it's not a bad thing. That's why people eat it. It's an acquired taste, but it's fun."
Abraham Conlon of Fat Rice—a former underground restaurant owner himself—working with pig uterus. Bickelhaupt says that Conlon asked for something hard for his challenge, and he was more than happy to oblige.
Tomalley custard with polenta, lobster claw, and popcorn
40 g lobster tomalley
100 g heavy cream
4 g kosher salt
8 g simple syrup
0.5 g iota carrageenan
1 g soy lecithin
Combine all ingredients except iota and soy lecithin in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and warm to 72C for five minutes. Do not boil.
Strain cream through a chinois. Add iota carrageenan and soy lecithin and blend with a stick blender. Place in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Strain through a chinois into an iSi canister; chill slightly. Charge with nitrous oxide.
165 g medium-grind organic cornmeal
500 g of Kurobuta pork stock
15 g butter
50 g whipped cream
20 g kudzu starch
10 g kosher salt
Bring stock, butter, and salt to a boil. Add cornmeal and stir continuously for 5 minutes. Add the whipped cream and fold into the polenta. Add just enough cold water to the kudzu to dissolve, and then add to the polenta. Stir continuously for 5 minutes and add the polenta to a greased 1/9 pan. Chill until the polenta is completely set. Cut into portions.
1 lobster claw
10 g butter
1 g kosher salt
Place all ingredients in a sous vide bag and vacuum on high. Place the bag into a hot water bath at 60C for 20 minutes. Remove lobster from the water and carefully crack the claw. Cut the meat into desired portions and reserve in its own juice.
Popcorn¼ cup popping corn
20 g freeze-dried sweet corn powder
2 g fine sea salt
Pop the corn over high heat in a pot with grapeseed oil and cover with a lid. Shake the pot continuously until there is no more than two seconds between each pop. Once popped, put the popcorn in a gallon-sized ziploc bag and add the sweet corn powder. Shake the bag until all the popcorn is well coated.
To plate: Reheat polenta in a hot saute pan over medium heat with grapeseed oil. Cook until golden brown and set aside. Dispense the tomalley custard in bowl with the iSi canister. Add poached egg yolk (cooked at 53C for 10 minutes) to a small serving bowl and season with olive oil, Murray River sea salt, and black pepper. Garnish with fava blossom, popcorn, hearts on fire, and lobster claw meat.
Carob bubbles with tomalley air
1 liter water
100 g carob
20 g egg white powder
1.2 g xanthan gum
20 g sugar
3 g salt
Add carob to water in a mixing bowl. Gently mix and then pass through a chinois. Add the carob liquid to a blender and add sugar, salt, and egg white powder. Blend on low for three minutes. Add xanthan gum and blend on low for an additional ten minutes. Pass through a chinois and chill overnight. Use a fish tank air pump to create the bubbles.
Tomalley and pink peppercorn air
100 g milk
20 g tomalley
6 g soy lecithin
15 g white chocolate
Warm milk to 80 degrees C and pour over tomalley, white chocolate, and pink peppercorn. Steep for 15 minutes, stirring every couple minutes. Pass through a chinois and add soy lecithin. Use a hand blender to create the air. Spoon the air into a glass bowl and freeze for at least one hour.