In Alexandria, Virginia, some people say Cathal Armstrong, chef-owner of Restaurant Eve, put their little town on the map. It wasn’t the rich colonial history, the charming brick buildings or the picture-perfect views. It was the food.
When Dublin-born Armstrong, who had cooked for years in the nation’s capital, located his first restaurant across the Potomac to Alexandria, the world took notice. So exquisite was the cooking that it soon attracted a celebrity clientele. It was the place President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama chose to celebrate their 19th wedding anniversary.
Recently, Kerrygold added to the celebrity roster by inviting members of the national food media to take the Amtrak from New York City to experience Armstrong’s talents and to celebrate the publication of his first cookbook, My Irish Table, co-written with David Hagedorn and published by Random House. The nine impressive media guests have a combined circulation of 21 million and monthly unique visitors of 9 million through their websites.
The celebratory lunch began with a selection of Kerrygold cheeses, served with chutney and accompanied by beautiful house-made breads.
The first course was luscious Kerrygold Butter Poached Lobster with Parsnip Purée, Braised Parsnips and First of the Season Morels. Out came the cameras and cell phones as everyone started clicking.
The main course of Roasted Loin of Dublin Spiced Lamb with Heirloom Carrots and Brown Bread Cream followed, drawing murmurs of appreciation and more photography.
To finish, Armstrong presented Kerrygold Brown Butter Cake with Meyer Lemon Curd. Every plate went back empty, with contented sighs.
Kerrygold has played a part on Armstrong’s menus at Restaurant Eve since the beginning. “Kerrygold butter is just simply the best,” Armstrong says. “It gives me a sense of nostalgia. It was the only butter I had growing up in Ireland. It is also the best butter product on the market. It has a rich, creamy taste on the palate, and there is no waxiness that you get with conventional butters. It is the only butter I will use at my restaurants.”
Armstrong’s advocacy isn’t just an Irish thing. “We even did a blind taste test with my chefs, and they all chose Kerrygold,” he adds.
Of his menu, Armstrong explains that it “…reflects the Virginia growing season and features the best hand-fed, farm-raised, organically grown bounty our region has to offer. We support humane, sustainable and responsible farming practices for the simple fact: local food, raised and produced by people who care tastes better.”
His leadership in the sustainable food movement is another reason Armstrong champions Kerrygold. “Besides the inherent quality of Kerrygold, another bonus for me, personally, is that because Kerrygold dairy products are produced by a co-op of farmers, some with as few as four head of cattle, I am supporting the small business model, as well as a more sustainable practice of farming,” he explains.
After lunch, editors took a brief tour of Alexandria, visited Society Fair, Armstrong’s food emporium, and then headed home, laden with goodies from Society Fair and from Kerrygold, and knowing more about the remarkable chef in Alexandria, Virginia, who put a little town on the map.
Here’s a recipe for the Kerrygold Butter-Poached Lobster Tails, from Armstrong’s book, My Irish Table.
Kerrygold Butter–Poached Lobster with Parsnips
Cooking lobster in two steps, first just enough to be able to remove it from the shell, and then poaching gently in an emulsion of butter and water (known as beurre monté) imparts a smooth, silky mouthfeel and ensures that the meat will not be rubbery. Although clarified butter is a well-known condiment for lobster, it can be unctuous and leave your palate greasy. A much worthier foil is a butter emulsion such as the one in this recipe, made with lobster stock.
In the Restaurant Eve kitchen several years ago, I gathered our team of chefs to blind-taste some of the world’s great butters. Unanimously, Ireland’s own Kerrygold was the top choice. It’s made with milk from grass-fed cows raised on co-ops of small farms. Its sweetness enhances breads and potatoes beautifully.
The lobster can be cooked and shelled the day before serving. The parsnips can be blanched and the lobster stock made the day before, too. Warm the stock in a saucepan over low heat for a few minutes before using it to finish the parsnips. You will need poultry shears and a very large stockpot for cooking the lobsters.
- 4 (1 1/2 -pound) live lobsters
- 1 gallon plus 3 tablespoons water
- 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1 pound cold unsalted Kerrygold butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Micro cilantro, for garnish
- 1/4 cup unsalted Kerrygold butter
- 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
- 2 shallots, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 bulb fennel, coarsely chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh tarragon
- 1/2 pound parsnips, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/2 -inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 13 tablespoons cold unsalted Kerrygold butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 1/2 cup lobster stock
- Claw meat (reserved from the cooked lobsters)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Cook the lobsters:
With your hands, pull the tail sections and whole claws off the lobsters’ bodies. Set aside the bodies. In a large stockpot, bring 1 gallon of the water and the vinegar to a rolling boil. Add the tails and claws. After 2 minutes, remove the tails. After 5 additional minutes, remove the claws.
Remove the meat:
While the lobsters are still warm, remove the meat from their shells. Using poultry shears, slit the underside of each tail shell and pull out the meat, then, using a chef’s knife, halve the meat lengthwise and remove the center vein from both sides. Place the claws between two kitchen towels and whack them with the back of a sturdy knife. Then use the shears to cut through the shells lengthwise, far enough so you can pop out the claw meat. Remove the cartilage from the centers of the claws and then dice the claw meat into 1/2-inch pieces. Reserve all shells for the sauce. Cover the tail and claw meat separately and refrigerate both.
Make the lobster stock:
Use poultry shears to split the reserved lobster bodies in half lengthwise. Inside the head on both sides, you will see feathery gills. Cut away and discard them. Use a cleaver or chef’s knife to chop the bodies into approximately 2-inch pieces. In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the 1/4 cup butter. Stir in the celery, shallots, fennel, and carrots and let them sweat until soft but not at all brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lobster shells (including the tail and claw shells) and tomato paste. Add enough water to cover the shells by 1 inch. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the liquid to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium and maintain the simmer for 45 minutes. Throughout the simmering, skim and discard any foam or impurities that rise to the top. Add the thyme, bay leaf, and tarragon and cook for another 10 minutes. Strain the stock through a large-mesh sieve into a large container. Clean the pot and strain the stock into it through a fine-mesh strainer. Simmer the stock over medium-high heat until it is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 90 minutes.
Meanwhile, blanch the parsnips:
Put the parsnips, salt, and sugar in a heavy saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and simmer until the parsnips are tender but still firm, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pan to the sink and run cold water into it in a thin stream for about 6 minutes to slowly stop the cooking process and cool the parsnips completely. Drain the parsnips. If more than a few minutes remain to complete the stock, refrigerate the parsnips.
Finish the parsnips:
In a slope-sided sauté pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the 13 tablespoons of butter. Stir in the ginger and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the blanched parsnips and lobster stock. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Stir in the remaining 12 tablespoons of butter. Once it is incorporated, add the claw meat, lime juice, and cilantro. Keep warm over very low heat.
Poach the lobster tails:
Run a bamboo skewer lengthwise through each tail half to keep them from curling when poaching. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the remaining 3 tablespoons of water to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and whisk in the cubes of the pound of butter one by one until completely incorporated. Then decrease the heat to low, add the reserved lobster tails, and poach them until a cake tester inserted into the center of one and pressed to your lips feels warm, about 8 minutes. (Be careful not to overcook the lobster or it will be tough.)
Present the dish:
Divide the parsnip mixture among 4 pasta bowls and top each with 2 lobster tail halves. Garnish with micro cilantro and serve immediately.