Lobster Thermidor

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall describes this dish as “Not for the faint-hearted, but just perfect for the good-tasted.”


  • (serves 4)
  • 1 live Lobster, weighing 1-1.5kg
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 25g butter
  • a small glass of white wine
  • 200ml thick béchamel sauce
  • 1 tablespoon double cream
  • 1 teaspoon strong English mustard
  • a sprig of tarragon, finely chopped
  • 50g Gruyère cheese, grated
  • a good pinch of cayenne pepper, salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For the béchamel sauce
  • 1 carrot
  • ½ an onion
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 250ml full cream milk 25g butter
  • 25g plain flour
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Put the lobster in the freezer for 2-3 hours then put it straight into a pan of rapidly boiling salt water (use a ratio of 30g salt to each litre). Cook for 15 minutes for a lobster of 750g, and an extra five minutes for every 500g over that. Leave to cool.
2. To make the béchamel, grate the vegetables and place them in a saucepan with the bay leaf and milk. Bring to the boil, then take off the heat and leave to infuse for about an hour. Strain out the vegetables and bay leaf, then put the flavoured milk in a clean pan and reheat gently, but do not allow it to boil.
3. Melt the butter in a separate pan and stir in the flour. Cook this roux gently for a couple of minutes, then whisk in the milk, a third at a time, to get a nice smooth sauce. Let it simmer very gently for 5 minutes. It should have a pouring consistency, like double cream – if it is too thick, thin it with a little more hot milk.
4. Set aside, with a piece of butter paper or clingfilm on the surface to stop a skin forming.
5. Twist off the lobster’s claws, crack them with a hammer or nutcracker and remove all the meat. Set this aside. The body of the lobster should be split lengthways along the lateral line with a large, heavy and very sharp knife. This is most easily done if you lay the lobster on its back on a large wooden board.
6. Press the point of the knife into the tip of the tail, and bring the knife down the length of the lobster, bisecting it evenly between the two sets of legs – do this carefully so as not to damage the shell. Once you are through the flesh to the shell at the back of the lobster, press hard on the knife with your free hand to cut through the shell.
7. You may want to use a pair of kitchen scissors to snip through any bits of shell that are not quite cut through.
8. Carefully remove the tail meat from each half of the lobster, chop roughly and add to the claw meat. Scrape out any brown meat from the head, along with the pink coral, and add that to the white meat from the claws and tail.
9. Remove the dark gut that runs along the top of the tail, the small gritty sac behind the mouth, and the gills, and discard. You should be left with 2 empty shell halves, with plenty of space in the head and tail cavities to replace the finished meat.
10. In a frying pan, sweat the shallots in the butter over a medium heat until soft and lightly browned. Add the white wine and simmer until reduced to a scant tablespoon of liquid. Stir in 200ml béchamel sauce and the double cream, if using, plus the mustard and tarragon, and allow to bubble in the pan for just a minute.
11. Remove from the heat and stir in three-quarters of the grated cheese and the cayenne pepper. Then mix in all the meat from the lobster until it is well coated in the sauce. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
12. Pile the meat back in the shell, sprinkle over the remaining cheese and place under a hot grill for 5-10 minutes, until brown and bubbling. Serve at once.

Recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Leave a Comment