The simplicity and plainness of this stew is surprising to some. Traditionally nothing more than lobster, butter, milk and/or cream and a dash of paprika, lobster stew is something of a cherished heirloom “built out of subtleties of understanding,” according to food writer and former Maine resident John Thorne.

A kind of alchemy happens when this stew is allowed to ripen, so that each mouthful is fully infused with the essence of lobster. It makes an elegant lunch or can star as the centerpiece of a summer supper, accompanied nicely by Vinegary Cabbage Slaw and a blueberry dessert.

CLASSIC LOBSTER STEW

Serves 4 as a main course

3 live lobsters (1¼ to 1½-pounds each)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

¾ cup dry white wine

2 teaspoons paprika

2 cups heavy cream

3 cups whole milk

Salt

Sprinkling of snipped fresh chives (heretical, but nice)

In a large pot, steam lobsters in 1½-inches of salted water just until they turn red, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain, and when cool enough to handle, crack tails and claws over a bowl, catching and saving as much juice as you can. Pull out the meat, discard the intestinal vein and chop meat into 1-inch chunks. Add to the reserved juices.

Scoop green tomalley out of the bodies and reserve a tablespoon or 2. (Although the tomalley looks unappetizing at this point, the color will not affect the finished stew.) Reserve 2 of the lobster bodies.

Melt butter in a large, heavy soup or stew pot. Add tomalley and simmer for 5 minutes. Add wine, bring to a boil and cook over medium-high heat until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Add lobster meat and saved juices, sprinkle on the paprika and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Slowly add the cream and milk, stirring constantly. Add reserved lobster bodies, pushing them down so they’re submerged in the liquid. (They will contribute flavor.) Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.

Remove and discard lobster bodies. Reheat stew over very low heat, stirring often so it does not curdle. Taste for seasoning, adding salt if necessary. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the chives if desired, and serve.

VINEGARY CABBAGE SLAW

Sweet-tart vinegary slaw is the perfect foil for many lobster preparations. Because it complements the buttery richness of classic lobster stew, it is especially delicious here. A bit of carrot and bell pepper add beautiful color as well as flavor.

Serves 6 to 8

Half a medium head of green cabbage

1 carrot, peeled

Half a red bell pepper

1 small sweet red or white onion

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup white wine vinegar

½ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon celery seed

Freshly ground black pepper

Use the food processor or a large knife to cut the cabbage into shreds. You should have about 7 cups. Grate carrot in the food processor or on a box grater. (A microplane shreds it too fine.) Cut pepper and onion into very thin slices and cut slices in half crosswise. Toss all the vegetables together in a large bowl.

Whisk sugar and vinegar together in a small bowl until most of the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the oil, salt and celery seed.

Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to 6 hours.

Before serving, drain off any excess liquid, re-stir the coleslaw and season with pepper and additional salt if necessary.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

facebook.com/brookedojny

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