Antonis Achilleos
Active Time
30 MIN
Total Time
50 MIN
Yield
Serves : 4

The first Valentine’s Day I spent with my husband, David, was in New York. We had just started dating, and after a long run of being single, I was excited to embrace the romantic occasion. For me, this meant dreaming up a seductive meal. Back in those days, I had the time to subway around the city curating fanciful ingredients. There was an Italian market for pink beet gnocchi, a fancy butcher for hanger steaks, and a cheese pilgrimage to the West Village. I simmered a Jean-Georges Vongerichten red-wine-and-shallot reduction, carved beet slices into hearts (!), and splurged on Sancerre. (Looking back on my proclivity for all things cute, it’s a wonder I didn’t shape marzipan into cupids and unicorns.)

This Valentine’s Day marks our 19th year together. In that time, we’ve built a life that includes two marvelous children, spoiled cats, and two new pups. We are fantastically busy in the luge ride of life: opening bakeries; writing cookbooks; and chauffeuring kids to Scouts, guitar lessons, and theater performances. But I haven’t lost my fondness for whimsy. In fact, it’s more important than ever to find deep pleasure and delight in small things that can make a day—and a meal—more special.

That’s one of the reasons I love grilling lobster tails. It’s a simple step that takes the ingredient to the next level: Lobster tails are at their most delicious when the sweet, luxurious meat absorbs a whiff of smoke. Paired with smoky grilled lemon halves, the lobster is exceptionally delicious over small, pebbly pasta like stelline (star-shaped pasta typically served in broths), which provides a tender contrast that’s fun to eat and soaks up the buttery juices. Fragrant fresh oregano is delicious in the mix, but feel free to use your favorite soft herb. Do deploy plenty of freshly ground black pepper and Pecorino Romano, and taste for salt just before serving. Grilled asparagus or haricots verts (or both!) could easily join the party, but this meal needs nothing more than a steely white wine (and possibly Limonata for the kids, if present) and a table of those you hold most dear. The meal is definitely cheaper than any contrived Valentine’s Day prix fixe you might find.

And as for whether to include a single long-stemmed rose and a giant strawberry that’s thinly sliced and fanned out like a sheepish apology? I leave that entirely up to you.—Paula Disbrowe

How to Make It

Step 1    

To prepare lobster tails, use poultry shears to cut the tender underbelly shell up to the tail. Using a knife, score the meat about 3/4 inch deep along the same line as the shell cut, being careful not to slice all the way through the lobster.

Step 2    

Use a knife or your fingers to gently spread open the lobster tail and expose more meat (the remaining soft membrane will hold the sections intact). Drizzle the meat with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set the tails aside to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes while you heat the grill.

Step 3    

Light charcoal chimney starter filled 3/4 full with briquettes. When briquettes are covered with gray ash, pour them onto the bottom grate of the grill. Scatter wood chips over the hot coals, and let chips start to smoke. Adjust vents as needed to maintain an internal temperature of 350°F to 400°F. (If using a gas grill, place soaked wood chips in an aluminum foil packet; poke several holes in packet. Place directly on burners; preheat to medium [350°F to 400°F].) Place lobster, shell side down, on unoiled grates. Grill, covered, about 5 minutes. Turn lobster, and cook until internal temperature registers 135°F, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove lobster from grill; keep warm. Add lemons, cut side down, to grill, and grill, covered, 5 minutes or until grill marks appear.

Step 4    

Combine 6 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high. Stir in pasta, and cook according to package directions for al dente. Drain pasta well; return pasta to pot and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese, butter, herbs, 2 teaspoons reserved lemon zest, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and red pepper flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. To serve, divide pasta among 4 serving bowls; top with lobster tails, and garnish evenly with herbs and remaining 4 teaspoons cheese. Serve with smoked lemon halves.

Notes

Serving size: 1 lobster tail and about 1 1/4 cups pasta

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