Every once in a while an "It ingredient" seems to simultaneously pop up in kitchens everywhere. Sometimes "it" is something that is brand new, sometimes "it" is something that has always been awesome but remained unsung. The past few summers the ingredient that is on everyone's lips has been the Fourchu lobster which last year made heralded appearances at ABC Kitchen, Blue Hill, Corton, Daniel, Gramercy Tavern, North End Grill, Oceana and the Spotted Pig. And this year it is just begining to make it's way into the dining rooms of NYC. At L'Ecole, the restaurant at the International Culinary Center where it is being transformed into lobster rolls, steamed lobsters, and daily lobster specials. And this year at Oceana, Executive Chef Ben Pollinger is serving the Fourchus roasted with white asparagus, morels, fiddleheads and a miso jus.
What is it: The Fourchu lobster hails from the cold coastal waters off Fourchu, a tiny village on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. The Fourchu are sometimes called the kobe beef of lobsters, and often considered to be sweeter and more flavorful than other lobsters, qualities that are attributed to the slower maturation that takes place in the frigid waters of Fourchu. Fun fact about Fourchu: Remember the scene near the beginning of Jaws when they page through a copy of the February 1968 issue of National Geographic and come across an article entitled “Sharks: Wolves of the Sea” illustrated with a great white biting into rowboat? That was the town of Fourchu, in 1953, the only documented instance of a great white attacking a boat.
Why now? Credit for the current popularity of the Fourchu lobster among chefs can be given to Dorothy Cann Hamilton, the founder and CEO of New York’s International Culinary Center. Her grandfather was a native of Fourchu and she spent childhood summers visiting the village. With just one road in and fewer that 50 full-time residents, whose average age is around 60, the village and it's fishing industry is not what one would call robust. Concerned that the industry may be dying out and that people would be missing out on what she calls the particular "mare-oir" of Fourchu, she began introducing them to chefs. The lobsters are also being served at L'Ecole, the restaurant at ICC.
When to try them: Canada has fairly intense lobster conservation laws. They preserve their lobster beds by fishing the sections of their waters for only ten weeks per year. Fourchu’s lobster time is now through the August.