Marc's Lobster Cotriade

What is a cotriade?

The name of this dish comes from the breton word « kaoteriad » which is the big kettle in which it was prepared. Cotriade is a specialty of the Finistère region, at the western tip of Brittany, though almost every maritime in village in Brittany has its own version. Traditionally, this fish stew was made by fishermen at sea with whatever they caught in season and whatever vegetables or herbs they might have at hand. It is simple. You can add potatoes or day old bread rubbed with garlic for a full meal. Whether prepared with a single kind of fish -sardines or mackerel-  or with a variety of rock fish like its southern cousin, bouillabaisse, cotriade is hardy and great year round.

All this might just seem like chowder, some versions even add smoked bacon or lard, very similar to those in Maine, others are prepared with butter and tomatoes. I'm pretty sure that our chowders can trace their roots to this dish, also called "chaudrée" around the city of Nantes. Our version is heresy for purists, but cotriades are as diverse as the Breton language and ours comes close to the one made on gorgeous Belle Île, a wonderful island off the Morbihan coast.

I think the most important thing is for the broth to be light and not too reduced or thickened like a bisque. Our cotriade is definitely a twist on the traditional fish stew, and does not even contain any  fish as you can see below. And - we don't serve it with potatoes, but with celeriac! I promise to make an authentic cotriade sometime this winter when a good Breton mist settles in. 

Right now, from June to August,  the lobster prices go way down at the Marché des LIces. They might not be as cheap as the Maine lobster you can find on the east coast, but compared to the crazy 60 Euro a kilo prices for fancy Christmas diners, it's a good deal when prices can hit 20 euros the kilo and even less...

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These Lobsters are also called "Brittany Blue Lobster" because their shells are tinged with blue. They are far more flavorful than most other Lobster. Connoisseurs who've had them will often only settle for the Breton afterwards. Hey - but my dream is a Breton and Maine lobster through down! 

The recipe ( 4 servings)

The broth for this recipe takes a some time to make, but otherwise it is fairly easy. It's good to have a nice day ahead of you to prepare it., as the longer the broth infuses the better it will be.

  • 2 lobsters - 700 grams each (1 1/2 pounds each)
  • Langostinos - 1 kilo (about 2 pounds) - raw head-on shrimp are a very good substitute
  • Clams - 1 kilo - manila, cherry stones, little necks are all fine
  • Mussels - 1 kilo (be sure to clean American mussels very well)
  • Salted butter - 80 grams salted butter (Breton if you can get it)
  • 3 fresh tomatoes
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 large celery root (often called celeriac)
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 5-6 garlic cloves (more or less to taste)
  • 3 medium sized leeks
  • 2 cups dry white wine for the broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine for the clams and mussels
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 Tbs of any dried herbs (oregano, thyme, chervil, savory) - savory is the most Breton.
  • salt and pepper to taste - I add salt to the broth only towards the end because the salt content in the shellfish can vary greatly
  • 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley
  1. Bring a large stock pot filled half way with water to a roiling boil (enough to submerge two lobsters but not more about 6 quarts or 4 liters)
  2. When boiling throw in lobsters, boil for 5 minutes per pound. Be careful not to overcook them, as meat will be added back to the broth later. In the same water, which will be used for the broth, throw in the langostinos or the shrimp for 2 minutes.
  3. Cool down the lobsters and langostinos under cold water to stop the cooking and so that they can be handled easily. Remove meat from the lobster tails and claws, and from the langostino tails. Set aside. Keep the all heads, all the shells and cooking water for the broth.
  4. Roughly chop the leeks, celery stalks and carrots. Sweat them in half the butter in a large pot. When softened (about 5 minutes - don't burn them!) add finely chopped garlic and sweat for a minute more. Take apart and chop up the lobster and langostino heads. Remove any chunks of lobster meat that may fall out and set aside.
  5. In your vegetable mix, sauté over medium heat all the heads and shells, constantly stirring and crushing them with a wooden spoon. After 2 minutes,  add 2 cups of white wine and continue to sauté the mixture for another 3 minutes.
  6. Add about half of the lobster cooking water to completely cover the shells and vegtable mixture twice over. Chop the tomatoes and add them to the pot with rosemary and herbs.
  7. Bring to slow boil for 15 minutes, and keep crushing and stirring the shells. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer slowly for an hour, two if you have the time. The idea is to get all the flavor out of the shells. When reduced about half way strain the broth through a colander while pressing the mixture to get out all the juices from the shellfish. 
  8. If you have the time - turn the heat off under the pot before straining. Go out for a long walk, go shopping, read a book... the whole thing will cool down and you'll get even more flavors out of your broth.

Before serving

  1. Cut the celery root (celeriac) into 1/4 inch slices (about a centimetre). Return the strained broth to the pot and simmer. Add salt and/or pepper to taste if needed. Poach the the celery root until fork tender (about 5 minutes).
  2. While doing the celery root, open your clams and mussels. I prefer to steam them very simply rather than open them in the broth. Open them in batches in a large skillet. Melt a bit of your butter, when the butter starts to bubble, add half your clams, when they start to open a bit add a splash of white wine and cover. They will open quickly. Repeat until they are all open. Like for any shellfish don't overcook. Add the cooking juices from the process to the broth.

Serving

  1. I like to serve the Cotriade 2 ways - one way is to simply put your celeriac slices in the middle of a large soup bowl, put your lobster meat on top, place the other shellfish around the mound and pour the broth over the top. Sprinkle on chopped parsley. There will be plenty of clams and mussels on the side to add as you go along. Have nice country bread to dip in the broth.
  2. The other way is a bit more elegant. Pour broth into a large bowl (Asian soup bowl) place a mound of celeriac in the middle and top with a lobster claw. Add chopped parsley. Arrange your shellfish on the side of a large plate. This way allows you to taste each different shellfish, with or w/o broth.
  3. Both work well!
  4. If you have left overs, reheat slowly and add heavy cream, cayenne and serve with garlic croutons. 
The deconstructed version, clams and mussels are steamed separately.

The deconstructed version, clams and mussels are steamed separately.

Next day leftovers with some heavy cream and a pinch of cayenne, plus garlic croûtons. A nice Saint Malo  style version. 

Next day leftovers with some heavy cream and a pinch of cayenne, plus garlic croûtons. A nice Saint Malo  style version. 

Marc's wine pairing :

Muscadet Sevre et Maine - Jerome Bretaudeau.

For this dish which is redolent with sea flavors, you need an easy drinking wine with good acidity, minerality and some, but not too much fruit. In that order. Nothing could be better than this elegant Muscadet from the young organic vintner Jerome Bretaudeau. This wine has steely minerals and even a slightly salty flavor that will complement the cotriade. The added layer of fruit from the melon de Bourgogne varietal gives it a very pure and satisfying finish. You'll want to reach for another glass quickly!

Purchased at the Marché des Lices from Aurélie Denais the Itinerant Oenologue.