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Signatures: Josiah Citrin's Lobster Bolognese

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Josiah Citrin
The finished dish

One of Los Angeles's most respected chefs, Josiah Citrin cooked with two of the city’s legendary chefs, Wolfgang Puck and Joachim Splichal, before opening Melisse in 1999. Two years earlier, Restaurant Hospitality named him a Rising Star. At Melisse he offers California cuisine with a Mediterranean accent. He created this lobster Bolognese dish a few months after opening the restaurant.

“We used the lobster knuckles for an amuse, putting it on the menu with the note ‘subject to availability,’ figuring that when we ran out of the knuckles we would 86 it,” explains Citrin. “But the dish became so popular we ended up removing the ‘subject to availability’ note and started bringing in whole lobster to make the dish. To this day it’s still one of our most popular dishes.”

Lobster Bolognese

From Josiah Citrin, Melisse, Santa Monica, CA. Yield: 6 servings.

3 ea. 1¼ pound live Maine lobsters (cooked, claws and bodies shelled, and diced into small pieces)
6 opal basil leaves cut into small dice
6 sweet basil leaves cut into small dice
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
8 oz. fresh linguine pasta

Bolognese Sauce:
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves (cut in ½, germ removed)
3 lb. vine ripe tomatoes (peeled and seeded)
½ cup Chardonnay (reduced by ½ to a ¼ cup)  
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup veal jus
to taste, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Truffle Froth:
2 cups truffle juice (store-bought)
¼ cup heavy cream
2 oz. unsalted butter (diced)
1 tsp. black truffle oil


Bolognese sauce:
Combine the onions, garlic and butter in a pot; sweat the onions on medium heat, season lightly with sea salt. Cook until they are soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes and heat through, season lightly with sea salt. Once the tomatoes are hot add the chardonnay and bring to a boil. Add the stocks and boil; reduce heat to low. Cook on low, stirring often, being careful not to let burn on the bottom, until all the liquid has evaporated and the sauce is thick. Pass the sauce through a food mill into a bowl over a bowl of ice. Mix to cool.

Truffle froth: In a tall pot add the truffle juice and reduce by 1⁄4. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the butter and truffle oil while blending with a hand blender until very bubbly. Season to taste with sea salt, white pepper and a few drops of fresh lemon juice. Keep warm in the pot.

To serve: Heat 6 dinner plates in a warm oven. Bring a pot of water to a boil, adding about 1 Tbsp. salt per quart of water. Divide the tomato sauce into two pans (it’s easier to mix and plate in two pans). Gently heat the sauce adding 1 Tbsp. butter to each pan, mixing to emulsify. Add the lobster and heat until just hot, but not overdone. Cook the pasta for 1½ minutes in the boiling water and divide into the 2 lobster Bolognese pots. Add chopped basil and extra virgin olive oil, and add a few Tbsp. of the pasta cooking water to each pan. Season to taste, spin the pasta around a meat fork and lay it down in the center of the heated plates, then spoon the lobster Bolognese in a line over the paste. Blend the truffle sauce with a hand blender until frothy. Spoon the froth over the pasta and serve.

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