Chez Panisse Cafe chef Russell Moore made this soup at the Castello di Verduno, cooking it in the dark, over an open fire. This is our version, adapted for stove-top cooking, with the lights on.
- 2 (1 1/4–1 1/2-lb.) live spiny (Pacific) or Maine lobsters
- 7 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 small yellow onions, peeled and sliced
- 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
- 1 leek, trimmed, washed, and sliced
- 1 bulb fennel, bulb trimmed and sliced, with fronds reserved
- 1 rib celery, sliced
- 4 lb. meaty bones and heads (gills discarded) from non-oily, white-fleshed fish, rinsed and cut into large pieces
- 1⁄4 lb. medium shrimp
- 1⁄4 lb. manila or littleneck clams, scrubbed
- 1⁄4 lb. squid, cleaned
- 2 ripe or drained canned whole peeled tomatoes, cored and quartered
- 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
- 2 cups white wine
- Splash Pernod
- 10 sprigs fresh parsley, stems and leaves set aside separately
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 pinches saffron threads
- Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh chives
- 1 tsp. chopped marjoram
- 6 (1/2" x 4") slices focaccia
Plunge a sharp kitchen knife into top of each lobster just behind head to kill it quickly. Twist tails and, if using Maine lobsters, claws off bodies and set aside. Halve bodies, rinse cavities well, and set aside. Heat 1 tbsp. of the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Sear bodies until bright orange and charred in spots, 2–3 minutes. Set bodies aside. Add 2 tbsp. of the oil to the pot, then add onions, carrots, leeks, fennel bulb, and celery and cook until soft and just beginning to brown, 6–8 minutes. Add fish bones and heads, shrimp, clams, squid, lobster bodies, tomatoes, and garlic and stir well. Add 15 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce heat to medium, add wine, Pernod, parsley stems, bay leaf, fennel fronds, and saffron, and simmer until bones fall apart, 35–40 minutes.
Strain stock into a medium pot, firmly pressing on solids with the back of a spoon, then discard solids. Bring stock to a simmer, add lobster tails and (if using) claws, and poach over medium-low heat until just cooked through, 10–15 minutes. Strain stock through a sieve into a bowl, then return to pot. Set lobster aside. Boil stock over medium-high heat until reduced by half, 1–1 1⁄2 hours. Season to taste with salt.
Remove lobster meat from shells, then dice and put into a bowl. Chop parsley leaves and add half to the bowl. Add 2 tbsp. of the oil, thyme, chives, marjoram, and salt to taste, toss well, and set aside.
Preheat broiler. Put focaccia on a baking sheet, brush tops with the remaining oil, and toast until crisp, about 1 minute. Divide soup between 6 warm soup bowls. Put 1 crouton in each bowl and top each with lobster. Garnish each with the remaining chopped parsley.