We will now describe how a cook ought to proceed in order to make a good lobster salade.
The first thing she would do would be to put an egg in a saucepan, and boil it for twenty minutes or so, and then place it in cold water to get cold. Next, take a couple of anchovies out of the bottle, and put them on a plate (putting the bottle back in the cupboard ; for if you get in the habit of putting each thing by in its place as you use them, you will never get into a muddle). Next, take a small penknife, and cut the anchovy open longways, and carefully remove the bone; if this is done properly, each anchovy will make four fillets or thin strips varying from two to three inches; wash them thoroughly in cold water, to remove all the salt and soft part. Dry them, and roll them up, as they look at times too much like worms if not rolled. Next, take a tea-spoonful of capers, and drain them carefully on a cloth, in order to thoroughly remove the vinegar in which they have been preserved. Next, take six olives, and stone them. This is done by cutting a strip off them as thick as you can, keeping the edge of the knife scraping the stone the whole time. As a rule, the olive will look round after the stone is taken out, but of course they have no ends to them. A little practice will enable the cook to cut out the stone quite bare, leaving the flesh, so to speak, of the olive in one piece, which curls up again, and looks like an olive that had never been touched.
These directions may to some seem unnecessarily minute; but then we are writing for others who perhaps have never seen an olive except in a bottle in the grocer's window, and then they thought them preserved plums.
Next, chop up not too finely a little piece of bright-green parsley; enough to cover a threepenny-piece when chopped is quite sufficient.
Put all these things by on a clean dry plate for use —viz., the hard-boiled egg, cold, with the shell on ; the anchovies, rolled up; the capers, dry; the olives, stoned; the parsley, chopped. And, as we have said, clear away what you have used before beginning anything fresh. Next, wipe, or quickly wash in cold water and wipe, the lettuces, and pile them up lightly in a silver or any oval-shaped dish. Next, remove all the meat from the lobster, not forgetting the soft part inside and the claws; cut it all up into small pieces not much bigger than dice, and spread the meat over the top of the lettuce in the dish, taking care as much as possible to make the shape high in the centre. A sort of oval pyramid may convey the idea, though it is not a very mathematical expression. Sprinkle a little pepper and salt over the lobster, and put the dish by in a cool place.
Next, the sauce itself. I believe the directions generally given to be wrong in this respect. It is a mistake to put in any pepper, salt, or vinegar at starting. I will therefore describe exactly how to make mayonnaise sauce, at the same time stating that out of the dozens of times I have tried, I only remember one failure, and that was on a fearfully hot day, and I had no ice.
Take a clean, cool basin, the size being one sufficient to hold about a quart. Next, take an egg, break the egg into a tea-cup, and carefully separate all the white from the yolk. This requires care, and the yolk must be passed from one half-shell to the other half very gently, in order to avoid breaking it. It is no use trying to do it at all with a stale egg. Place the yolk in a basin, and break it with a fork—a wooden salade-fork is best. Then drop some oil on, drop by drop at starting, and at the same time beat it up lightly but quickly with the fork. Do not, pray, get impatient, and put too much oil in at once. Continue slowly till the yolk of egg and oil begin to look like yellowish cream. When it once begins to get thick, you may slightly increase the dose of oil, or let the drops fall more quickly. Continue the process till the sauce assumes the appearance of railway grease. This is rather a nasty simile; but then it is so exactly like it, that it conveys a correct idea. You may now add a little white vinegar. Now, as the vinegar has the effect of making the sauce thinner—and the thicker the sauce is, the nicer it looks—this must be added with caution. A small bottle of dilute acetic acid, purchased from some good chemist, will be found best for the purpose, and is what I have always used myself, it being simply strong vinegar, about eight times stronger than ordinary; and, consequently, one-eighth of the quantity will answer the same purpose. Half a salt-spoonful will be found sufficient, and will not have the effect of thinning the sauce. Next, with a silver knife, or ivory paper-knife, spread the sauce over the lobster, till the whole dish, with the exception of where the green salade shows round the edge, has the appearance of a mould of solid custard.
Now to ornament it. First pick out about a dozen of the brightest-looking capers, and stick them lightly over the sauce. They will stick easily without being in the least pushed in. Next pick out about a dozen and a half pieces of the chopped parsley, each piece about the size of a pin's head, and drop these over it to give it a slight speckled appearance. Next take the beetroot, which of course is supposed to have been boiled and got cold, and cut it into small strips about an inch long, and as thick as a wooden lucifer match split into four, and with these strips form a trellis-work of beetroot round the edge of the salade where the sauce joins the lettuce, so that the bottom of each strip just touches the lettuce, but the strip itself rests on the sauce. The contrast between the red trellis and the white sauce has a very pretty effect. Next cut the egg into quarters lengthways, and place the pieces round the edge at equal distances, and put the olives and anchovies at equal distances between them; and also arrange the small claws of the lobster, bent at the joint, around the border. By this means nearly all of the green salade is hidden, and the effect of the dish is exceedingly pretty. The remainder of the chopped parsley and capers may also be placed round the edge, as when the dish is mixed up it will help to improve the flavour.
There is one thing more, however, that may make the dish look still prettier, and that is a little lobster-spawn. If the lobster contained any spawn, take a small piece and cut it up into little pieces the size of a pin's head, or a little bigger—a dozen and a half pieces will be sufficient—and sprinkle these over the sauce alternately with the little green pieces of parsley.
It has been described how to make a nice-looking little lobster salade mayonnaise for about four persons. When, however, a considerably larger dish, and several of them, are required, such as for a wedding breakfast or ball supper, you should get by way of garnish a few little crayfish or prawns. A small crayfish placed in the corner of each dish, with its claws outstretched, resting on the mayonnaise sauce, looks very pretty. If, too, the dish is of a considerable size, a small one may be lightly placed on the top as an ornament.
Now, we have described one way of ornamenting a lobster salade, but, of course, this is only one out of an infinite number of methods. Nor do we maintain that this is by any means the prettiest method; but we have given it as one of the simplest. For instance, mayonnaise sauce can be coloured red by mixing up some lobster butter with it, or green, by means of parsley-juice. Plovers' eggs, too, when they can be obtained, form a very pretty garnish. Leaves or flowers can be cut out of beetroot with a stamp, and be used by way of ornament. The long, thin tendons of the lobster can be arranged, too, to stick upright out of the centre, but they should be put in before the mayonnaise sauce is placed on the lobster.
Perhaps a few explanations of why the salade was prepared in the order named may not be out of place. It will be observed that the anchovies, capers, etc, were got ready early, but the beetroot was not cut up till long afterwards; the reason of this is, fresh-cut beetroot looks a bright red, but after some hours, if it gets stale, it has a sort of withered look, and turns a dirty reddish-brown colour; so too, with the egg: never cut open a hard-boiled egg until it is nearly time to use it, as the egg dries up, and the yellow yolk looks dark and separates from the white. The capers, too, were dried, as if dropped on to the spread-out sauce wet they would spoil its appearance.
Lastly, do not be disappointed if you do not succeed in getting the sauce thick the first time; and do not be afraid of the oil. One yolk of an egg will use up nearly a tea-cupful of oil. It requires a peculiar quick movement of the wrist, and, like whipping cream into a froth, it is not always learnt in a day. We fear that among the Mary Ann class, there are some heavy-fisted women who would never learn it at all. The dish, however, is well worth the trial, and if you can get one person to do the sauce and another to ornament the dish, all the better, as the exertion of making the sauce has often the effect of making the hand shake so much that it is incapable of arranging the beetroot, etc, with any degree of nicety.