Lobster thermidor is a rich dish of lobster chunks covered in a creamy white sauce made from cream, egg yolks, dry mustard and sherry, brandy or cognac and crowned with a crunchy broiled Gruyere or Swiss cheese topping. Its preponderance of heavy ingredients and flavors are best complemented by simpler foods.
Soups and Salads
To start a meal with a lobster thermidor entrée, choose a light soup or salad that will not clutter the palate with heavy flavors or textures. Chicken broth with a bit of orzo and parsley or a fresh vegetable soup in a light stock are good starters. A pureed spinach or kale soup flavored with a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon would be an appropriate opening dish for a lobster thermidor meal. A mixed green and lettuce salad with a lemon and extra virgin oil dressing or sliced fresh heirloom tomatoes drizzled with walnut oil and fresh basil chiffonade are satisfying first courses to whet the appetite for the opulent main course. If melon or strawberries are in season, convert them into a simple salad topped with coarsely ground black pepper to bring out their natural flavors.
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Stick with lightly seasoned, simple fresh vegetables devoid of exotic spices, sauces, toppings or additives such as bacon bit or toasted nuts. Choose fresh green vegetables such as asparagus, green beans or spinach that pair well with the thermidor's creamy sauce and mustard flavors. Take the time to blanch fresh Brussels sprouts, separate their leaves, lightly sauté them in olive oil and barely season with salt and pepper. Avoid corn, peas and other starchy vegetables that would compete with the texture and heaviness of the thermidor.
Simple starches cut the creaminess of the lobster thermidor sauce and bring out its subtle hints of liquor and mustard. Petite penne pasta or baby ziti cooked al dente are good accompaniments, as are fluffy mounds of fragrant jasmine rice. A stack of crisp homemade matchstick fries or steamed baby red potatoes go well with thermidor. A light spaetzle is a unique side dish that complements the tastes and textures of the entrée.
After a lobster thermidor meal, serve a light dessert with a fruit base, as most guests' appetites will be satiated by the previous courses. Simple fruit compote in champagne with a fresh mint garnish is a refreshing endnote. Citrus- or melon-flavored Italian ice or fresh strawberry-lemon granita is a delicate dessert choice. For an elegant final course with a clean and appealing presentation, poach whole fresh pears, halve them and serve barely chilled with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and a cinnamon stick garnish.