Clams Casino is an old standby appetizer at many restaurants in the United States. In fact, it's become somewhat of a cliché. This recipe, using a more expensive denizen of the sea, makes an elegant dinner for two or a de luxe appetizer for four:

Two 1.5-2 pound lobsters, live

2 Tbs. Corn Starch

A big fat sweet onion

Two big fat ripe tomatoes

Plenty of good Olive Oil

1/4 lb. Sliced Prosciutto or Pancetta, chopped in 1/2" pieces

3/4 Cup Roasted Red Pepper ("Pimiento"), chopped in 1/2" pieces

An abundance of Fresh Garlic

An abundance of Fresh Basil

1/2 cup Cognac or Brandy

Tabasco to taste

Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to Taste

1/4 pound salted butter (one stick)

Preparing lobster the right way is not for the squeamish nor the animal-friendly. However you are doing the humane thing by dispatching them first. To do this, place the live lobster on a cutting board with its head facing you. Take up a chef's cleaver and insert the tip of the cleaver in the back of the head and bring the surface of the knife down between the eyes in one swift motion, cutting the head in half from neck to eyes. Killing the lobster in this fashion will keep it from tensing up during cooking, rendering the meat rubbery. Worse, cooking the lobster alive, or cutting bits of its anatomy off before killing the head, is rumored to be painful to the lobster.

After you've killed the lobster, split the lobsters in half, cut off the claws, and remove the meat from the lobster bodies, knuckles (arms) and claws. Reserve the four lobster body halves. Cut the raw lobster meat into 1" chunks. Make a slurry of 2 Tbs. water and the corn starch. Place the lobster meat in the slurry and coat well. Set aside. (This is called "velvetizing" the meat in the Chinese restaurant. It's a professional tip that makes a delicious, supple coating that protects the flavor and juiciness of the lobster when you cook it later.)

Peel and core the onion and chop it into 1/2 inch dice. Skin the tomato (dip in boiling water for 15-20 seconds, then plunge into ice water, then peel by pulling the skin off with a knife edge), quarter it and push the seeds out, discard them, then chop the tomato flesh into 1/2 inch dice.

Place the lobster bodies in a frying pan large enough to hold them. Barely cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook, turning with a tongs, until they're bright red. Remove the lobster bodies and boil the liquid until its reduced to about 1/2 cup. Set the liquid aside. Place the lobster bodies in an oven-proof dish large enough to hold them but no more. You're going to run this dish under the broiler.

Heat a frying pan to very hot and put the Olive Oil into it. Add the Onions and cook, stirring, until transparent but not browned. Add the tomato, Prosciutto or Pancetta, Pimiento, Garlic, Basil and the Lobster. Cook at an infernally high heat, stirring all the while, until the ingredients are nearly starting to turn light amber on the outside. Take the pan off the flame and add the Cognac and ignite, allowing the fire to go out on its own. Stir well, adding Tabasco, salt and pepper. Warm up the lobster liquid. Melt the butter in the warm lobster liquid, whisking rapidly, so as to emulsify the butter.

Place the lobster/vegetable mixture in even amounts in the four shells. They should be heaping full. Run them all under a medium broiler until just the tips of the top bits turn brown, not a moment longer. Drizzle the butter/lobster liquid mixture over the mixture, into the shells, place on individual plates, garnish with lemon wedges and serve immediately.

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