It seemed innocent enough. I thought, what could be nicer than to spend a late fall evening on Cape Cod enjoying a sumptuous lobster dinner? Even if I had to cook it for myself and a half-dozen others and even if I had to help my neighbor with the chore of shuttering his summer home for the season.
I made my flight reservations. Then, just days before my Friday-evening flight to Providence, Rhode Island, I hear that an early hurricane is racing up the East Coast with a bullseye on Cape Cod. Great… still, what the heck. I’m in. Never been in a hurricane before? Sounds like fun. The only thing I was really worried about was maybe a tree falling on my rental car, or worse, it sailing off to sea sometime during the night.
The flight in was rather uneventful, but the late-night drive down to the Cape through Route 6 was foreboding. Something ugly was definitely on its way. The rain came. The 90+ mph wind howled through the window jams, and small falling branches pelted the roof throughout the early hours of the morning. By daylight, there were downed trees, flooded streets and no power on most of the Cape.
Thankfully, my rental survived. We decided to go ahead and celebrate our survival with the lobster dinner we’d originally planned, even though we had no power. That’s all fine and good. Cooking can still happen over an outdoor gas grill. Cooking in the dark? Well, that’s another challenge altogether. All the guests were still on board (sigh), so we navigated our way into town, found some shops that were open during the daylight hours, picked up some provisions and headed back to the house before the sun went down.
Luckily, we were able to find a small can of gasoline in the garage. It was just enough gas, we figured, to run a small generator long enough to use a microwave oven we dragged out into the garage. If we were lucky, it would work long enough to maybe cook some potatoes while I grilled both the lobsters and the corn on the grill. It was crowded.
It was anything but romantic. Still, my garage kitchen was dramatically lit in golden candlelight as was my path back to the dining room table. Apparently, it was important to them that I found my way back to the dinner table with the lobsters. The first course was a lovely salad. That was no issue. The lobster with drawn garlic butter, the corn, the baby potatoes and the grilled garlic bread that followed ALL came out beyond superb and beyond everyone’s expectations.
For a while there, I was basking in the super-chef stardom bestowed upon me by my adoring public. Then, during dinner, someone in the fading light mentioned that since it seemed unlikely there would be any power the following day, all the contents in the fridge, namely the milk and the eggs, would go to waste.
I started to think. “Is there any sugar in the cupboard?” I asked. “Any flour?” Yes, and yes. And then I looked at the credenza next to the dining room table. There stood a bottle of Grand Marnier. Soufflés!
Now, just so ya know, I can make a great soufflé blindfolded, so this was a PERFECT choice (especially since the few candles we had were close to burning out). And after a few glasses of wine, well, you get kinda brave. No oven? That’s just a minor detail. Now admittedly, I’ve never made a soufflé in an old, beaten-up, nearly historical Sears gas grill, but no matter. I figured as long as I could diffuse the bottom heat of the grill enough and insulate the hood well enough, there was no reason I couldn’t maintain a 400 F oven for 20 to 30 minutes or so.
Well, it worked. I made a wonderful Grand Marnier soufflé in a large Dutch oven casserole. It both looked and tasted fabulous. There was no burnt bottom, and it was evenly cooked throughout. Actually, the dessert was a larger triumph than the dinner. In the end, the best thing about flashing your chef skills at home parties is that (usually) you have an appreciative audience who’s willing to clean up the mess while you relax and enjoy the moment.
That traditional gesture was never more enjoyed as I watched my wine-fueled friends struggle in ever-dimming candlelight with no garbage disposal, no hot water and a mountain of buttery pots, pans and plates. I smiled as it dawned on me that I really got the easier of the chores that night. It’s good to be the chef, especially if you’re cooking lobsters in the dark.
If YOU love lobster, but you’re not exactly sure of the best way to cook it, or if you’d like some additional tips to improve your results, check out a couple of our lobster and shellfish guides: