Opal Regional Executive Chef Andy Gayler has the kind of diverse range of culinary experience that leads the sort of hybridization you’d find in a scientist’s lab – a little of this element, a pinch of this liquid, a quick blast of combustion, and suddenly you find a plate in front of you that transforms a collection of unexpected, seemingly disparate ingredients into a dish that could not be a more perfect melody of taste, sight, and smell.

When you find Chef Gayler tinkering in his Florida kitchen (when he’s not traveling to open a new Opal Collection restaurant) – turning an ordinary idea on its head is de rigueur. It’s that varied approach that explains how a challenge to put a Florida spin on Maine lobster resulted in a recipe for lobster lasagna that draws influence from Chef Gayler’s current focus on Italian family-style dining, gives a nod to Florida’s citrus culture and a tip of the hat to his earlier career working in the Caribbean, where ingredients like cinnamon-roasted pumpkin are a vibrant addition to delicate and complex dishes.

Latitudes restaurant lobster lasagne

“The dish is not a lasagna in the true sense of the word,” Gayler is quick to point out. “Pasta has very much been at the forefront of my mind, so pasta, in the form of a Gyoza wonton skin, has become the lasagna layer, but the wonton is very light, so doesn’t become overbearing to the other flavors.”

When Chef Gayler was challenged to debut a dish that put a new spin on New England seafood, it wasn’t a hard choice – Chef Gayler was immediately drawn to Maine lobster. “The succulent, sweet meat from a lobster lends itself very nicely to the slow butter poaching, which brings out the richness,” Gayler explains. “That’s a little bit of heaven right there.”

For those who might be intimidated by the recipe, Chef Gayler promises that the hardest part of preparing this dish is the restraint required not to eat the lobster before it becomes lasagna. We think that this dish is well worth a little effort.

Maine Lobster Lasagna with Indian River Orange Sauce

Serves 2

Lobster Ingredients

3 lbs. Maine lobster, fresh water to cover lobster

Distilled vinegar

Salt

Method:

  • Bring the water to the boil, add the vinegar, and steep the lobsters in the water for two minutes. Remove from water.
  • When lobsters are cool enough to handle, remove meat from shells. Reserve claw shells for Indian River sauce.
Butter-Poached Lobster Ingredients

Meat from 3 lbs. Maine lobsters

½ c. water

1 c. unsalted butter

Pinch of sea salt

Method:

  • In a thick bottom pan, add water, butter, and a pinch of sea salt; bring to a gentle simmer – be careful to prevent a full rolling boil.
  • Gently add the lobster meat and ensure that it is covered with the butter. Cook for five to eight minutes until meat is no longer translucent. Remove from heat – do not overcook as meat will become tough. Keep warm in the butter.
Indian River Orange Sauce Ingredients

½ c. fresh orange juice

Lobster claw shells (saved from meat removal process)

¼ c. chicken stock

2 tsp. fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

4 ea. cilantro stalks, washed

¼ c. heavy cream

¼ c. unsalted butter, chilled

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

Method:

  • Heat a thick bottomed sauté pan. Add the lobster shells, cook for two minutes, then add the ginger and sweat for one minute.
  • Add the orange juice, chicken stock, and cilantro stalks. Reduce by two thirds until it becomes syrupy.
  • Add the heavy cream and reduce down by half.
  • Remove sauce from the heat and strain the sauce through a fine strainer into a clean pan.
  • Gently whisk the chilled butter into the strained sauce; it should have a nice shiny appearance, lightly season with salt and pepper. Add cilantro.
  • Keep warm, but do not re-boil.
Cinnamon-Roasted Pumpkin Ingredients

¾ c. pumpkin squash, seeds removed and cut into ¼” dice

¼ c. vegetable oil

¼ c. honey

2 tsp. curry powder

Freshly grated cinnamon to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  • Place diced pumpkin squash on a roasting tray; add honey, curry powder, cinnamon, salt, and pepper; mix well.
  • Place into a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F, cook until golden brown, and check seasoning. Keep hot.
Wonton Skin Ingredients

6 ea. Wonton Wrappers

Method:

  • Place the wonton wrappers in the lobster poaching butter, and cook gently until al dente (one to two minutes); remove pan from heat, and keep wontons warm. Remove excess butter before using.
Wilted Baby Spinach Ingredients

6 oz. baby spinach leaves

2 tsp. butter

Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  • In a clean sauté pan, add butter and heat. Add the spinach leaves, grated nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and toss together until spinach is wilted. Check seasoning, then remove from pan and drain on kitchen paper to remove excess liquid. Keep warm.
Plating Instructions

Butter-poached Maine lobster meat

6 oz. wilted baby spinach

6 ea. prepared wonton skins

¾ c. cinnamon-roasted pumpkin squash

½ c. Indian River orange sauce

4 ea. chervil sprigs, garnish

Salt and pepper to taste

Method for each serving:

  • In the center of a warm pasta bowl, spread the hot cinnamon-roasted pumpkin into a circle.
  • Top the pumpkin with a warm wonton shell, season with a little black pepper to taste, add half of the warmed, seasoned hot spinach on top.
  • Remove half of the warm lobster meat from the poaching liquid, and arrange neatly on top the spinach creating layers, lightly press the lobster into the spinach so it doesn’t fall.
  • Repeat the process with the rest of the spinach and lobster meat, again lightly pushing the meat into the spinach; ensure all ingredients are warm, and top with the third wonton skin.
  • Garnish the dish with overlapping lobster claws on top of the final wonton skin; spoon the orange butter sauce lightly over the claws and drizzle around the bowl.
  • Finish plate with a fresh cilantro sprig.

To accompany this delicate seafood dish, Chef Gayler recommends a chilled white wine, such as an unoaked Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc.