Preparing Langoustine Tails

Fresh Raw Langoustines
Fresh Raw Langoustines

Somewhat like a cross between a crayfish and a lobster, langoustines are a rare and expensive delicacy. Despite their cost, langoustines have long been popular in Europe (in Italy they are called scampi), but until recently hardly ever appeared in the United States. Don’t confuse langoustines with langoustinos, which usually come from Chile and are shorter and stubbier than authentic langoustines. The langoustines we show here, come from New Zealand.

Because langoustines have relatively little meat—their yield is about 25%–they are expensive to serve. They can be cooked in the same way as shrimp out of the shell, but usually require more delicate treatment because of their subtle, delicious, sea-like flavor. As you can see, we poach them directly in a buttery sauce.

Below we show how to get the meat out of the shell—the langoustines must be shelled before you cook them as the shell is hard to remove at the last minute in the way of shrimp shells—and then, in addition, how to use the remainder of the shells to make crustacean butter, a useful condiment to have for adding to sauces or to use for gentle sautéing. If you have crustacean butter, whisk a couple of tablespoons into the sauce to give it a characteristic sea-like flavor and a beautiful orange color. When it’s time to cook the tails, simply poach them in the sauce for about 30 seconds. They will release a small amount of liquid into the sauce, thinning it slightly. ~ James Peterson