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A Perfect Cookbook (September 10, 2003)


Once in a while a perfect cookbook comes along, and Ten Speed Press just sent it to us... Annie and Margrit: Recipes and Stories from the Robert Mondavi Kitchen. The singular Alice Waters of Chez Panisse says, "This collection of recipes is both personal and irresistible."

Annie Roberts is Executive Chef at the Mondavi Winery; her fabulous cuisine has been showcased in the winery's Vineyard Room and at numerous special events since 1974. Her mother, Margrit Biever Mondavi, is VP, Art and Culture at the winery. She joined Mondavi in 1967, pursuing a life-long interest in uniting wine with fine arts, music and culinary artistry. Margrit and Robert Mondavi married in 1980 and live in the Napa Valley. Victoria Wise pulled this whole collection together; she was the first chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley and created Pig-by-the-Tail, the first French-style delicatessen in America. She went on to become the acclaimed author of twelve cookbooks.

What a group! What a book!

Not only will you find Annie's glorious recipes, you will get her working notes to help you through the more difficult and special recipes. Photographs are scattered throughout. Annie and Margrit: Recipes and Stories from the Robert Mondavi Kitchen is more than just a cookbook – it's a scrapbook of their extraordinary lives. Plus, Victoria Wise shares behind-the-scenes stories of Annie and Margrit's warm collaboration that reflect the treasures and traditions from her mother's cooking and influences from life in the Napa Valley.

Oh, can you wait? No? We couldn't either, so we tried the Lobster Tartlets.

These are complicated but worth the effort, and to guide the home cook in getting to the finish in professional style, Annie offers her game plan notes, which follow the recipe.

Get set to dazzle!

On today's menu:

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (60 KB)


Lobster Tartlets with Leek and Fennel Confit, Haricots Verts, and Lobster Sauce

For the opening of the To Kalon cellars in March 2001, the state of the art underground oak barrel fermentation rooms at the Robert Mondavi Winery, Annie served these lobster tartlets as the first course of a splendid sit down meal. Let this begin your ultimate dinner party too…they'll be talking for years.

Serves 4

  • One 1¼-lb. lobster
    Lobster Sauce
  • 1½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, white part only, coarsely chopped
  • ½ celery stalk, coarsely chopped
  • ½ carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp tomato pate
  • ½ cup Fumé Blanc or other dry white wine
    Pastry Dough
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • ¾ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch bits
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 3 Tbsp ice water
    Leek and Fennel Confit
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • ½ cup chopped leeks, white part only
  • ½ cup chopped fennel
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ lb. haricots verts, stems trimmed
  • ½ tsp finely chopped shallots
  • 2 Tbsp champagne vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup micro greens or mixed baby greens
  • 8 tiny cherry tomatoes, halved, for garnish

To cook the lobster, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Drop in the lobster, cover and cook for 7 minutes, counting from the start, not from when the water comes back to a boil. With kitchen tongs, transfer the lobster to a platter and allow to cool enough to handle.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Pull the small swimmeret legs off the lobster body and place on a baking sheet. Twist the large claws off the lobster, crack the shells and remove the meat intact. Add the claw shells to the baking sheet and place the claw meat in a bowl. Cut the body lengthwise down the belly side, remove the meat, and cut it into ¾ inch pieces. Put in the bowl with the claw meat, cover and refrigerate. Add the body shells to the baking sheet and roast until bright red and slightly golden brown, about 25 minutes.

To make the sauce, in a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the leek, celery, and carrot and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, wine and roasted lobster shells. Add water to come three-quarters of the way up the sides of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until reduced to about 1½ cups, about 30 minutes. Pass through a fine mesh sieve, return to medium high heat, and cook until reduced to about ½ cup, 10 to 15 minutes.

To make the pastry dough, combine the flour and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse briefly until the mixture is in pea-sized bits. Add the egg yolk mixture to the flour and pulse until blended enough to gather together. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Press into a thick disk and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling out.

To make the pastry shells, preheat the oven to 375°F .On a floured work surface, roll the dough out and cut it into four 5-inch-diameter rounds. Fit the rounds into four 3-inch tartlet pans. Prick the bottom of each shell with a fork and bake until golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

To make the confit, heat the butter and water together in a sauté pan over medium heat until the butter melts. Add the leeks and fennel, season with salt and pepper and cook until most of the liquid evaporates and the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cool the haricots verts until limp but not soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Just before serving, reheat the oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, whisk together the shallots, vinegar, and oil. Toss the lettuces with some of the vinaigrette, just enough to moisten the leaves.

To assemble the tartets, remove the lobster meat from the refrigerator and let sit for 15 minutes to take off the chill. Fill each shell with one-fourth of the lobster meat, haricots verts, and cherry tomato halves over the mixture in each tartlet. Place the tartlets in the oven and heat for 5 minutes.

To serve, transfer the warmed tartlets to 4 plates. Drizzle some of the champagne vinaigrette over the top. Strew the dressed greens over all and encircle with a little of the reduced sauce. Serve right away.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
It would be perverse to suggest anything but a Mondavi wine with this recipe. So... choose a Robert Mondavi Chardonnay (the Reserve if you really want to push the boat out).


One day ahead:

  • Make the pastry dough and line the tartlet shells.
  • Wrap the tartlets in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  • Cook the lobster and make the sauce. Cover separately and refrigerate.

Several hours before serving:

  • Bake the pastry shells and set them aside at room temperature.
  • Make the leek and fennel confit and set aside at room temperature.
  • Cook the haricots verts and set aside at room temperature.
  • Make the dressing and set aside at room temperature.
  • Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.

Just before serving:

  • Heat the sauce.
  • Toss the greens with the dressing
  • Bake the tarts and assemble the dish.


We wish to thank Ten Speed Press for permission to publish material and photographs from Annie and Margrit: Recipes and Stories from the Robert Mondavi Kitchen. ©2003 by Annie Roberts, Margrit Biever Mondavi and Victoria Wise. Photography ©2002 by Laurie Smith. Illustrations by Margrit Biever Mondavi.


Happily tested by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (60 KB)




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