Do the ‘Rock Lobster’ or the Maine or CanadianBobby R. Presents Thursday, July 7th, 2011
A greenish-grey exoskeleton, antennae and five pairs of arms. Sounds like a description of an invading alien race instead of one of the most sought after proteins in the American diet, lobster.
Summer to me always screams lobster. Every year, we would dig a large shallow hole in the yard, start a fire and throw in rocks until glowing hot. Once the rocks were topped with copious amounts of seaweed, in went the lobsters and later clams (or steamers as we called them) and any other seafood of choice. In the summer months, lobsters move to more shallow waters to breed and molt which makes them easier to catch and thus lowers the price, which I can remember seeing going below $5 per pound. We don’t always have that price point in San Diego but I always keep my eye on the lobster tank next to the seafood counter at the market.
Lobsters come in two varieties that are available year round. The Maine lobster is caught off the northeast coast all the way up to Canada. They have large front claws and very sweet meat inside. Off the Baja coast are the rock lobsters, smaller than their cousins and lacking the large front claw. The flavor of the rock lobster meat is not as sweet and can be a bit more fibrous. One thing in common for both of the lobster types is the meaty tail, which is often sold separated and previously frozen.
Buying previously frozen lobster tail affords the squeamish a good taste of the treat without having to confront a live beast in the kitchen but it also lends tougher meat with less flavor. To combat this, choose recipes that include a good amount of sauce such as a traditional lobster roll and be very careful to not overcook the meat. I always look forward to killing my own lobster because it is probably the freshest piece of meat I will ever put on a plate but it is necessary to hold to your convictions, otherwise the animal may suffer more than necessary.
There are two ways to kill lobsters. The first is probably the most recognized which is to plunge it headfirst into salted boiling water. This method is fine to enjoy a whole lobster with drawn butter or to prepare the meat for further, more elaborate, recipes such as Thermidor (gratineed in the shell) or a l’Americaine (simmered with tomato, garlic and herbs in white wine). Cook’s note: lobsters do not scream when immersed in boiling water! Any noise heard from the lidded pot is air escaping from beneath the shell. The lobsters are done after about 15-20 minutes in a rolling boil when an antenna can be pulled easily from the head.
The second method, and my preferred, is to kill the lobster before cooking. Face the lobster towards you on a cutting board with a reservoir to catch the liquids. Using a very sharp chef’s knife, position the pointed end down just behind the head where the body joint is. Quickly insert the knife vertically and bring the handle down so that the knife finishes in the horizontal position and the head has been split in two. This method is definitely not for the faint of heart but I feel it is the most humane because it severs all nerve endings and kills the lobster immediately. Personally, if having a choice, I would choose the guillotine before being boiled alive! Cook’s note: the lobster’s legs will move after it is dead due to residual electrical impulses that trigger the muscles to contract.
I choose the later method not only because I think it is more humane but also because I like to use the meat raw (as in the included recipe) and not softened by boiling water. Whichever method you choose based on recipe choice and preference, the lobsters should be cut in half lengthwise to ease the preparation. If boiling the lobsters allow them to cool to a reasonable temperature to handle, turn the lobster so that it is facing away from you and insert the knife into the incision at the head. Bring your knife down carefully to split the entire body in half. If cooking Maine lobster, remove the large limbs where they attach to the body and give the thickest parts a good whack with the back of your kitchen knife allowing easier access to the meat.
Whether you cook rock or Maine lobster, once split you will see a green material inside the cavity which is the liver or tamale. Some find this to be utterly delicious on its own but I usually forgo the green mater unless I choose to put it through a sieve and use it in a sauce. The only thing left to do now is eat the beast. The process can be a bit daunting and requires some kitchen shears but is worth the effort.
Pan roasted lobster with brandy-butter sauce
This recipe can be made with four previously frozen tails if you do not want to split a live lobster or you can kill them first in boiling water and remove before the meat is done which should take no longer than five minutes. Be sure that the claws are cracked well enough so that they can be eaten with little fuss.
Plan to kill the lobster just before cooking and follow the method in the column separating the large claws from the body and removing the tail. This will give you six raw lobster segments per animal. Be sure to remove any intestinal track from the tail as you would with shrimp. Remove the tamale and press with a fork until smooth then set aside.
2 Maine (or Canadian) lobsters (about 2 pounds each)
3 tablespoons peanut oil, bacon fat or ghee
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup dry white wine
Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees.
In a large, ovenproof sauté pan, heat the peanut oil, bacon fat or ghee over the highest heat for five minutes. Add in the lobster segments, shell side down, and gently agitate until they have taken on a red color with char marks from the oil (about four minutes). Turn all the pieces over and add the tamale to the middle of the sauté pan. Place the pan in the oven and cook three minutes.
Return to the stovetop. Reduce heat to medium high and add the shallots. Sauté quickly and add the brandy. Ignite the liquor and cook, gently agitating, until the flames have subsided. Add in the dry white wine and allow to reduce (making sure the largest part of the claws are in the liquid.
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