Summer is synonymous with Maine lobster. This year has been a particularly abundant year for the lobstermen. I will feature a few different recipes this summer featuring live Maine lobster. We need to start by discussing the basic process and a few options.
I began eating lobster on my 7th birthday. My sophisticated aunt and uncle who lived in Milwaukee (of all places) introduced this wonderful delicacy to me and for that I will be forever thankful. I continued my experiences with lobster as a student in Boston. I usually couldn’t afford it, but since Boston was known for lobster and other seafood, a benevolent friend of family member would show up from time to time and take me for that great treat. In my later years in Boston, we would buy lobster at the local fishmonger and cook it ourselves. Me and lobster, we go way back.
There are three ways of simply preparing lobster. Each are valid and all preserve the perfectly simple, sweet deliciousness of the bright red crustacean. I am going to go away from my typical format today and just describe these three methods. Before you start, make sure you purchase live lobster and that you bring them home and cook them right away.
This is probably the simplest method. You will need a large pot. Fill it nearly all the way with water, leaving room for the lobster of course. About 2 quarts per lobster. If you want you can flavor the water with lemon, herbs, old bay (Which I do not like) and bay leaves. You can also leave the water plain and salt generously when it starts to boil. I have read as much as 1 tablespoon per quart but I think that might be a bit much. Just dump a bunch in there.
Once the water is boiling, grab the lobster by the back. Leave the rubber bands on the claws. Take them off at your own risk but there is no real reason to. Drop the live lobster into the water. He or she will die right away. Boil for about 7-8 minutes per pound. Don’t crowd the pot but you can certainly cook two or three in a big pot.
Remove and cut off the rubber bands. Let sit for a few minutes in order for it to be cool enough to handle. The meat will continue to cook while it cools. You will know they are done when they are bright red and one of the little tentacles pulls off really easily.
In that same large pot, pour about an inch or two of water in the bottom. Salt it generously. Bring to boil. As soon as it starts to boil place the lobsters in the pot and cover. Steaming will take about the same amount of time, although I have found that if you let it go a minute or two longer per pound they will not get overcooked. Steaming is a bit more gentle and forgiving if you happen to be consumed melting the butter that you will need.
I am not a huge fan of grilling lobster because I don’t really think that it imparts much flavor and if it does, it masks the sweetness. But, if you must, your best bet is to steam of boil them for a couple of minutes first then place over hot flames and cover with a lid or an aluminum tent. Depending on the heat of your grill, it should take about the same amount of time as steaming.
Once you get these buggers ready to eat you will need a couple of additional items:
In a pan over low heat, gently melt a stick of butter. When the milk solids fall to the bottom remove from heat and either strain or spoon off into a small bowl. Optionally add a squeeze of lemon.
A cracker device of some sort is good to get you into the claw pieces and knuckles. A nutcracker works perfectly. Kitchen sheers are also handy. A small fork or pick is great for getting the little bits that some people don’t bother with and a bib is always a good idea for the uninitiated.
How to Eat
If you are new to eating whole lobster I have found several you-tube tutorials on the subject. It is not complicated but can be daunting the first time. Do a little homework and share with your guests. Even if you have done it before, it’s worth a reminder, it’s a good laugh and it wont embarrass your guests if you all watch. Here is one that will lead to others. If you are a real pro and a bit of a show off, do a live demonstration. They will be amused by your showmanship and secretly grateful.