Friday, June 29, 2007

Annual Lobster

There are some things in life that are worth waiting for; English asparagus, local strawberries, new potatoes and LOBSTER. You can get them frozen, you can get them from warmer climes, but as my birthday coincides with the height of the native lobster season it is my traditional present to myself. Our colder waters, like those of Maine, produce the sweetest, tenderest, tastiest lobsters in the world. They are also fantastically expensive.

You can, of course, buy your lobster ready cooked, but unless you know your lobstermonger well, and know how and when he cooks his crustaceans, it is infinitely better to buy it live and cook it yourself. I usually have a bit of a tussle with the beast, but that is nothing to the struggle I have with my conscience. Other seafoods go live into the pot, but none gives you pause for thought quite like a lobster.

Mine was a female, about 1.5 lbs, an ideal weight and plenty for two. Don’t be persuaded to buy bigger creatures – you will be disappointed.

I have in the past cooked lobster by putting it in a pot of cold water and bringing it slowly to the boil. The idea is that the lobster gets sleepy as the water warms up, and quietly expires at around 80ÂșC. The last time I did that she struggled and clattered and banged around in the pot and I felt truly dreadful.

So this time I tried another technique. My girl was pretty lively and I put her in the freezer for half an hour. At the end of that time the water had come to the boil and she was frosty and slow. I muttered an apology as I held her over the steam and then dropped her in and slammed on the lid. Twenty minutes later she had turned from a lively navy with ocelot spots to a brilliant lipstick red. I left her to cool.

If I ate as much lobster as I would like to eat I would probably do something different with it from time to time, but as I eat it so rarely my appetite for plain cold lobster with potato salad and cucumber has not yet abated. Worth making a bit of an effort with the cucumber though, so I peeled it, sliced it thinly on a mandolin, salted it and set it to drain for half an hour. Patted dry and checked to make sure it isn’t too saline, it only needed some chopped parsley and a splash of elderflower vinegar – which I must say worked a treat.

It’s a bit personal between me and the lobster, but it was absolutely delicious.


Figs Olives Wine said...

If you put your chef's knife tip into that indentation on their head and slice down quickly (so you halve the head lengthwise), they die immediately & painlessly. The freezer is a huge help too in keeping them calm (which keeps their meat more tender, incidentally). I hear you though - it never bothered me until we sat around and talked about techniques in culinary school. I got really woozy that day, which I hope I managed to hide. I've seen some truly brutal moments in professional kitchens though...ugh. Gorgeous post by the way, and happy birthday!

June said...

Thank you very much indeed for the tip - I have often read that this is how chefs do it but have never felt the instructions were precise enough to try it myself. Might have to rush out and acquire a lobster just to test it out!

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