Feb 23, 2012

Hawaiian Spiny Lobster

Grilled Spiny Lobster Tails
The Hawaiian lobster fishing industry was very profitable in the 1980s and 1990s, as approximately 1 million lobsters had been caught, creating a huge export market from Hawaii to the mainland United States. Overfishing forced the closing of commercial lobster fishing in Hawaii, and now the only lobsters that can be caught legally are ones that are caught by hand by divers during lobster season from September 1, to April 31st. The lobsters that most people know outside of the tropics are the American and European 'clawed' lobsters. These are cold water species that live on either side of the northern Atlantic Ocean. There are also 'clawless' lobsters that are found in tropical areas around the world called spiny and slipper lobsters. The Hawaiian spiny lobster has a purple and white banded tail and black legs with a single white stripe. It is the most common species beyond the surf zone into deep water in Hawaii. It can grow to a length of 16 inches and is endemic to Hawaii.

The meat of the Hawaiian spiny lobster is sweet and very tasty because of the clean waters here. Spiny lobsters, pound for pound, have more meat in their bodies than New England lobsters do. Without claws the spiny lobsters defense is its spines. These spines are sharp, so wearing rubber gloves when handling and cleaning them is advised. Spiny lobster tails are traditionally grilled, basted with butter, as seen in the photo above. They are also excellent steamed and roasted. If you get the whole lobster, make lobster stock out of the body and legs – once you've picked the body meat out. Pretty much everything inside the body is edible except for the lungs, which are grayish and feathery and attached to the flanks of the critter, the sand sac between the eyes, and anything tube-like or crunchy. You can eat the tomalley, but if you do don't make a habit of it – it's like a liver, and is where the lobster stores toxins. The coral or roe is excellent. When buying a spiny lobster, look for a lively one. Never buy a dead lobster that has not been frozen! Enzymes in the lobster rot the meat very quickly. When buying frozen tails, look for ones that have been vacuum-sealed: They will last up to a year that way.

Commercial efforts to produce mass quantities of Hawaiian spiny lobsters for the marketplace are "in the works". Whether such efforts succeed or not, the Hawaiian spiny lobster needs all the help we can give it - and the first requirement is a healthy reef system. The second is careful regulation of recreational and commercial catches. Without these two elements, they cannot survive.

Grilled Spiny Lobster Tails
2 lobster tails (about 1 1/2 pounds each)
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper
lemon wedges
skewers (optional)

Melt butter in a medium pan. Peel the garlic cloves and chop fine. Saute the garlic cloves until almost brown. Remove pan from heat. Pour garlic butter into a measuring cup up to 1/4 cup level. Set aside remaining butter for later use. Using kitchen shears, cut down both sides of the underside of the tail to expose the meat. Peel away the tail cartilage from the underside to leave meat exposed. Do the same for the other lobster tail. Brush 1/4 cup of melted garlic butter on to the lobster meat. Sprinkle on some paprika, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Put lobster on skewer rods to keep the lobsters from curling while cooking. Oil grill grates with vegetable oil to prevent lobster from sticking. Preheat gas grill to medium-high heat. Put lobster meat side down and grill for 5-10 minutes. Cook until lobster meat turns white. Flip the tails and cook 3-5 more minutes on the shell side. Remove from grill. Heat up the remaining garlic butter and serve lobster tails with lemon wedges. For side dishes, serve with a green salad or blanched snow peas that have been buttered, rice, potatoes or grilled corn on the cob and a nice cold bottle of Riesling wine. Makes 2 servings.

Spiny Lobster with Black Bean Sauce
2 lobsters tails (about 1 1/2 pounds each)
2 tablespoons canola oil
salt to season
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup of soy sauce
1/4 cup of water
2 tablespoons of sesame oil
1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
3 tablespoons fermented black beans, chopped
3 tablespoons of cornstarch
6 tablespoons of water
1/4 cup minced green onions
1/4 cup Chinese parsley (cilantro) optional

Chop shelled lobster into bite sized pieces. Heat oil in wok or pan. Add salt, ginger and garlic. Put lobster in and saute for a minute. Add soy sauce, water, sesame oil, oyster sauce, red chili flakes, and black beans, and cover. Cook for 3 minutes; then stir and cook another 3 minutes. Thicken sauce with mixture of cornstarch and water. Add green onions. Garnish with Chinese parsley, if desired. Serve with white rice. Makes 4 servings.

Shirred Eggs with Lobster
In France, this method of baked eggs is called oeufs en cocotte which means "eggs baked in ramekins." This combination of creamy eggs lightened with mascarpone and sweet lobster is easy to prepare and as elegant a combination as you’ll find.

8 ounces chopped lobster meat
4 tablespoon clarified butter
4 teaspoons melted butter
8 eggs
8 tablespoons heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
4 heaping tablespoon mascarpone cheese
4 teaspoon minced chives

Pick over the lobster meat and remove any bits of shell. Heat the clarified butter in a 6-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the lobster meat and saute, stirring, for about 3 minutes until warm. Cover to keep warm and set aside. Put about 1 teaspoon melted butter into 4 individual baking dishes. Break 2 eggs into each dish. Add 2 tablespoons of cream to each dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in a preheated 350˚F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. After 15 minutes of cooking, sprinkle lobster and 1 tablespoon of cheese over each egg and cook for 5 minutes more. Turn out onto a warmed plate. Top with chives. Serve with steamed asparagus spears, laced with hollandaise sauce and hot buttered English muffins. Note: Cooking time for the eggs may vary depending on two factors, your oven, and the thickness of your baking dishes. It would be wise to test this before cooking the lobster. Makes 4 servings.

Lobster Radicchio Cups
Here I have combined cold lobster salad with Japanese Soba noodles, served in radicchio cups. Soba noodles are thin, made from buckwheat, and can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store. Radicchio is very popular in Italy. It is a vegetable that looks like a small head of red lettuce, but it is actually an Italian Chicory. It’s leaves serve as a cup for this lobster, noodle salad appetizer.

Ingredients for lobster salad:
1 pound of cooked lobster meat cut into bite-sized pieces
1 red onion, diced fine
8 stalks celery, diced fine
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk

Soba noodles, cooked and chilled
Radicchio cups
Radish sprouts for garnish

Mix together ingredients for lobster salad mix. Put a small amount of cold soba noodles in each radicchio cup and top with lobster salad mix. Garnish with radish sprouts. Makes 8 - 10 servings.

Lobster & Avocado Martini Salad
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
1 pound cooked lobster meat, coarsely chopped
2 shallots, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Old Bay Seasoning, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil or mayonnaise
2 teaspoons horseradish
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and diced
1 mango, peeled and diced
1/2 cup fresh, cooked corn kernels
one handful chopped parsley
1 jalapeno, minced (optional)

Whisk the melted butter and one tablespoon of the lemon juice. In a bowl mix the lobster pieces with the butter/lemon mixture and one of the chopped shallots. Add salt and pepper. Lightly sprinkle with the Old Bay Seasoning. (There’s salt in the Old Bay so consider this when adding the regular salt). In another bowl whisk the oil or mayonnaise with the horseradish, remaining one tablespoon of lemon juice, and the lemon zest. Add the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning. If it needs more zing, add a little more horseradish or lemon. If too sharp, add additional oil or mayonnaise. Spoon into martini glasses and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Cold Lobster Salad
with Avocado-Buttermilk Dressing

This is a simple but elegant and delicious salad. It can be made with lobster, crab, or shrimp, but I prefer Hawaiian Spiny lobster.

About 16 oz. cooked, and chilled, lobster, cut into 4 portions
1 large head or 4 cups of butter lettuce leaves
12 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 fuji apple, peeled, cored, quartered. Slice each quarter into 3 thin slices
Ingredients for dressing (see below)

Avocado-Buttermilk Dressing
1 ripe avocado
1 clove garlic
6 tablespoons buttermilk
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives or green onion tops, divided

Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. With a large spoon, scoop the avocado into the bowl of a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients, saving half of the chives for garnish, and mix until smooth.

Place a bed of lettuce on each of four salad plates. Place lobster on top of the lettuce, then arrange tomato halves around lobster. Drizzle dressing over each salad and garnish with chives and three thin apple slices on the side. Makes 4 servings.

Note: If buttermilk is not available, stir one tablespooon of fresh lemon juice into one cup of whole milk. Let the mixture sit for five minutes and stir until smooth. Sour cream or plain yogurt will also work – mix with a small amount of milk to thin it.

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