Jan 3, 2016

Tasty Creature From The Deep

What lives in a murky environment at the bottom of the sea, has 10 walking legs, blue blood, and does not slow down, weaken, or lose fertility with age? As a matter of fact, it gains fertility with age. This omnivore is a cousin of the cockroach, frequently sheds its skin and then eats it, and will resort to cannibalism of its own species if it gets hungry enough.

The Beautiful Blue Spiny Lobster
Photo Source
OK... give up? It's my first wife! Just kidding, it's the lobster (you cheated and peaked at the photo). It seems that prior to the mid-19th century, lobster was considered a mark of poverty and were only fed to indentured servants, lower members of society, and prisoners. The main use of lobster at that time was for fertilizer or fish bait. Boy have things changed.

The Hawaiian lobster is known locally as "ula", and is endemic to Hawaii. The species itself is highly protected, as are all the animals in Hawaii, and it will be quite difficult to attain one. Any commercial gathering is currently illegal; only hand-caught ula over certain lengths are legal.

In Hawaii, a
2 pound farm raised live lobster will cost you $30, plus shipping from the Big Island's Kona Cold Lobsters Ltd. That's a lot to pay for this cousin of a cockroach.

Regardless of the price, this former bug has grown to be one of the most popular luxury food items in the world. So if you spend all that money for lobster, you now have to cook it, and you sure don't want to mess that up now that you have mortgaged your house to buy them. That's why I'm here!

There are lots of ways to cook these spiny little bugs, depending on the occasion. Lobster can be served as an appetizer, in soup, salad, or as a main course. I've even heard of lobster cheesecake, Yep! Then you have to figure out what else to serve with your lobster meal, although just melted butter, sliced lemon, a small fork and a nutcracker suits me fine. Why clutter this beautiful flavor up with side dishes, but that's just me. At the very least you need to prepare and serve this crustacean as if it is the main event at your table. Don't hide it in pasta or sauce, display it. This is show biz I'm talking about here.

The first thing to know is that their are many ways to cook a lobster, boiled, steamed, grilled, sautéed,  baked, etc., lobster can also be eaten raw (as lobster sashimi, or carpaccio, served with micro greens and a soy yuzu dressing) however if eaten raw it must be very fresh and preferably alive before serving.

Many of the lobster tutorials I’ve seen suggest killing the lobster first before boiling or steaming it, and I consider this a more humane method of cooking them. Basically, you put the tip of a knife in the “cross” on the top of the body behind the eyes, and in one quick motion slice downwards through the head, splitting it in two. This will also allow you to remove the rubber bands on the claws, with less chance of getting hurt, and so long as you cook the lobsters right away there is no deterioration in the quality of the meat.

One of my favorite ways of cooking lobster is to steam them rather than boil them. If you boil lobster, you are losing flavor. The lobster should be steamed in a large pot with about 1″ of salted water with a steam rack on the pot bottom to keep the lobster out of the water. By steaming you not only get more tender meat but it preserves the natural juices already in the shell for a tastier more succulent experience. Generally you cook a 1 pound lobster for about 8 minutes, 10 minutes for a 1.5 pound lobster, and 12 minutes for a 2 pound lobster. You are looking for lobster meat that is still firm but still moist. If you are cooking a lobster with claws, they take longer to cook than the body because the shell is thicker on the claw. After the whole lobster is cooked to the appropriate time, remove the claws and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Ok enough talking, here are some of my favorite recipes for preparing this 
"Tasty Creature From The Deep":

Butter Poached Lobster 
with Fresh Tomatoes, Shallots & Garlic
This is an easy, and beautiful way to prepare lobster tails, poached in a butter sauce and served with garlic and fresh tomatoes served over pasta.

1 3/4 pound live lobster (or 2 uncooked lobster tails)
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick), cut into 1 tablespoon chunks
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
2 tablespoons shallots, minced
4 Roma tomatoes, cut into chunks
3/4 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 pound linguini pasta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

If you are using lobster tails: Thaw the lobsters in the refrigerator. Using sharp kitchen shears, cut the shell of the lobster all the way down its back. Turn it over and cut bottom shell all the way down. Peel off shell and remove meat. Repeat this process with the other tail.

If using a live whole lobster - steam it in a large pot with 1-inch of salted water with a rack in it (so the lobster doesn't touch the water). After 3 minutes of steaming, remove all lobster meat from shell when cooled and cut into large chunks.

Bring salted pasta water to a boil and prepare linguini pasta according to package directions.

In a sauce pan, bring 1 tablespoon of water to simmer over medium-low heat. Whisk in 1 piece of butter. When butter had melted, add another piece. Continue with remaining butter pieces, one at a time. Make sure the mixture does NOT come to a boil, otherwise the butter will separate.

Keeping the heat on medium-low, add the lobster pieces and cook for 5 minutes, turning the lobster pieces every minute or so. Make sure mixture does not boil. Remove lobster pieces and set aside.

In the same saucepan, turn the heat up just a bit, add the garlic and shallots. When fragrant, add the tomatoes and corn. Cook for just a couple of minutes until the tomatoes have released some of the juices. I like to gently smash the tomatoes a bit so more juice comes out.

Put the cooked pasta in bowls and top with the lobster pieces. Spoon tomatoes over the lobster and sprinkle with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Note: You can freeze the lobster shells, just like shrimp shells, and use them later to make a stock for preparing lobster bisque, or lobster bouillabaisse.

Lobster Bisque
4, 1/2 pound lobster tails, in shells
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1/2 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup white wine
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/3 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 cups lobster base (see instructions below)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Fill a large pot half-way with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the lobster tails and boil for 8 minutes, or until the shells are bright red and the flesh is opaque. Remove the lobster from the boiling water and allow to cool. Reserve the water – this will become your lobster base.

Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and onion and saute until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, until the garlic becomes fragrant.

To make the lobster base, remove the lobster from the shell either by cutting through the shell with kitchen shears (my preferred method) or chopping in half and pulling out the flesh. Place the lobster on a cutting board and, after removing any remaining veins, chop into bite-size pieces. Throw the shells back in the water you just boiled the lobster in and boil for another 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, strain the water from the shells using a fine mesh strainer, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the base.

Add the flour to the onion-shallot-garlic mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 2 minutes.

Slowly add the wine, taking care to slowly incorporate the wine into the thickened mixture. Once mixed in and smooth, add the Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, salt, pepper and thyme. Cook for 1-2 minutes until this mixture becomes a thick paste.

Slowly add the sherry and deglaze the pan if any bits are sticking to the pan at this time.

Add the paprika, tomato paste and lobster base and stir to combine well. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Blend the mixture in a blender or using an immersion blender. The mixture should be very smooth. Return the blended mixture to the pan and add in the heavy cream and butter. Taste at this time to check if any additional salt or pepper is needed. Bring the mixture to a simmer.

Once simmering, add the lobster chunks back in and cook until heated though.

Serve hot and with crusty bread. Makes 4 servings.

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.

Stuffed Baked Maine Lobster
This recipe was given to me by my photographer friend Marty Saccone, long time resident of Lubec, Maine. This is his favorite way to have lobster, his mother's recipe. Thanks Marty for your Mom's recipe!

Ingredients, per lobster:
1 to 1 1/2 cups of unseasoned bread crumbs
1/2 stick of butter
3 tablespoons of finely diced onions
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon of fresh diced parsley
Pinch of salt and pepper

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pound fresh live Maine lobster (tail should be flipping as you handle it.
Any lifeless or limp lobster SHOULD NOT be consumed.)

Wash entire lobster under cold water removing the two claws at the body. (remove elastic bands from each claw)

Holding the lobster on its back, with a sharp knife, split the underside from head to tail making sure you don't penetrate the top outer shell. (No the lobster does not scream)

Spread open the underside of the lobster and remove the tamale (a green fleshy tubular substance found in the head that resembles a 2 to 3 inch braided rope) rinse and set tamale aside.

Rinse clean the entire inside of the lobster discarding all remaining waste. Set lobster, split side up, in a baking pan.

In a mixing bowl, combine bread crumbs, parsley, onions, tamale, salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a saucepan then add the Worstershire sauce.

Pour that over the bread crumb mixture and mix thoroughly (be sure to mash the tamale into the crumb mixture) till the mixture is evenly dry/moist,..."not mushy". At this point you can add more or less melted butter/crumbs (or water to achieve the desired moistness) depending on how much butter your comfortable consuming.

With a spoon, fill the entire split lobster underside with your crumb mix, I heap it on it's so delicious when done.

Crack the lobster claws slightly with a claw cracker, and place them alongside the stuffed lobster in the pan.

Bake uncovered in a pre-heated oven at 350˚F for 20 to 25 minites. I like the stuffing browned n' toasted on the outside.

The kitchen now smells delicious.....if not,...go outside,...breath in fresh air to clear your sinuses,....and return to the kitchen.

Serve lobster hot and garnish with parsley and a wedge of fresh lemon along side.

Freshly melted butter can be used to dip lobster meat as you remove it from the shell.

This stuffing is soooooo good IMHO, that you will eat it, and push the lobster aside, not really but almost.

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