Well, I can say with great relief, that it looks like Restoration won’t be as dry as I thought. It’s a preliminary theory at this point, but if my professor can make 18th Century British literature as enticing as she can make her introduction class, we’ll be in for a decent semester. If not, there is always risqué poetry and Defoe. So that’s good news.
Also on the topic of good news, I plan to make good on my promise and give you a post that includes little to no whining and actually has something to do with food. So, to get straight to it: last week, I finally learned how to cook lobster.
Having a mother who grew up in Maine and living in New England myself, it feels like heresy that up until recently, I knew so little about the crustaceans. And to top it off, in the interest of full disclosure, I was always the kid that asked for steak at our Maine summer lobster bakes, if you can believe it. I cringe to think about all of the lobster I’ve missed growing up as a picky eater. But, I plan to make up for lost time, and in the case of lobster appreciation, as they say, it’s better late than never.
I’ve heard that the actual cooking is not for the faint of heart, but really, it isn’t so bad. The idea of placing a live creature to its death in a large, steaming pot isn’t exactly the most morally sound idea of dinner, but when you think about it, it’s the freshest you can get. And, if you can picture it, the real Mainers even humanely put them to sleep before their deathly plunge. I’m not sure if it really works, but they put the lobsters on their heads and stroke their tails – it ends up looking like some sort of lobster yoga, only without the mat and with an entirely different ending.
If you can get over the morality of the whole ordeal, cooking them is simple. All that’s necessary is bringing about an inch of water to boil in the bottom of a large pot, sticking them in, and letting them steam for a good 5 to 10 minutes. They’re ready when they’re bright red, and when, as my grandmother says, the antennae pull out very easily.
I had to learn how to shell them as well, and so after they were cooked, I stood over the sink with a shell-cracker on one side and my grandmother on the other, who patiently taught me how it’s done. If you want to know a secret from a real Mainer, she swears by the tamale, which is the green stuff in the chest cavity, to flavor any lobster soups or stews.
We just made a simple lobster salad with ours that night, which, aside from eating them straight from the shell doused in a whole lot of butter, is Maine’s second favorite way to eat them. (Drive along the coast and try to count the number of signs for ‘fresh lobstah rolls’ – it’ll drive you nuts. Or at least make you really hungry.) Fresh lobster tastes almost like the ocean: it’s faintly salty, as if someone has already done the seasoning for you. If you’re really feeling authentic, put your lobster salad in toasted, buttered hot dog rolls, and start dropping the “r’s” off your words left and right.
Maine lobster is so good that it doesn’t really need a whole lot, thus, the simplicity of this recipe. It’s also hard to mess up, so feel free to experiment: some people like to add celery, for example, and I bet white pepper would work nicely. Just whatever you do, don’t add salt until you taste it; most lobster will taste a bit briny to begin with, so it might not be needed.
2 lobsters, about a pound and a half each
Mayonnaise (I bet this would be even better with homemade)
Old Bay seasoning
Steam lobsters in an inch of water until bright red and they pass the antennae test. Let cool in a strainer.
Shell, and place all meat into a separate bowl. Coarsely shred the meat, and then add just enough mayonnaise to hold the mixture together, and a pinch each of celery seed and Old Bay. Serve in buttered rolls, or on sliders if you want to get fancy.