By Catharine Kaufman
For devoted pescavores, here’s a primer on getting the best and most out of this delightful treasure of the sea.
Can you believe, lobster was once a poor man’s food and even used as bait for fish when it was good and plenty in the frontier days of Davy Crockett?
A cousin of mine grew up in a small maritime fishing town in Nova Scotia that boasts the world’s largest lobster on record — a heavyweight toppling the scales at 44 pounds. Since it takes 5-7 years for a lobster to reach one pound (typical market size) you do the math on this Methuselah of crustaceans.
There are boy and girl lobsters. In lobstermen vernacular, the male is called a “cock,” the female a “hen,” the latter distinguished by a wider dorsal tail region to accommodate premature eggs or roe that give bisque an intense lobster flavor. So if you enjoy a meatier tail, go for the girl.
Death by boiling
Lobsters are not the sharpest creatures in the sea; their miniscule brains resemble a grasshopper’s tangled mass of ganglia, supporting lobstermen’s claims that the creatures experience little pain when boiled alive. To appease lobster-advocates, the recommended method is to immerse the crustaceans into ice water to anesthetize them prior to boiling.
To prepare a sweet and tender lobster, bring water to a rolling boil. Add the lobster (numbed in ice water, if you wish). Cover and bring to another boil. Simmer, letting it poach for about 5 minutes for a one-and-a-quarter-pounder, 2 minutes for each additional pound. Lobster must be cooked like Baby Bear’s porridge – just right. Don’t overcook unless you want a jaw workout, and don’t undercook unless you want a mushy and perhaps unsafe meal.
What lobsters lack in brains they gain in brawn. Fierce bullies and cannibals, they cannot be farm-raised through aquaculture (like salmon and oysters) since they grow at a glacial pace and it would be difficult to referee and protect the “pod” during such a long stretch of captivity. They beat up each other, the winner being treated to a nice lobster dinner.
Packed with protein
You’ll get cracking with a succulent low-fat, low-carb, protein-packed steamed lobster. Like other shellfish, lobsters contain a motherloade of vitamin B-12 to boost brain health, B-3 to dial-up digestion and mellow out nerves, zinc to amp up the immune system and heal wounds, and selenium for an optimum thyroid.
Pick a winner
When buying lobster ask your reputable fishmonger to look for a succulent newcomer to the tank with a feisty, energetic spirit. Bigger is not always better in the lobster world as the smaller ones usually have more tender flesh.
While lobsters come in designer shades from black and blue to yellow and white, the hue is irrelevant to flavor or texture.
The tools of the trade for eating a whole lobster are patient, adept hands, a good cracker, a lobster fork to dig out choice morsels, and a bib.
Herringbone’s Lobster Roll
Thanks to Chef Amanda Baumgarten, when you make this at home you won’t have to fish for compliments!
• 5 ounces Maine lobster meat (claw and tail), chopped
• Lemon Mayo: 4 ounces mayo, plus zest and juice from 2 lemons (Meyers or Eurekas)
• 1 tablespoon chopped cornichons (sour gherkin)
• 1 tablespoon chopped capers
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Method: Mix 3 tablespoons of lemon mayo with the chopped lobster meat, and serve on a toasted bun of your choice — brioche is recommended.
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How the locals do lobster
• George’s California Modern at The Cove: Savory and smoked flavored Maine lobster.
• La Jolla’s La Valencia Hotel and Herringbone’s: Both serve a mean lobster roll.
• Beaumont’s in Bird Rock: Lobster Pappardelle dressed with house-dried tomato and shichimi spice.
• Del Mar’s Burlap: Lobster, Avocado and Gruyere Scramble with Asian hollandaise sauce.
• Donovan’s: A rare catch of deep-sea Australian Rock Lobster tail or Lobster Fricassée
• San Diego’s Saltbox: Lobster corn dogs with ginger remoulade.