Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How To Cook A Lobster

I first came to Maine in 1978 as a Seaman Apprentice fresh out of Coast Guard boot camp. I spent my entire four year enlistment on the Maine coast and underway on the cold coastal waters. Sometimes, after towing a disabled fishing vessel back to port, the grateful fishermen (no women fishers in those days) would give us as many live lobsters as we would take. These lobsters were accidentally caught up in their nets as they fished for bottom-dwelling cod and haddock. Some of these lobsters were over a foot and a half long--with claws big and strong enough to take one of your fingers clean-off if you weren’t careful! We’d cook these lobsters on board our boat with whatever rudimentary cookware we could assemble. They were delicious. That was over thirty years and many, many lobsters ago. Long out of the Coast Guard, I’m still in Maine and still cooking lobsters.

Here’s how to do it:

Get yourself a big pot with a tight fitting lid. It has to be big enough to comfortably hold all the lobsters you’re cooking. Add water to a depth of one half inch--no more. Ideally, place a steamer rack or an upside down round cake pan in the water at the bottom of the pot. This will keep the lobsters completely out of the boiling water—preserving maximum flavor. If you don’t have anything around to raise the lobsters out of the water, don’t fret. The lobsters will still be delicious even if they’re somewhat submerged while they cook.

Bring the water in the covered pot to a full boil over high heat. Add the lobsters and re-cover the pot. Steam them until they're done. This will take about 14-16 minutes for the smallest one-pound lobsters and up to 30 minutes for a big two-pounder.

Anyway, those times are just a rough guide to plan the rest of the meal by. Here’s how to tell when lobsters are perfectly done regardless of their size, whether you’re cooking them in a fancy $200 stockpot on a restaurant quality stove--or in a cheap tin pot over a little camping stove on the beach at sunset.

As you probably know, a lobster has feelers—antennae, if you prefer. These are the two long things sticking out of its head at the very front. Up until the point that the lobster is properly and fully cooked, these feelers are firmly anchored to the rest of the lobster. When the lobster is done, the feelers are easily removed with a fairly gentle tug. This works for all size lobsters in any tightly covered pot.

How hard should you have to pull on the damned things? Not very. Imagine the end of the feeler somehow firmly affixed to a quart bottle of your favorite beverage. If you were holding your cooked lobster by its body and tried to lift the imaginary bottle off the ground, the feeler would detach. Or another, more practical, example of the force required would be: suspend the (hopefully) now-cooked lobster over the pot by holding the end of one of its feelers firmly between your thumb and forefinger. Rather sharply bounce the body up and down about two inches—about as hard as you would knock on a door. The feeler should detach. If it doesn’t, steam the little bugger a couple more minutes and check again. When the feeler detaches, the lobster is done. That’s it.

For an easily printable version of this recipe, click here.

Lobster For Dinner Tonight (And Green Goddess Potato Salad)

Ms. Bic and I are off to Wyoming and Yellowstone Park this Friday. We'll be gone just one week. It's a first for both of us and we're pretty excited. Since Wyoming is not a big seafood destination, we figure we should get our fill of good Maine seafood over the next few days before we leave.

There was a good piece in the Portland Daily Sun a few days ago on the current lobster situation.

Well, I did my little part to help the Maine lobster industry this morning. I'm just back from Harbor Fish Market down on the waterfront. I got three small hardshell lobsters for about $15. To go with the lobsters, I'll be making a potato salad with a few Frenchy haricot vert green beans mixed in. It's a great recipe from Gourmet magazine that's become a favorite at our house. The anchovies in it are the secret weapon. A relatively cheap and really good meal! Oh yeah, did I forget to mention a Maine lobster loves a nice chilled Sauvignon Blanc or Muscadet or Pinot Grigio served alongside?

Update 7/1/09: The words "(And Green Goddess Potato Salad)" were added to the original title to make it easier to find the recipe on the blog.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Breakfast Was Good (Jerk Pork Chops and Jamaican Rice With Pigeon Peas)

This morning I warmed up some leftover Jamaican Rice and Pigeon Peas to go with my eggs. Lots of habaneros in there to help fire me up for the day. I originally made the rice Tuesday evening as the single accompaniment to grilled jerk pork chops. Try them both for a nice Caribbean dinner with friends.

Serve some Red Stripe Jamaican beer if you're so inclined--or a bottle of chilled white wine. La Vieille Ferme is relatively cheap ($8-9) these days and pairs nicely. If you want to splurge, Louis Jadot's Macon-Villages ($12-14) is wonderful with this dinner. If you just want a lot of decent, fun wine to swill enjoy with your friends while you're talking, grilling, and eating--get a box of Bota Box Chardonnay ($16-18 for 3 liters) and make sure it's been in the fridge long enough to get good and cold.

Update 7/1/09: Original title changed from "Breakfast Was Good" to make the recipes easier to find on the blog now that there is a LOT more content than there was when the post was originally published.