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I'm a lobster newbie


MJP
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There's a fantastic deal on lobster at my local supermarket: $5.99/lb for 4-6 pound lobsters. I can't let this go. Of course, I'm going to have one steamed and go at it with my roommates, but I want to do something else with lobster. Is there anything basic I could try other than lobster rolls? Preferably something that will last a day or two in the fridge after it's cooked/prepped.

Any advice is welcome!

"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside" -Mark Twain

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Which store? I think we are nearby

you could cut up lightly steamed meat and sautee in butter then finish with sherry and cream

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

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Use the shells to make lobster bisque <yum>

At the size you're talking about, you can make a mean lobster bisque with tons of lobster meat in it. Here's how I'd do it:

Instead of eating a whole lobster with your friends, just eat a couple of tails. Tails are the best eating when you're having lobster straight up as whole pieces with butter.

When it's getting near time for your lobster-tail meal, take the whole lobsters, raw, and remove the tails and claws. Clean out the bodies of all the guts. If you get any roe, set it aside.

Boil the tails and claws until the tails are cooked the way you want for eating, and the claws are undercooked (this will take the same amount of time). Set the claws aside in a bowl of ice.

Then, have your lobster-tail dinner. Save the shells when dinner is over.

After the feast, remove the meat from the claws and knuckles (a kitchen shears can be helpful here, though if the shells are really hard you'll need a lobster cracker). Refrigerate the meat in a covered bowl.

Then take all those shells -- the bodies, the claw shells, the tail shells -- and roast them in the oven for about half an hour. Then make a stock with the shells, a standard mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery) and some fennel. Cook this for a long time, like a meat stock, several hours, not like a fish stock. Strain it and refrigerate it.

If you had some roe, wrap it in foil and put it in the toaster oven at a low temperature for a long time -- until it totally dries out. Then let it cool and mash it with cold butter to make a lobster-roe compound butter. Refrigerate that.

The next day, when it's time to make the meal, heat up your lobster stock. Add a bunch of cream. Season with salt and white pepper. Add the chopped up claw and knuckle meat. Let the meat heat through. At the end, stir in a bunch of that lobster roe butter.

Serve with crusty bread.

If it's not the best thing you've ever eaten, let me know.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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When it's getting near time for your lobster-tail meal, take the whole lobsters, raw, and remove the tails and claws. Clean out the bodies of all the guts. If you get any roe, set it aside.

I know you're talking about butchering the lobster while it's alive; are there any more detailed instructions for this on eG or elsewhere online? Or any chance you could do a demo next time you're doing this?

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One thing the website does not say is that there is a convenient set of groves in the lobster shell (X marks the spot) and if you put the tip of your chef knife in the center of the cross (you can just see it in the photos) and quickly press down then you'll kill the beast humanely.

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

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  • 2 weeks later...

There's a nice piece today in the Wall Street Journal on how to kill a lobster.

Mr. Ripert slides the escapee back to the cutting board and places a hand firmly on its back. (He leaves the rubber bands around the lobsters' claws so he doesn't get pinched.) Then he places the tip of the knife in the cross where the head of the lobster meets the body and, with a quick jab and downward swish, splits the lobster's head in half.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I've been cooking and killing lobsters for almost 50 years now. We used to spend the summers in Wells Maine and I can tell you that if you were to ask any of the locals about pithing a lobster which is the technique mentioned in this Thread, they would give you a stare. The lobsters nervous syetm is quite primative and it really doesn't matter at all if you cook or cook after pithing.

I also remove the rubber bands because of the flavor they may impart. It was lot nicer when wood pegs held the claws.

Anyway, unless I am grilling or using some technique where the lobster must remain still during preperation or cooking, it's head first into the boiling water.-Dick

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I've spent a lot of time in restaurants researching my books and articles, and I can tell you that there's a big difference between setting up an appointment with a chef for a couple of hours to see him doing one thing, and actually working in a restaurant kitchen for a week or more. If you call up any chef and go in just to see a procedure, you'll be shown a staged, sanitized, politically correct, presentation version of the procedure. If you go work in the restaurant, they try to keep that up for about three hours and then they have to get their work done so they have no choice but to go back to normal.

Here's what they really do in a lot of restaurants:

Exhibit A: In a real working restaurant kitchen, when you might be prepping fifty or more lobsters for service for a Friday night, you don't have time to do any fancy BS supposedly humane euthanasia with a knife. You've got work to do.

Exhibit B: In the better restaurants, they don't cook lobsters whole. Except for lobster shack and steakhouse type places, chances are you're going to get a plated dish where the meat has been removed from the lobster. So the claws and tails are cooked separately, because the tails and claws take different amounts of time to cook to the ideal degree of doneness. You cook claws almost twice as long as tails.

Exhibit C: Separate cooking of claws and tails, plus the need for speed, equals you just dismember the lobsters while they're still alive. Yes, you take a live, struggling lobster, and you twist one of its arms right off and throw it in a bin. Then you twist the other arm off. Once you get the motion down, it's easy. They come right off -- after all, in the wild a lobster will "throw a claw" to escape if necessary. Then, you grasp the lobster firmly around the body and tail and you rip the tail off. You throw the tail in a different bin. Then you pull the lobster's guts out, setting aside any roe, and discarding the rest of the guts in a garbage pail. It's totally gross, because the lobster is still moving its little legs and antennae while you do this. You throw the body shells in another bin. After awhile, you have three bins and a small bowl: claws, tails, shells, roe. And all the lobsters are dead -- before cooking, even. Then you boil the claws and tail separately, so they're a little underdone. You remove all the meat with shears and various other tools, but mostly with brute force. You refrigerate. All the shells go into stock. The roe goes into whatever -- maybe a compound butter used to finish dishes. At service, when it's time to fire a lobster order, you take a claw from one lobster, a claw from another lobster and a tail from another lobster (because by now everything is all mixed up) and you finish them with a little heat to get them to done. Plate them, sauce them, send them out, move on.

That's how restaurants cook lobster, okay?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Actually, with our clawless abominations down here (known as "spiny" or "Florida" lobster) it is usually just a quick kinfe point where the head meets the top of the body. Then split (from nose to stern), gut and stuff with crab meat dressing while it is still - well, you know what it is still doing.

That is, unless the enthusiastic sport diver didn't just wring the tail off the poor bugger under water and leave the rest to nurture the other wildlife on the reef that the lobster has been terrorizing.

Maine lobsters? Hey, they'd pinch my nose off if they had half a chance.

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It's totally gross, because the lobster is still moving its little legs and antennae while you do this.

I can't believe Fat Guy just wrote that, that way. :smile:

When I was little we visited my grandfather and his brother out in New Brunswick a few times; both were lobster fishermen, so I saw lobsters being handled a lot, and I ate a lot. (I have to ask about the methodology of cooking because I was too little to remember and both of them have passed on since then.) But I do distinctly recall someone yelling at someone else that losters are never to be cut up live because they'll excrete all over their own meat as you're butchering them, and you can't really cook the taste of the lobster crap out of the meat. Whether that's an old wives' tale or based in truth I'm not sure, but I figure if you're chopping them up anyways the first cut might as well be the one that kills them, just in case. Just a thought.....

Edited to add: Old wives' tale about lobster # 2 : The elastics must be removed from the claws before submerging a live lobster in boiling water; the reason being that a frightened lobster with a closed claw will clench its little fists, so to speak, and that tenseness in its body will toughen the meat, whereas a lobster without a restricted claw will actually throw its claws open when frightened, resulting in a relaxed claw and therefore more tender meat. However, knowing lobsters don't really have anything that could be described as muscle, I doubt this one really has any merit.

Edited by Sugarella (log)
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  • 3 weeks later...

Interested in the live killing method. I always heard that cooking made it easier to remove the shell, is this not so ?

I just cooked my first lobster last night. Unfortunately, it was a dude. I did not butcher it alive but followed the Keller method which basically consists of bringing salted water to a boil then putting the lobster in, cutting the heat off, and letting it rest there for 2 minutes (5 min longer for claws) then poaching it. I used a butter,mint, fennel, vanilla, orange broth that was good and served it with kiwi and fresh greens.

My question though is while butchering the lobster there was a white goo that seemed to pour out of everything when I was taking off the claws and tail. It smelled really briny and frankly pretty bad. The last user mentioned something about excrement ? What's going on here? While I enjoyed the lobster, in the back of my mind was this smell that I still feared I was going to taste on the meat. Any experience with this ?

I'll be making a bisque soon....

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When I was little we visited my grandfather and his brother out in New Brunswick a few times; both were lobster fishermen, so I saw lobsters being handled a lot, and I ate a lot.  (I have to ask about the methodology of cooking because I was too little to remember and both of them have passed on since then.) But I do distinctly recall someone yelling at someone else that losters are never to be cut up live because they'll excrete all over their own meat as you're butchering them, and you can't really cook the taste of the lobster crap out of the meat. Whether that's an old wives' tale or based in truth I'm not sure, but I figure if you're chopping them up anyways the first cut might as well be the one that kills them, just in case.  Just a thought.....

There maybe something to this old wives tale..... An old wife (my mum) taught me that the best way to purge a live lobster of all it's crap is to push a thin chopstick as far up it's jacksy as it will go. Hold it tight over your sink or bucket as the critter squirms for a while before it goes stiff and releases all the excrement. You can then do whatever you normally do with it. I still do this to every lobster i cook at home - though it does take some getting used to as it's not the most pleasant task. Every Cantonese cook i know does this.

Edited by Prawncrackers (log)
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Fat Guy - I noticed no use of tomato paste in your bisque. Any particular reason? Also, I happen to like finishing is NOT a lot of cream (personal preference) and a little cayenne. Comments?

On killing the lobsters - I grew up in MD where we ate shellfish quite a bit. I had never heard about the whole 'getting rid of excrement' thing. Is there really something to this?

Regarding the white liquid pouring out of the boiled lobster, I'm guessing that's just retained water from the cooking process. Lobsters boiled and steamed usually put out a fair amount of liquid post-cooking when being broken down.

I had never heard the thing about the rubber bands imparting flavor, but I that does make sense and I'll modify my procedure going forward.

Great thread. Keep it going!

-Mark-

---------------------------------------------------------

"If you don't want to use butter, add cream."

Julia Child

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Interested in the live killing method.  I always heard that cooking made it easier to remove the shell, is this not so ?

I just cooked my first lobster last night.  Unfortunately, it was a dude.  I did not butcher it alive but followed the Keller method which basically consists of bringing salted water to a boil then putting the lobster in, cutting the heat off, and letting it rest there for 2 minutes (5 min longer for claws) then poaching it.  I used a butter,mint, fennel, vanilla, orange broth that was good and served it with kiwi and fresh greens. 

My question though is while butchering the lobster there was a white goo that seemed to pour out of everything when I was taking off the claws and tail.  It smelled really briny and frankly pretty bad.  The last user mentioned something about excrement ? What's going on here?  While I enjoyed the lobster, in the back of my mind was this smell that I still feared I was going to taste on the meat.  Any experience with this ? 

I'll be making a bisque soon....

I think that the white goo is coagulated protein. The same thing happens when I cook dungeness crab.

Shelley: Would you like some pie?

Gordon: MASSIVE, MASSIVE QUANTITIES AND A GLASS OF WATER, SWEETHEART. MY SOCKS ARE ON FIRE.

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I was fortunate enough to be able to buy the lobster shells by the sack from the docks. I crush the shells by running them through the hobart mixer using the paddle attachement, rinse, then roast with the mirepoix. Crushing the shells makes it easier to squeeze every last drop of the lobster stock. Save the stock for bisques or Sauce Americaine or reduce to a glaze to flavour fish terrines and seafood mousselines. If you want to be get fancy with the bisque presentation, cover the cup with puff pastry and bake.

What I have not tried is poaching lobster tail in butter ala Charlie Trotter.

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I really want to try lobster, (I mean cooking it on my own) but I am so worried the poor thing is suffering terribly during the process. Can someone tell me if the poor little guys are in pain or not?

(Yes, as an old animal rights activist I worry about this, but I do love a good lobster. Go figure.)

"I eat fat back, because bacon is too lean"

-overheard from a 105 year old man

"The only time to eat diet food is while waiting for the steak to cook" - Julia Child

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I recently read a study done that showed the lobster doesn't feel pain. The "kicking and screaming" actions are supposed to be a fight or flight reaction, purely instinct to preserve it's life. Something about no pain receptors. I will try to find the link to the science article for you and post it here.

Brenda

I whistfully mentioned how I missed sushi. Truly horrified, she told me "you city folk eat the strangest things!", and offered me a freshly fried chitterling!

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I would be very grateful of that. I would love to cook lobster, but I am concerned about that one thing.

"I eat fat back, because bacon is too lean"

-overheard from a 105 year old man

"The only time to eat diet food is while waiting for the steak to cook" - Julia Child

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Several quick points on the lobster matter:

Instead of eating a whole lobster with your friends, just eat a couple of tails. Tails are the best eating when you're having lobster straight up as whole pieces with butter.

Fat Guy, being from NYC, is ill-informed on this particular issue. Any New Englander knows that knuckles are the best eating.

It's totally gross, because the lobster is still moving its little legs and antennae while you do this.

That's pretty gross, it's true. Even more gross is when you are cleaning the meat out of a freshy dismembered lobster: the translucent flesh twitches even when the limb is detached from the rest of the body but is still sitting in a tail or claw. To make lobster sausage, for example, requires scraping fidgeting meat out of shells.

My question though is while butchering the lobster there was a white goo that seemed to pour out of everything when I was taking off the claws and tail.  It smelled really briny and frankly pretty bad.  The last user mentioned something about excrement ? What's going on here?  While I enjoyed the lobster, in the back of my mind was this smell that I still feared I was going to taste on the meat.  Any experience with this ? 

I've killed a lot of lobsters in my time and none have ever smelled bad. Briny to me isn't bad, however. If it smelled like a good oyster tastes, that's fine. If it smelled like a bad oyster after three days on your porch in the sun, toss the expensive garbage.

I really want to try lobster, (I mean cooking it on my own) but I am so worried the poor thing is suffering terribly during the process. Can someone tell me if the poor little guys are in pain or not?

David Foster Wallace wrote about this in Gourmet -- an article that featured prominently in our eG Spotlight with Ruth Reichl; click here for that particular topic.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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