08 June 2011

Le Saison des Homards!

  1. Let's start at the beginning.  "I grew up in Montana" is a code phrase with several meanings.  Today's context-based translation: I've never touched a lobster, dead or alive.  
  2. Add in a dose of moving to the "almost" East Coast is bound to provide opportunities for "lifer" experiences - first time doing/seeing/eating something.  
  3. Sprinkle with a little of my life philosophy to try (almost) anything theoretically edible at least once.  
  4. Mix until smooth with the fact that eating locally and seasonally is second to the top of my food criteria list (right below home grown).  

Yield: Lobster season in Québec is NOW, and I wouldn't miss it!

*Disclaimer for squeamish folks - I kill things, and eat them.  
Some of "them" are animals.  My husband does too.  We have lots of friends who do the same, and we often discuss the process and the delicious results.  The rest of this post does just that.  If you want to know why, see this post (wild-harvested and home-raised meat post coming soon).

If you've never cooked lobsters, there's information about how to do it correctly (such as this post from Mindful Table).  For now, let's just focus on the sensory experience, shall we?  Begin by watching prices.  They dropped to $4.99/lb for about two weeks, and we jumped.  We settled on a Southern-style seafood boil, because the folks we know, who are in the know, know how to do that.  Start with lots of potatoes, fresh corn on the cob, spicy sausage, and seafood.  We used shrimp and lobster, though lobster is a bit of a luxury for this type of meal.  There's also a not-so-secret spice combo which the folks in the know swear by.  I've never tried it any other way, so I don't know...

Cook lobsters that are alive.  Yes they are alive - it makes all the difference, and it's the way to ensure they are fresh.  Remove the rubber bands from the main claws before cooking.  While this can be accomplished solo, en équipe is less stressful, particularly for the novices among us.  Do not remove the rubber bands until the seconds before you put the lobster in the pot - those claws are strong for a reason!

To remove the rubber bands, take a breath, remind yourself that the rubber bands are strong, and then plunge your hand into the the sack of lobsters.  Grasp one by the top of the carapace, directly behind the joints where the main claws attach to the body.  Lobsters are not flexible enough to reach your hand at this spot on their body.  Remove the lobster from the sack, holding firmly to its body.  Just a friendly heads up at this point - they are likely to wave those claws around (albeit slowly), the same with their antennae, and look out for the "tail flick".  They curl their tails up under their bodies to protect their tender undersides, and that muscle is strong.  When they curl their tails, it happens fast enough it feels like they're whipping or flicking their tail.  Don't worry if you drop them (like, ahem, someone might have done), because they don't move fast enough to have to chase them.  If you really want them sedate before you work with them, put the whole sack in your freezer for a little while (~10 minutes) prior to cooking them.

Once you have a lobster in hand, double check that you have a large pot (think canning kettle) full of salted boiling water, potatoes, corn, and those special spices.  If not, rewind, prep the corn and potatoes, and  start that pot of water.  It will take quite a while to boil, so plan ahead.  Be sure you have some appetizers and libations (or have one of your privileged guests bring them).  Wait to start the lobsters until the guests arrive, but have everything else ready, or you will eat in the middle of the night.  Cooking the lobsters is part of the whole experience, so be sure to include willing guests!

Back to the lobster in your hand - have "Teammate" remove the rubber bands from the claws.  You have two options, one of which "feels" safer, but the end result is questionable.  This option is to cut the rubber bands with a pair of scissors.  If you do this, be prepared for a lobster vice-grip on the rubber band, which will go into the pot with it.  Or, simply use your hands to quickly pull the rubber bands off - it's not as risky as it sounds.

At this point, it becomes more important not to drop the lobster, as s/he's now fully armed.  "Teammate" removes the lid from the pot, while you confidently lower the lobster head-first into the boiling water.  Wear an oven mitt if you think of it.  Use a spoon to ensure the lobster is fully immersed.  
Don't believe anyone who says it's screaming (or making any kind of noise)!  Cook them until they're done (approximately 10-15 minutes after the water returns to a boil), and remove them with tongs.  You should be able to cook more than one at a time, depending on the size of your pot.

When the lobsters are done, throw in the shrimp and sausages just long enough to cook them.  Then, strain everything out, and pile on a big platter or in a large bowl.  SAVE THE BROTH!  It's fantastic for future projects such as chowder.  While you're straining the "boil", guests or "Teammate" should be covering a table outside with newspaper several layers thick.  Dump the whole fabulous mélange onto the table.  Guests help themselves, pouring lots of melted butter, squeezing lots of lemons, and shaking liberal amounts of salt, on it all.  

Serve with a complimentary beverage - nothing overly sweet.  Napkins are essential, silverware is optional.  Eat seconds, at least.

If possible, repeat.

On the other hand, here's something to think about, next time you're dreaming of lobster dinner...


kate wedum said...

you are fabulous, bethann! i miss you SO much! much love to you and jerod!

Rachel and Arnie said...

Oh, YES!!! Wonderful,delicious descriptions. Mmmmmmmmmmmm...be right over ;-) xxoo

M said...

Ah, j'adore cette description de la mise à mort de cette « chose » (quelle ingratitude de traiter ces mets divins de « chose ») donnée dans ce récit. Comme tu as pu le remarquer, cela ne me pose pas de problème particulier ! Ceci étant, et comme tu étais là également pour le voir, je remarquerais simplement que sachant désormais la force de ces énormes pinces, je me garderais bien d'enlever le caoutchouc à la main (je suis trop maladroit pour ça). Il y a de quoi y perdre un ongle ! J'ai d'ailleurs failli y perdre une paire de ciseaux...

Ne pas oublier non plus la phase délicate du décorticage de homard. À cela, plusieurs armes : du classique avec le casse-noix pour les pinces et un bon couteau à pain pour découper le homard en deux, à du plus rustique (et plus robuste !) incluant le bon vieux marteau et une pince mutliprises pour les éléments récalcitrants. Ça aussi, ça fait partie du réjouissant travail d'équipe ! (prévoir également un tablier efficace : ça peut gicler et ça sent très fort !)

Quand à la boisson... Ah la la... Même pas un mot sur l'accord parfait que l'on doit trouver avec le vin ? En ce qui me concerne, le blanc est à l'honneur (paraît-il que certains l'aiment rouge), et l'Alsace et la Bourgogne sont en première ligne ! Côté Alsace pour des vins plus parfumés comme le Riesling ou Gewurtztraminer (mmmh... un bon Gewurtztraminer), éviter les vendanges tardives toutefois (excellentes mais trop sucrées pour du homard). Côté Bourgogne pour un vin plus vif tels un Chablis grand cru ou encore mieux un Pouilly-fuissé (tous deux de cépage chardonnay).

Miam !

fruit.root.leaf. said...

If you are looking for local information r.e. lobsters (in Québec), see this post from The Mindful Table, published in Montreal: http://www.mindfultable.ca/2011/06/canadian-lobster-a-sumptious-ocean-treat/

Auntie Kay said...

 I really enjoyed reading about "how to cook lobster", very amusing. Sounds like it's more fun to eat than cook lobster. 

Auntie Kay said...

Oh, and, the article on Quebec lobster has excellent photos. It's hard to photograph food, but you seem to have a professional eye for it. When I saw it I was ready to dig right in! I got a kick out of your instruction to "confidently" the lobster into the pot, and to prepare for a vice-grip by the lobster on a rubberband that is cut off. Fun reading.

Bethann said...

Thank you!  
The QCT article was adapted from this blog post, written last spring when I had the dubious pleasure of helping prepare lobster for the first time.  It really made an impression on me, as you can tell! :)

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