Lobster – Overview and Recipe
Lobster is a prime example of how food trends change.
Prior to the mid-1900’s, lobster was associated with poverty and crime. Initially considered to be no better than fish bait, lobster was typically eaten only by coastal peasants and servants. It was also a popular food served in prisons, much to the offense of inmates.
Eventually, cosmopolitan Northern Americans developed a taste for the crustacean, and its reputation was transformed to the luxurious food icon it is today.
Lobsters, which dwell exclusively in saltwater environments, have amazing longevity, and are known to live up to 70 years old. The most vulnerable times in a lobster’s life are during the molting process, which occurs when the lobster sheds its rigid exoskeleton in order to grow. During a period of about two hours while the muscle tissue expands, the soft body is exposed and completely defenseless until the new exoskeleton forms and hardens. About 10 to 15% of lobsters die during the molting process.
Lobsters are related to crayfish, and both are delicious with melted butter.
Lobsters are large hard-shelled crustaceans ranging from 25 to 50 centimeters long. The lobster has a long, muscular body that ends in a fanned-out tail. It has ten legs, six of which have claws, with the two front claws being by far the most prominent (and intimidating).
Uncooked lobster shells have a blue-green color that turns a brilliant reddish orange when cooked. Before cooking, a protein called crustacyanin inhibits a naturally occurring pigment called astaxanthin. When heat is applied, crustacyanin breaks down and reveals the fiery sunset hue of astaxanthin.
Lobster flesh is tender and white, with orange accents in the claw meat. The texture varies slightly from part to part, with the claw meat being softer and richer, and the body meat being slightly chewier and milder tasting. In general, lobster meat has a sweet, oceanic flavor similar to other crustaceans like shrimp and crab.
Lobsters can be graded as soft shell or hard shell. Soft shell lobsters are typically the most prized grade. These are lobsters that have recently molted and have exceptionally sweet meat. Hard shell lobsters have a brinier flavor, although they also tend to have a better meat-to-shell ratio.
Firstly, shop at grocery stores and seafood markets that you trust and that consistently provide good quality products. The staff should be able to tell you where and when the lobster was caught, and may even offer helpful preparation tips.
When buying a live lobster, choose specimens that are heavy for their size. In terms of personality, the characteristic to look for is “feisty”. A healthy lobster will look active and will flail its claws at you and curl its tail when picked up. If a lobster looks sleepy or sluggish, it may not be healthy and is better reserved for a sedate pet than for a meal.
There is also size to consider. There are “chickens” (1-pounders), “eighths” (1-1/8-pounders), “quarters” (1-1/4-pounders), “halves” (1-1/2-pounders), “deuces” (over 2 pounds), and “jumbos” (over 3 pounds).
For serving, a general rule of thumb is one lobster per person, unless you are purchasing anything above a deuce, which can feed two.
In addition to live options, lobster can be sold whole and already euthanized, or in pieces (such as tails or claws). It can also be found pre-cooked, either fresh or frozen.
In all cases, try to find the freshest products you can. Raw lobster should be displayed on ice and should emit little to no odor. In the case of pre-cooked or packaged lobster, look for products with minimal additional ingredients. Some companies add coloring agents and rich dressings, so if you are trying to to avoid these things, read the label.
Ideally, a live lobster should be eaten the same day of purchase.
Otherwise, assuming you do not possess a lobster tank, live lobsters can be kept in the fridge for up to a day. Store it in a cardboard box accompanied by some damp seaweed or newspaper to keep the lobster moist. Never store a lobster in tap water, as freshwater will kill them.
Also, don’t take off the bands around a live lobster’s claws until after the lobster is cooked. They are there to prevent an aggressively pinched nose, or whatever other body part a lobster-on-the-loose may grab hold of.
If the lobster has already been euthanized but is still raw, it may be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a day or two. Stored in the same way, cooked lobster can keep in the fridge for up to three days.
Alternatively, raw or cooked lobster can be stored in a well-sealed container or bag in the freezer for up to six months.
Especially if purchased live, lobsters require some preparation before being ready to eat.
Although many people will place a live lobster in boiling water, the quickest way to kill a lobster is to stick a thin, sharp knife into the space behind the lobster’s eyes.
At this point, lobster can be boiled, steamed, or broiled, but steaming is easiest and retains the most flavor.
In order to do this, fill a pot with about two inches of salted water. Bring it to a roiling boil, and then place the lobster(s) in the steamer basket or on the steamer rack. If you are cooking more than one lobster, be careful not to crowd them.
Once they are in the pot, cover with a lid and start a timer. Your cooking time will depend on the size of the lobster:
- 1 pound – 10 minutes
- 1-1/4 pound – 12 minutes
- 1-1/2 pound – 14 minutes
- 2 pounds – 18 minutes
- 2-1/2 pounds – 22 minutes
- 3 pounds – 25-30 minutes
Partway through the cooking time, remove the lid and rotate the lobster(s) for even cooking. When the lobster is done, it will be bright red. However, color won’t always indicate doneness, especially with larger lobsters. To be sure, crack open the lobster where the tail meets the body. If it’s done, the meat will have turned from translucent to white.
In order to actually eat this delicious crustacean, you will need some tools. A nutcracker, a good knife, and a picking tool are all useful. Crack the claws with a nutcracker and split the tail lengthwise with a chef’s knife. To get at the meat in the upper body, cut through the underside of with a knife. At this point, your instincts should take over.
For flavoring, melted butter, fresh lemon, and a bit of salt are classic.
RECIPE: LOBSTER TACOS WITH CRISPY CURRIED POTATOES & CILANTRO YOGURT HOT SAUCE
Lobster tacos are a delicacy! Tender lobster meat is served either in traditional corn tortillas or in fresh lettuce cups, and are dressed with fresh cilantro, creamy avocado, crispy radish, lightly spiced crunchy potato cubes, and a tangy cilantro yogurt hot sauce.
- cilantro, lightly packed
- 1 cup
- green jalapeno pepper, stem and seeds removed
- greek yogurt
- 4 tbsp
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp
- lime, juiced
- sea salt
- 1/4 tsp
- potato, peeled, cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 1 large
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp
- curry powder
- 1/2 tsp
- lobster, cooked (1.5lbs lobster or 6oz cooked lobster meet)
- 1 large
- radishes, very thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup
- avocados, ripe, sliced, pitted
- cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
- radicchio or butter lettuce leaves (used as taco cups)
- corn taco shelles
Prep Time: 30 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes Yield: 4 servings
For the Cilantro Yogurt Hot Sauce:
Add all ingredients to a blender and process until smooth. Set aside.
For the Taco Filling:
First, prepare the crispy curried potatoes: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss potato cubes in oil and curry powder, and lay on the lined tray. When the oven is preheated, place tray in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, shuffle the cubes around for even baking, then place back in the oven for another 8-10 minutes. Potatoes are done when they are crispy and golden at the edges. Sprinkle with salt to taste.
While the potatoes are baking, separate the meat from the lobster: First, twist off the claws, then crack each claw and knuckle with a nut cracker, or a small hammer. Remove the meat with that tiny fork or with your fingers. Separate the tail from the body and break off the tail flippers, and extract the meat from the tail. Remove and discard the black vein that runs along the tail meat. Separate the shell of the body from the underside by pulling them apart. Discard the grayish-green substance called the tomalley. Although there is not much meat in the leg joints and the legs, it is worth scavenging (lobsters are expensive!). Extract the meat from the leg joints and legs by biting down on the leg and squeezing the meat out with your teeth. Chop the larger chunks of meat into small pieces and set aside.
Assemble tacos by portioning out lobster meat onto lettuce cups or tortillas. Then, top with avocado slices, crispy potatoes, sliced radish, and fresh cilantro. Finish with a generous drizzle of cilantro yogurt hot sauce, and enjoy!