Lobster: Take a Crack at this Comestible Crustacean!
Growing up in coastal New England, summers were marked by visits to makeshift farm stands and roadside clam shacks. If the messy sweetness of a beefsteak tomato eaten like an apple wasn’t quite enough, downing a large cardboard box of hot, greasy, salty, crunchy, golden brown clam fritters and fried clams with family and friends at the edge of the beach would fill our stomachs, and to some extent our souls. Afterward, we’d rush to the shore to wash our hands in the surf, but not before licking off every last bit of salt and juice.
As a real treat, occasionally we’d go out for a lobster dinner at a dockside restaurant called Moby Dick’s. Though allowed to play on the dock until dinner came, the scene inside held just as much fascination where behemoth glass salt water tanks showcased taped and peg-clawed crustacean–with expiration dates. Many would end up on someone’s plate beside a fragrant bowl of melted butter before the evening was over, and in fact a giant plastic bib with red lobster on it was tied around young and old.
Scientists say if it weren’t for our predilection for this yummy delicacy and an industry that supports it, lobsters – which are characterized by negligible senescence (meaning a lack of symptoms and decline in the aging process due to an enzyme called telomerase) – could very possibly live indefinitely.
But at the dinner table and for a child, learning to deftly manipulate the giant nut crackers that were the keys to the lobster’s sweet meat claws and succulent tail was a very big deal. I almost remember my first time. For many adults, partaking of the roe (a female’s eggs and often an acquired taste), was the proverbial icing on the crustacean cake.
Let Them Eat Lobster
Making an annual late summer pilgrimage to Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts, we learned that contrary to popular opinion turkey was not considered the crown jewel at early Thanksgiving celebrations. In fact because it proliferated in the region, lobster–considered a delicacy today–was a mainstay. In 1621, pilgrim Edward Winslow reportedly wrote home to England of a feast lasting five days, facilitated by Native American Massasoit (which means great sachem or chief) and 90 members of the Wampanoag tribe. History credits the Wampanoag Indians with the pilgrims’ early survival by teaching them, among other things, what, where, and when to hunt and fish, with plentiful lobster a staple of everyone’s diet.
Though likely prepared over cooking fires or boiled in pots, today’s lobster dinner (or lunch) has many incarnations. More modern times gave us creamy Lobster Newberg and Lobster Thermidor, the first originating in the U.S. in 1876 and the second in France. Thermidor, created in 1894, consists of cooked lobster meat, eggs yolks, and cognac or brandy, stuffed into the tail. (It can be served with an oven-browned cheese crust, commonly Gruyere.) Add butter and cream and you have Newberg. For purists, grilling fits the bill, as do the coveted lobster rolls: scoops of fresh-caught lobster meat served in, of all things, a toasted hot dog bun. Aficionados say it’s best with just a modicum of mayonnaise, while some prefer the creamy texture achieved when more is added.
As June 15 is National Lobster Day, these recipes–including a fresh salad that can be enjoyed as a light lunch, main course or as a prelude to dinner–will celebrate lobster’s versatility in all its summer glory:
Chopped Vegetable and Maine Lobster Salad
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 cup orange juice, reduced from 4 cups
1/4 cup lime juice
1 piece chipotle chili, canned
1 cup olive oil
sugar, salt and pepper to taste
6 cups Romaine lettuce, shredded
6 cups Iceberg, shredded
1 pound lobster meat, cooked
1/2 cup mango, 1/4-inch dice
3/4 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, 1/4-inch dice
3/4 cup red bell pepper, seeded, 1/4-inch dice
3/4 cup jÃcama, peeled, 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup radish, thinly sliced
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
1/2 cup avocado, 1/2-inch dice
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped coarsely
4 lobster claws, cooked, halved lengthwise
For the vinaigrette:
Place unpeeled garlic in a dry sauté pan over low heat. Let cook, rotating periodically, until soft all the way through and slightly charred. Peel and smash to a paste. Combine with reduced orange juice, lime juice, and chipotle in a blender. Start up slowly add the olive oil to emulsify. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar to taste.
Combine romaine and iceberg lettuce. Place a mound of greens in the center of each dinner plate. Drizzle with a little of the vinaigrette. Place a line of each ingredient across the top of the lettuce, like a Cobb salad. Garnish with the lobster claw and drizzle with the vinaigrette.