There was a lobster time, and there was a lobster story…
There are over 450 species of what we call lobster, and there is quite a bit of diversity in their appearance. Most people are quite surprised to find out that not all of them are palatable. What we call Maine Lobsters are the ones with the big claws, and they’re not only in Maine. Canada traps a lot of them too. Then, there’s the Pacific Lobsters, with the really long antenna, big tail, and again no claws to speak of. Not only in the Pacific, but that’s what the fish mongers called them. We called them “crickets.” Maine Lobsters were “bugs.”
Rock lobster was the generic name for the relatively clawless ones from cold waters near Australia, and those are the ones that us old people remember. They were quite common in markets in the 50’s, until their numbers dwindled from over-harvesting. They were awesome. Sweet, egg shell white, firm, really good. We just called them “tails.”
At some point, the Japanese decided they really liked the Rock Lobsters, too, so they would buy out almost the whole crop. This sent the prices in American markets skyrocketing, and now you don’t even hardly see them any more. High end restaurants that built their reputations on Australian Rock Lobsters have been forced to substitute other varieties and species. With a good degree of muttering, grumbling, and reverse marketing, you will see labels that say “warm water,” and things like “even better,” which is usually a sad admission. Lobsters are common enough all around the globe, because they eat garbage, and there is always garbage, no shortage there. But the plentiful ones in South American waters, well, most of them bear little resemblance to those cold water majesties. Color, texture, and flavor vary widely.
Lobster is an excited state of mind.
It doesn’t matter. Lobster still possesses all the cachet that it always did, and you can be sure that if you run steak and lobster in your restaurant on Valentine’s day, people’s eyes will light up and you will sell quite a few. The ladies will eat the lobster, and take the steak home, and the men will do what men do. People will complain, too, no matter how perfect it is, because they figure that for the price they are paying, they deserve a double order, even if the first one goes in the garbage. Restaurant owners and workers hate holidays, they really are a bust, definitely amateur hour, with lousy tippers, inexperienced diners and anxious staff who would rather be just about ANYWHERE other than at work. You will see many of us in the bar later, having our own little desperate celebration. Good times!
I’m not the only person who doesn’t get what they want, and I struggled with not being able to do the really good lobster tails. Even if I managed to find some, what would be the point? Come back to Earth, Norm, see what Costco has. Something people can actually relate to. They had “giant” lobster tails, Honduran Warm Water, I passed. Honduras is an extraordinarily poor and troubled country, but buying a lobster from those waters wouldn’t help a single Honduran. I shiver to think what conglomerate might own the Lobster beds in Honduras. The other choice was Canadian, Cold Water tails. Okay, make it happen.
Wait, didn’t he say “Lobster”?
- Cured pork belly (bacon) goes with everything. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
- It’s almost impossible to get a solid piece in the store, and I don’t know why.
- Do what you have to do.
- Bacon is not hard to make, but I’m not going to explain it today.
- Assuming you can find this (easier than finding lobster tails from Australia), cut a nice thick slice.
- Did I say that’s enough for two people?
- Into the cast iron broiler pan we go, @medium preheat, about 350F, along with some SV red potatoes that I just lubricated a little, we will season them later.
- Otherwise, the seasoning just drips back into the pan.
- Rad close up.
- You can see how the shell has been split ALL the way down. Some restaurants only go half way, sad, really.
- I use the scissors to snip all the way down the top of the shell, which likes to shatter. Make sure you go ALL the way to the end, to get that last little nugget at the tail end. Even if you cut all the way and end up with two halves, that’s fine. If it stays in that one piece, you stick your thumbs in between the two halves and bend/break it so it looks like the one above.
- Then, gently insert your finger between the meat and the shell, and lovingly tug it out. If you don’t do this before you cook, the lobster will totally stick in the tail. Trust me, it is very infuriating when restaurants neglect to complete this step.
- Sprinkle with S+P, y’all know I put parsley on almost everything, but, in this case, it is a classical treatment, more or less.
- I like to cut the tomatoes into sort of a bad cube, it’s a little thing I have, but not necessary. Just cut off the ends, cut it in half, and sprinkle with, you guessed it, S+P, parsley.
- When the potatoes and bacon are brown, however long that takes, shove them to the side.
- We’re using medium heat, but that’s still about 350F. Sizzle, no pop.
- Add the lobster, meat side down. Take a deep breath.
- If you flip too soon, you get no color, and you won’t get another chance, because the meat starts to curl up like a sleepy puppy.
- Relax, and listen for it to stop sizzling. Really. That works.
- Turn the tail 90 degrees, you can do it.
- Breathe. The major portion of the cooking is done on this side. People always flip too soon, even professional cooks. Anxiety.
- Olives are a great flavor and shape counterpoint.
- That pickled ginger that they serve in sushi restaurants also has a nice spice and shape to it.
- It’s also easy to make, but it’s not expensive to buy if you have an Asian store nearby.
- It reminds me of chewing tobacco–just a pinch between the cheek and gum.
- I dry to keep some creamy dressing/aioli/vinaigrette around, and I will confess I don’t always remember what the flavoring is.
- Kecap Manis, a sort of sweet syrupy black molasses soy sauce is good to have around, a few dots of black go a long way. Salty, umami, sweet.
- You don’t have to do this, but lemons go with lobster, and that’s not going away.
- Lobster goes great with lobster.
- Bada bing.
- and a variant I haven’t gotten around to posting yet…
- Lobster tails poached in Ginger Bisque