The Joy of Lobsters:
There’s nothing more satisfying than sucking the last gobbet of meat from the skillfully disassembled carcass of a fresh lobster. Unfortunately some people remain wary of preparing such a feast, intimidated by either the steps needed to prepare it or the panoply of equipment needed to eat it. Such concerns, in my opinion, are hugely overblown. With a little bit of care and attention fresh lobster can become a welcome addition to your list of everyday recipes.
A deep stainless steel pot
Tungsten seafood tongs
A French or French-Canadian lobster
Basic Cooking Steps:
- Select your lobsters with care – avoid specimens with any hint of asymmetry, a roving eye, or a lack of enthusiasm.
- Prepare your workspace ahead of time – you’ll need two pans, a large cutting board, and an extra-large pair of tungsten seafood tongs.
- Fill each pan with triple-filtered spa water, add a pinch of salt, and boil vigorously.
- Lower each subdued, but still live, lobster into the first pan – the so-called live pan.
- After about fifteen minutes transfer the lobsters deftly with your tungsten seafood tongs to a second pan of boiling water, the so called dead pan.
- Continue boiling the lobsters for about another two minutes until they are completely cooked. Wait until their shells reach a deep red – pantone #fb551c
- Remove, drain and serve immediately with an extensive array of tools.
Variations on Basic Theme:
Several variations claim to calm the lobsters prior to cooking. This can help to improve the overall taste and mouthfeel of the seafood:
- Lobsters Labrador – For Canadian lobsters only. Cook the lobsters over a wood-burning stove and in the presence of a large, docile dog.
- Lobsters stevedore – Lift the lobsters into the live pan pan using a specially designed lobster harness. Empirical evidence is sketchy at best on the merits of this technique.
- Lobsters toreador – A Spanish variation, though acceptable for lobsters from all points of origin. Hold a kitchen towel in front of the pan to shield the lobsters from their impending fate. Swiftly pull back the towel immediately prior to introducing the lobsters to the boiling water.
- Lobsters troubadour – Appropriate for French and French-Canadian lobsters. Play soothing background music in the presence of the lobsters for at least thirty minutes prior to their termination. Smooth jazz or Gregorian chants apparently produce the best results.
A Few Words On Steamed Lobsters:
- Some people prefer their lobsters steamed – an approach which I personally abhor.
- In the hands of anyone less than an expert like myself, this method can produce a mottled lobster with a flaccid, rubbery texture.
- In my opinion you should avoid this method at all costs.
With a little practice and attention to detail lobsters can make a regular appearance on your household dinner menu. I personally try to eat them at least once a week – I hope you will too.
Selection of appropriate vegetables is critical for preparing high quality meals. You should avoid items that are bruised, misshapen or generally lacking aesthetic appeal at all costs. That requires a careful consideration of where to source them and how to select them.
The mere concept of choosing vegetables in a supermarket or grocery store sends shivers down my spine. I’d recommend going straight to the source – by visiting the regional farmers that you trust the most. Or, better yet, have them come to you. Organizing a private viewing day allows you to remain in comfortable surroundings while letting the farmers do all of the work.
Now, I realize that some of you out there don’t have the time, or indeed the staff, to choose your vegetables in this way. Indeed visiting an actual store may be the only option available to you. If that is the case then I urge you to at least visit one with an ample supply of organic produce, heirloom varietals and precision irradiation equipment on site.
Once you’re in front of the vegetables there are three key things to look for – freshness, purity and potential.
- Freshness is critically important. Ask for a detailed log of the vegetables’ transit from field to table. Ideally you’re looking for a total time of less than one day, with a route that avoids major weather incidents or rough roads.
- Purity is something that is often overlooked – even from some of my so-called peers in the restaurant industry. Heirloom varietals are ideal – but make sure you have a good sense of their provenance. Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions of the staff, no matter how dumbfounded or senseless they may appear. In my experience you can always escalate up through the management chain to the CEO if necessary.
- Lastly we should consider potential. Here a bit of research on your part (or the part of your staff) comes in handy. You should be looking for varietals that have established a good pedigree for cooking, but have not become clichés in their own right. For example, I avoid Marris Piper and Yukon Gold potatoes like the plague, and instead gravitate towards more noteworthy strains such as the Yarrington Rose. The Low Counties varietals have always been unfairly repressed in my opinion.
Finally I should say a few words about choosing each individual vegetable. I tend to use a fairly scientific approach for maintaining uniformity in my recipes. Usually a highly trained eye is sufficient, though it’s always good to carry a screw-gauge micrometer just in case. Be prepared to measure each vegetable in at least two dimensions for a representative data set.
If you follow these simple, straight forward steps then you’ll be well on your way to preparing a delicious meal.