I cooked a lobster last week. The fishmonger at Ranch 99 plucked him from the tank, and held him up so I could watch him kick. I took him home, put it in the freezer for 15 minutes to put him to sleep while I boiled some water. I took the lobster out of the freezer; he was very much awake, despite my efforts. I snapped a few photos for posterity as he slid around the countertop, rubber bands rendering his main defensive mechanism inoperative. I put him headfirst in the pot and put the lid on. He’s the biggest thing I’ve ever killed myself.
To be totally honest, it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world. I’m not ready to return to former vegetarian ways, but the whole process really did make me begin to value the meat and seafood counters we so often take for granted. After the 15 minutes of cooking, I got out the fork and hammer and dug out everything edible from inside the tough orange exterior. I strained the cooking water, then returned the still-flavorful shell to the pot and covered it with water to begin a second round of stock.
The lobster claw turned into a salad with fennel, oranges, parmesan crutons, and meyer lemon vinaigrette. The tail meat became a sandwich filling, mixed with red onion and cornichons and bound with homemade mayo. This week, the stock became the base for a saffron risotto. I’ve gotten three meals and counting out of my lobster friend, and I started asking myself: do I do the same with a lamb shoulder? With a pork chop?
Soul-searching aside, here’s what I learned about lobster: boiling is messy because water spills out everywhere when you try and open the cooked animal. I’d actually have preferred to steam but my pot wasn’t big enough to steam my 3-pounder. Boiling does get you a beautiful light-flavored cooking liquid; strain it and use it. However you cook your lobster, the only real ways to mess it up are to not have your water boiling from the start (this stresses the lobster, and it’s also inhumane) or to overcook the beast. With respect to the latter, the Maine Lobster Council has published a nice lobster timing table. While serving lobster in the shell might make your diners work a bit more than they would like, it is also a nice way to keep the meat piping hot.
Also, if you do it right, butter is superfluous. Lobster is a treat on its own.