Forget everything that you think you know about lobster…
except, of course, that you absolutely LOVE it.
And if you don’t absolutely love lobster, well, thanks for checking in. This particular essay might not be for you, but feel free to read on.
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I’m not going to waste a lot of reading and typing time in order to grumpily man-splain Lobster 101 to you, my valued readership… Why bother, when a writer far greater than me– the late David Foster Wallace, God rest his soul– took the trouble to channel M. F. K. Fisher and pen an essay titled CONSIDER THE LOBSTER back in 2004? Rather, I’m here to RE-consider how we enjoy this nasty-looking creature, one seemingly more insect-like than piscine. My motivation for this is multi-fold–
Lobster is expensive… especially when we pay by the pound for what is at least half shell and inedible parts.
Lobsters can be tricky to cook, especially since you are also killing them.
Lobsters are messy to eat, which is why they give you a bib in lobster restaurants.
And lobsters can be frustrating to eat, since you have to use a special little teeny fork to harvest every expensive little microscopic morsel from the skinny legs.
And if all that is still your idea of a proper feast, great. You are far from alone. However...
Most of the aforementioned issues refer to eating whole, freshly-cooked lobsters; there are, of course, other options. In future installments we will address several scrumptious variations of Lobster Salad, perhaps the most sophisticated of all summertime luncheon plates. We’ll also explore Lobster Bisque… as soon as I finish figuring out a flour-free version to my personal standards. That will surely be a cousin of my Lobster Cream Sauce, a version of which we’ll also take up in the very near future. But before we get to my personal favorite take on lobster, a little historical review of what I call “value-added” versions is in order.
Over the last century or more, several sophisticated lobster dishes have gained fame in fancy restaurants; to wit–
BAKED STUFFED LOBSTER
A classic, with cracker stuffing. Here is the THE SPRUCE EATS VERSION.
Here is THE TASTING TABLE VERSION of Lobster Newberg– essentially lobster meat w/ brandy cream custard. I give extra credit for the elegant puff pastry.
And then, fancier yet, there's...
The traditional versions of Lobster Thermidor call for poached lobster w/ mushroom-lemon-cream-custard-cognac velouté created from the poaching broth, after which it is gratinéed in its half-shell w/ the sauce & gruyére. This ALLRECIPES VERSION is a somewhat easier, more modern take on this French classic.
And finally, for the final exam, of sorts,
THIS from Chef Damien Pignolet in Gourmet Traveler Magazine...
LOBSTER À L’AMÉRICAINE
Tomato, Vermouth, Cognac, tarragon... Is this dish really "American," or is its name a bastardization of "L’Armoricaine" indicating an origin in coastal France? Like most culinary etymology, it matters far less than the final outcome. Freely substitute Maine lobster for the decidedly un-American Rock Lobster in the recipe.
In our next installment on lobster I'll reveal my recipe and technique for what I have presumptuously dubbed LOBSTER FANTASTICO– a "value-added" lobster dish that I think is both easier and better than all of these.
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In a paragraph way above I chose to write “better than me” instead of “better than I.” Both are considered correct. However, as a compulsive grammar pedant I prefer treating “than” as a preposition rather than a conjunction in order to avoid a particular bit of grammatical messiness– “She likes him better than I” is actually incorrect if we mean that “She likes him better than she likes I.” (Ouch!) And the other meaning– “She likes him better than I (do) requires a hidden word to make the meaning clear. In contrast, the meaning of "She likes him better than me" is obvious. See more on this debate HERE.
And what about wine with lobster? The Kennedy Clan reportedly likes to slosh theirs down with Louis Latour Pouilly-Fuisse– in deference, no doubt, to Jackie's college year abroad in 1949– and certainly one could do a lot worse than that. Most any quality dry white will serve nicely; I would, however, err in the direction of Europe and away from California, as lobster dishes are rather rich on their own and pair better with the leaner and sharper whites from the Continent than with the liquid lap dances from the Golden State.
And finally, if you looked up M.F.K. Fisher's CONSIDER THE OYSTER at my prompting and enjoyed it, consider also reading our very own (Re)Consider the Oyster from last year.