Sunday, January 2, 2011

Live Lobsters for New Years Eve

When we picked up lobsters for New Years Eve dinner, I was sure that the evening would be something out of a Hollywood horror movie, “Attack of the Lobsters”.   This year my family and I tried our hand at cooking live lobsters.  What says classy more than lobsters and champagne?  Plus, the grocery was having a sale on these lobsters: $8.99 a pound. 
Once the lobsters were unloaded, all people present were prepared for the invasion.  Fresh out of the bag, our monster stars looked like giant, creepy alien insects.  The creatures sat on the counter with antennas waving, large claws clamped with rubber bands, hairy legs, and a fishy smell.   Was I really about to eat this over-sized aquatic bug?  Surprisingly, their menacing qualities did not go further than appearance.  After washing them off and putting them in the sink, they laid dazed and docile.   Perhaps they did not realize the pot of boiling water had their names on it. 
Chatter in the kitchen centered on the actual boiling of the lobster.  Would it scream and cry for a prolonged period?  Kick the lid off in a struggle for life?  Clad with oven mitts, tongs, and stainless steel cookware, the tension mounted.   Maybe the lobsters were just waiting to attack!  The movies have sold us on thinking this would be the case.  However, only two were mildly eventful: one cried for about 5 seconds and another one protested by flapping its tail as I dropped it in.  I hardly know why the banter about the ethics of cooking a live lobster exists.  The cry was so faint and whistle-like it was barely audible.  Most of them fell limp into the water, and in a matter of minutes were completely cooked.   No fight to the pot, no pleas for life – just the sound of bubbling water and a vent fan.  I suppose this lack of drama and excitement is the reason you have never heard of an actual movie called “Attack of the Lobsters”. 
As the apprehension released, the cooking process became like clockwork.  Boil the water, plop in the lobster, and cover for 15 minutes or until red.  Each lobster had their own personal, aromatic steam bath, however if you are cooking for more than two I would not recommend the individual attention.  If your pot is big enough you can cook two at a time.  My pot was about 6 quarts, though I would recommend an 8 quart pot because I had trouble with water bubbling over.  The lobsters’ lack of personality and pizzazz did not affect their taste.  They were still meaty and divine, especially when dunked in butter.  The lobster tail is often touted as “the best part of the lobster”.   However, our table voted for the tender, plump claw and leg meat as king. 
So if you can boil water, you can cook your own lobster.  It takes some time to get over first appearances, but fresh lobsters will be a food you will gladly have for dinner again.
*Note: on further lobster investigation, I have learned NOT to rinse lobsters with tap water or put them in a bucket of tap water.  This suffocates them, making them a little dead.  And is perhaps why their final struggle was so light.
**Second Note: I do not yet have an adequate guide on how to eat the lobster.  I was too hungry and lazy to do it methodologically – it was pretty much caveman style.  But I would refer you to this internet site on how to crack and eat a whole lobster:

Cooking a Live Lobster
1.       Fill a large pot [at least 6 quarts] halfway with water.  Season with salt, pepper, thyme, parsley, rosemary, bay leaf.  Bring to a rolling boil.
2.       Gently place lobster head first into the boiling water, be careful of the tail – it may flap.  You do not have to remove the rubber bands from the claws prior to cooking.
3.       Cover with lid and hold making sure that there is no struggle [especially if you have more than one in the pot], reduce heat slightly so as to prevent over boiling.  If it begins to over
4.       1 lb. lobster 9 - 10 minutes
1 1/4 lb. lobster 10 - 11 minutes
1 1/2 lb. lobster 11 - 12 minutes
2 lb. lobster 12 - 13 minutes
5.       Meanwhile, melt a stick of salted butter with a few squirts of lemon juice for dipping.
6.       Remove lobsters from heat, let cool – these crustaceans are hot!

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