Luscious Lobster -Fall 2019
by: Marianne R. Stanton
photography by: Jeff Allen
Who doesn’t love lobster?
Often thought of as a summer treat at a seaside resort, clambakes, lobster dinners and lobster rolls are all part of a vacation by the sea. But lobster is available yearround, and so is its appeal. The culinary uses of lobster are many.
The best lobsters in the world are found in the waters off northern New England and Canada, and most menus refer to these as Maine lobsters. In fact, lobsters account for 75 percent of the commercial-fishing catch of the state of Maine.
While you’ll see other varieties of lobster on menus outside of New England, they are not the same. On the East Coast, these are often referred to as spiny lobsters or Caribbean lobsters and consist just of tail meat, no claws. The taste is far inferior to Maine lobsters. The flesh is not nearly as firm nor the meat as sweet.
The same holds true for Australian rock lobsters served on the West Coast and the Pacific Rim. Australian lobsters may be big, but the meat is neither firm, nor sweet. I was hugely disappointed the first – and last – time I tried one. Since then, it’s only Maine lobsters for me.
Lobsters were once so plentiful in the waters around Massachusetts that they were harvested by hand, picked out of the water by swimmers. There was no need to set lobster traps far from shore the way fishermen do today. They were also considered trash fish, eaten by the poor and often used as fodder for pigs.
Lobsters were a staple protein in the diets of Native Americans when the first European settlers arrived. In fact, the Pilgrims enjoyed lobster at their first Thanksgiving dinner. The waters off the shore of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were teeming with cod and lobster 400 years ago, and Native Americans taught the early European settlers how to fish for both. Imagine the sight of an uptight Pilgrim trying to figure out how to extract the meat from these hard-shelled creatures.
But lobster lovers know that the work of extracting the meat is well worth the effort. Lobster meat is delicious piled into sandwiches, whisked into scrambled eggs, baked in crumbtopped casseroles, blended into macaroni and cheese, tossed into pasta dishes and – of course – steamed and dipped into clarified butter.
I’ve gone through all my cookbooks and found the best
lobster recipes from four New England cooks: Jasper White, Sarah Leah Chase and Martha Greenlaw and her daughter Linda, the swordboat captain of “Perfect Storm” fame.
White, of course, is the iconic New England chef. From New Jersey, he moved to Boston after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in the 1970s and worked with Lydia Shire in several restaurants before opening Jasper’s on the waterfront. Jasper’s closed long ago, but the chef now has a string of Summer Shack restaurants that serve up New England fare and plenty of lobster dishes.
White knows lobster and his four cookbooks – “Jasper White’s Cooking from New England,” “Lobster at Home,”
“50 Chowders” and “The Summer Shack Cookbook” – are heavily populated with lobster dishes.
I’ve pulled two recipes from “Lobster at Home” for this article. One is a delicious lobster and corn chowder which, seasonally speaking, is one of my favorite fall soups. The sweet corn from Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm pairs beautifully with sweet lobster meat and is a good simple supper in midSeptember when the air has begun to turn chilly. The second White recipe features a creamy mushroom sauce tossed with pappardelle and lobster. Yummy!
One of my favorite dishes to order when I am at a good seafood restaurant is a lobster casserole, often referred to as lazy man’s lobster. Here the meat is tossed in something like a Newburg sauce, topped with crunchy crumbs and baked until bubbling. Martha Greenlaw’s Famous Lobster Casserole is something I might serve at Thanksgiving this year to accommodate the non-meat eaters at the table, and give others a chance to indulge in this rich, creamy dish.
Another good casserole is lobster mac and cheese, and leave it to Sarah Chase to find a rich and indulgent recipe from the Hancock Gourmet Lobster Company she discovered at a Fancy Food Show a number of years ago. Mascarpone cheese is the secret ingredient in this dish that is made entirely on the stovetop to keep the lobster from becoming overcooked and dry.
Lastly, there’s a baked stuffed lobster recipe from The Inn at Isle au Haut, and a simple grilled lobster with lime-chili butter, though you could use any compound butter you like for this. If you like lobster, there’s plenty of inspiration here for you. ///
Marianne R. Stanton is the founder, as well as editor and publisher, of Nantucket Today, and editor and publisher of The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821. She writes frequently about travel, food and wine, and island personalities.