Fresh, sweet lobster reminds me of summer vacations with my family in Maine. The memories are still so vivid that if I close my eyes, I can almost smell the briny ocean as we drove to the lobster shacks along the rocky coastline, my mouth watering and my anticipation building with each moment. We made a pact to try a different shack every day, and although I can’t remember my favorite place, I remember the red picnic tables, the bright blue sky, and the pure unfettered delight of slurping that sweet lobster meat out of its shell.
These days, especially in summer, I prefer to devour a butter-drenched steamed lobster in the privacy of my home, where I’m not embarrassed to surgically dig out every last morsel of the exquisite snowy white meat. While steamed lobster in the summer always hits the spot, I started thinking that it needs to be enjoyed more than once a year. That’s why I asked some of my favorite chefs for their best lobster recipes.
Like me, they believe that something extraordinary doesn’t really need a zillion ingredients or complicated steps to make it sublime. The Truffled Lobster Macaroni and Cheese from Steve Corry is a perfect example. A luscious, silky-smooth cheese sauce lightly coats the lobster without overwhelming its delicate flavor. Finished with a modest drizzle of truffle oil and a few truffle peelings, it’s luxurious without going overboard. For a refreshing take on lobster rolls, try Ginger Pierce and Preston Madson’s version with just the right ratio of lobster to chopped salad—the brioche bun adds a touch of sweetness and absorbs the tasty mayonnaise dressing without getting mushy. Emily Peterson offers up a unique and utterly delectable dish of Lobster Poached in Gewürztraminer and Pear Nectar. The surprising combination of ingredients delivers sophisticated flavor and is easy to make. And last but not least, a showstopping Lobster Benedict from Matt Jennings will make any weekend breakfast or brunch truly memorable.
You can simplify all of these recipes by purchasing cooked lobster meat, but it’s pretty easy to prepare for yourself. Besides, when you cook the lobster and remove from the shell yourself, you can steal a few bites in the kitchen—plate and napkins optional.
How to Buy and Store Lobster
- Look for lobsters that are lively when removed from their tanks.
- Store live lobsters in the coldest spot in the refrigerator (usually the lower shelf), lightly covered with damp newspapers. Never store live lobsters on ice.
- To grow, lobsters must molt, or shed their old hard shells. Lobsters whose shells are soft and have not yet hardened are called new-shell lobsters. Some consider new-shell lobster meat to be sweeter and softer than hard shell. Although lobsters are available year-round, new-shell lobsters are available only from midsummer through midfall, and usually need to be specially requested.
- If you’ve cooked frozen lobster tails and found them to be mushy, it doesn’t mean that the lobster is bad. Instead, you most likely have a rock lobster tail. Rock lobsters don’t have claws and generally are sold in tail form only. They come from the warmer waters of places such as Florida, California, the Caribbean, or Latin America. Although the flavor will still be tasty, the texture will definitely disappoint. The more desirable and expensive cold-water lobster tails, with their firmer flesh, are harvested from Maine, Canada, Australia, South Africa, or New Zealand. How to distinguish between the two? Rock lobsters usually have white spots on their shells.
How to Steam a Lobster
- Fill a pot large enough to fit the lobsters with 1 inch of well-salted water. Cover and bring the water to a rolling boil.
- Meanwhile, dispatch the lobsters, if desired.
- When the pot fills with steam, add the lobsters, holding them by the body and arranging them on top of each other, facing in different directions so the steam can easily circulate. Cover the pot, and steam the lobsters until the shells are bright red and the antennae can be easily pulled off, 10 to 12 minutes for 1-lb. lobsters, 2 minutes longer for each additional 1/4 lb.
- As an easy alternative, ask your fishmonger to steam whole lobsters for you.