Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Supplemental Lobster Post #2

BCD Dad weighs in on the proper protocol for cooking "Super Jumbo Lobsters":
How to Cook Super Jumbo Lobsters


A super jumbo lobster (SJL) is one that is bigger than five pounds. The technique for cooking and serving SJL’s is quite different than the standard 1-2 pound lobster. Why, you may ask, would anyone want to cook and eat such a large lobster? Isn’t it tough? For one thing, getting the meat out of a large lobster is simplicity itself. The tiny nooks and crannies of a small lobster, are large caverns in an SJL. The taste is indistinguishable from its minute brothers. You could think of it as the “turkey of the sea” where each person gets to have their preferred parts. Fans of steamed blue crabs know of course, that the body where the legs attach to the claws, is a source of some of the best meat. This is a fact that has somehow escaped our brothers in Maine, who do not dismember the lobsters’ bodies. But this could be because of the minute size. The body of an SJL has all of that wonderful meat in the same places as the blue crab.

Depending on side dishes and other accouter-ments, plan on 2-3 lbs of lobster/ person.

Ingredients:

One Super Jumbo Lobster – 5lbs or more.
About 1 0z butter (melted and salted) per pound of lobster
Kosher salt.

Equipment:

Stock pot big enough to submerge the entire lobster. (For a six pounder, use a 20 qt. pot for example.)
A very long and strong kitchen fork
Heavy kitchen tongs
A large sheet pan.
Chopping block/board
A very heavy bone cutting meat cleaver.
A large serving bowl (to put the cooked lobster pieces into)
A large serving bowl (to put the empty shells into)
Heavy rubber mallet.

  1. Fill the pot with enough cold water to cover the lobster. Bring to boil. Add one handful of salt for each 10 qts. of water.
  2. Put in live lobster, head first. If any part of the lobster sticks out, put a lid on the pot, and weight it down with heavy cans.1
  3. Watch the heat as the water will easily boil over. When the water comes back to a boil, turn the heat down to continue boiling, and cook for 5 minutes/pound plus 2 minutes. (So an 8-lb lobster will cook in 42 mins.)
  4. Being very careful not to splash boiling water, push the big fork under the back of the body shell, and at the same time, put the tongs around the body, and, with both hands, lift the lobster onto the sheet pan. Watch that you don’t raise the lobster above the tongs because the hot water will run down the inside of the tongs onto your wrists!
  5. Remove and discard the rubber bands holding the claws together (if any).

Now comes the disassembly of the lobster. This is done away from the dining table because it requires some “industrial-size” equipment, and because there can be a huge mess.2

  1. Working over the sheet pan, twist each claw/arm combination at the joint with body and set aside. Remove the tail by twisting in a side to side motion and set aside. There will be a large amount (of very hot) water coming out of the lobster. This will ideally fall into the sheet pan. Drain this away when convenient.
  2. Place the lobster body, top side up, on a cutting board. Using the corner of the heavy cleaver, start to cut the body in half by first pushing through the shell at about the middle of the lobster with the sharp corner of the cleaver, and then flattening out the cleaver to cut all the way through. Turn the body around and finish the cut from the other side. At this point the tomally (green stuff) and roe (orange stuff) can be scooped out and put aside to be served separately. Put the body halves in the serving bowl.
  3. Next, break off the tail fins off the tail and place in the serving bowl as there is meat even in the tail fins. Then, using the same technique used on the body of cutting half-way and turning to cut the other half, cut the tail in half. Then, into the serving bowl.
  4. Retrieve the claws and arms. Separate the claw from the arm by twisting. Break off the smaller part of the claw. If the meat stays in that part, remove with a pick or just rapping on the table.
  5. Opening up the large part of the claw is the most daunting of SJL cooking. These claws are bigger than a human hand, and the shell can be more than 1/4in thick! No nutcracker on earth could dent one. Lay the lobster claw on the chopping block and cover with a kitchen towel. Then use the back (not sharp) edge of the cleaver, in one mighty blow, whack the lobster claw about half way down its length. Repeat until cracked. After the first crack, do not continue or the meat will be mashed. Then, flip the claw over and repeat on the other side. Remove the towel. If done correctly, there will be a large crack on each side of the claw, and with a simple twist the meat will be exposed. 3.
  6. For the arm joints, place the cleaver across each joint, and hit the top of the cleaver with your hand or a rubber mallet. Once separated, put the joint on the chopping block with the cleaver flat across it, and hit with your hand or the mallet to crack the shell.
  7. For the legs, leave whole and put into the serving bowl.

How to Eat

  1. The tail, claw and arm meat is now all very easily picked out of the shell with fingers or fork. The legs are broken at the joints, and the meat either sucked or squeezed out like toothpaste. The body is broken at each of the leg/claw joints, and the meat picked out with the fingers. Dip each morsel in the melted, salted butter, enjoy a bit of tomally and roe, a great bottle of white burgundy, some onion rings. Lobster paradise!
1 TIP – If your pot is not big enough, try this. After the lobster is in the pot, make a “tent” of heavy aluminum foil over the top of the pot. Then, half way through the cooking time, reverse the lobster (tail down now), put the tent back on, and continue cooking to end of the cooking time.

2 TIP: Dealing with the hot lobster is easier if you keep the cold water running, and dip your hands and the lobster under the cold water very briefly if things get too hot.

3 TIP: If you don’t use the towel, lobster meat, shell and water will fly all over your kitchen


Happy Father's Day Supplement Post

by Xani

Hi all... I'm on the road again so I have to thank EP for taking care of the write up of our over-the-top Sunday/Father's Day Dinner! I thought I'd add a post of my own, but since I am slacker, I'll revert to my standard post style: a photo album with funny (?) captions!! Click below and enjoy!

Fathers Day Dinner


P.S. There are a LOT of pictures in this album... we got a little camera-happy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

This Sunday we celebrated Father's Day with a menu hand-picked by Dad. It is tradition in our house that we have lobster at least twice a year: on Dad's Birthday (in October) and on Father's Day. This year was no exception. Here was the menu:

  • Cocktails and Japanese Snack Mix
  • Heart of Palm and Artichoke Salad
  • Lobsters!
  • Onion Rings
  • Macerated Raspberries with Chantilly Cream

    For our cocktails, Dad drank Johnny Walker Blue, the super-special scotch. The ladies drank a delicious, expensive bottle of champagne with a beautifully hand-painted bottle.




  • For our snack with drinks, Dad requested Japanese snack mix. Sounds relatively attainable, right? Well he insisted that the snack mix have the little fishes (sardines, I think?) in it, which proved very difficult to find! We found it though, and he was very happy. For the rest of us, we had some delicious cheeses from Calvert Woodley: brie, goat cheese, and a delicious morbier.

    After the cheeses and snack mix, we had our salad. Again, Dad asked for something a bit obscure and this time we were not so lucky. He wanted a hearts of palm salad with fresh white anchovies, but the anchovies were impossible to find. Sorry Dad! We ended up, however, with a lovely salad of hearts of palm, olives, artichoke hearts, and anchovies (out of the can). Xani made a great, simple vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon juice, shallots, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.


    With the salad we had a great, rustic bread that we got from Bonaparte, a bakery in Jessup, MD. Mom and Dad kept calling it "Napoleon."



    Now, onto the main event: LOBSTERS! This is an area of culinary practice where our family is extra-weird. Why, you ask? Because instead of getting 1-2 pound lobsters for each person, we instead get 1-2 HUGE lobsters that the whole family shares. This time, we got two 6-pound lobsters from Frank's Seafood, a great fish market in Laurel, MD. As expected, they were enormous! To cook these bad boys (well, one turned out to be a girl...), we used a tried and true method: boil the lobster for 5 minutes per pound, plus 2 minutes. A quick calculation told us that each lobster should be cooked for 32 minutes. (Note: The timing for this method begins once the water has come back to a boil after putting the lobster in.)



    Getting the lobsters out of the boiling water is quite the feat! But then comes the fun part: dismemberment. (Wow, that sounds so sick!) Dad has a great method that includes a large Chinese cleaver and lots of cold water for your hands so you can grab onto the hot lobster. Dad did the first one and Erin tried her hand at it for number 2. So fun!



    We served the lobster with melted butter and onion rings (see below). As you can see, the claws were as big as Dad's face!
    As a side dish to the lobsters, we made onion rings (another Rachael Ray recipe). The batter sounded really interesting: pancake mix, beer, paprika, chili powder, and cayenne. Unfortunately, the batter didn't seem to stay on the onion when it was frying, so it was a bit disappointing. They tasted great, they just weren't as beautiful as we had hoped.



    Here's what everything looked all put together:



    After a few minutes relaxing and digesting, we served dessert. Dad is a fan of fruity desserts (as opposed to chocolatey desserts), and he found a recipe he wanted us to make for him. The original recipe involved baking ridiculously complicated cookies, then serving them with macerated raspberries and homemade whipped cream. We made the recipe but we nixed the cookies and replaced them with toasted slices of poundcake.

    For the raspberries, we took Marsala wine, limoncello, vanilla, and sugar, and boiled it down to a syrup. Then we let it cool and then added the berries to hang out for about an hour. Meanwhile, we made the Chantilly Cream: we whipped heavy whipping cream with limoncello and sugar. Yum.


    We served the berries on top of the poundcake, then topped the whole thing with the whipped cream. Dad loved it.



    For his presents, Dad got a martini shaker (he's already got two, but neither had a large enough capacity so we could make four cocktails - it was essential!), and a great gadget from Brookstone: a remote meat thermometer! It was a great Father's Day, and we are insanely lucky to have such a great Dad! We love you, Dad!

    Happy eating,
    E & X

    Sunday, June 17, 2007

    A Love/Hate Relationship with SoBo Cafe

    by Xani


    Last week, in between trips, I actually had time to go to one of my favorite local restaurants in Baltimore. Erin, my friend Kim and I headed over to Sobo Cafe for a casual weeknight dinner. Now, SoBo cafe is a place I discovered about a year ago, in Federal Hill, just about a block from the Cross Street market. It's a funky little joint, which specializes in "comfort food" and has an ever-changing menu. It has delicious food and fun atmosphere, and it's one of my go-to places. So, why the hate?

    In truth, SoBo itself has very little to with my feelings of hate. Through no fault of its own, I tend to end up at Sobo either right before, or right after, really awful/annoying things happen! This includes: the night after poor Erin was mugged, immediately before breaking up with a psycho ex-boyfriend, right after I got locked out of my house and I had to kick down the front door, etc. I've also had a bad date or two there. But even with all these negatives, I keep going back...

    The day of this most recent visit I made it to dinner unscathed-- thats a good start. We sat down and I ordered and Ozzy, which is one of the famed Brewer's Art beers. Its good and strong!
    It was a warm evening, and along with the cold beer we ordered a bowl of Gazpacho. Sobo's version is rich, thick and has a great spice to it. Its garnished with cucumbers and homemade croutons.

    Next, main dishes. I opted for a chicken burrito-- I find that anytime I order a southwest or latin american style preparation at SoBo, I am happy. This time was no exception. The burrito was huge and stuffed with tender, moist chicken. It had lots of flavor but was even better with a few spoonfuls of the fiery red sauce that came along side. The beans on the side were a great compliment-- creamy and mild. It was way too much food, and I graciously donated the leftovers to Erin (it was that or pack them in my suitcase!).




    Kim chose these gorgeous stuffed peppers:


    They also had a southwest flavor, and were stuffed with rice, veggies, cheese, and probably a lot of other stuff I can't remember (descriptions of dishes at SoBo routinely run 2-3 lines long!). We all tasted them and they were awesome-- a great meatless option.

    Erin got the awesome crabcake platter. 'Tis the season for all things crab! These were two large, tasty specimens, with great flavor and very little filler. They appeared to be broiled or pan-fried, which gave them a bit of a crunchy exterior which yielded to big lumps inside. A delicious dish, including the decadent mashed potatoes and vegetable medley (at least 4 different veggies!).



    So as you can see we had an absolutely beautiful (and delicious) meal. I am also happy to report that I got through the night completely without incident (other than the fact that, upon getting home from dinner, I still had to pack and get up at 4am to catch my flight to Louisiana!). Thus it seems no matter how much bad luck befalls me before/after visits to SoBo, I'm likely to keep going back for more.

    X

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