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RECIPE: Lobster With Melted Butter and Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Posted by Amie / June 14, 2010

LobsterBetween the price, the fighting with fishmongers, the claws, getting them home from the store, the smell, and the mess, why would anyone make lobster? Maybe because lobster is honestly one of the easiest things in the world to make, it's delicious, and right now it's Quebec lobster season so they're the most affordable they'll be all year. So suck up your fear, find a friend for moral support, and enjoy one easy-to-cook meal. Trust me, if I can do it, so can you.

Lobster used to be considered poor-man's food, but in the last few decades they've become elite and gourmet, which is silly because all you do is boil the gnarly things for 10 minutes in some saltwater (traditionally sea water). The gourmet revolution is clearly shown by the year-round price of $9.99 a pound at Poissonerie Atwater. I refuse to pay more than $6.99 a pound in lobster season (around $10-$14 a lobster), and other Montreal fish stores such as Poissonerie Gaspesienne in Jean-Talon Market (across from Atkins in the outside section, near Havres Aux Glaces and the lettuce plant vendors) and the new Waldman's on St-Laurent (it recently re-opened, but there's a bit of a sketchy story about their past employment practices) offer this market price. You might also be able to find them on special at local grocery stores at Provigo, but I trust the people who work at specialty fish shops to ensure that the lobsters are fresh and taken care of properly, not crammed into too-small fish tanks and stressed (which can affect the flavour). Actually, Provigo might be a better bet than Waldman's, just because it might have a higher turn-over, so lobsters aren't left waiting to be bought. Ask questions and make sure your fishmonger knows what he or she is doing. Avoid getting in fights with them, which tends to happen to me far too often.
2 Lobsters - small or medium-sized, and ask for male if you don't want to deal with all the messy roe and tomalley inside the females. Smaller ones can be about a pound and a half each, but make sure you see how much they weigh when they're on the scale or you could end up paying a lot more than you expect when it turns out they weigh 2 1/2 pounds each (it's the difference between paying $20 and $35). Oh, and you probably will look ridiculous if you cry "hot tomalley!" in the fish store...Avoid this.
2 litres of water (or 8 cups)
1/3 to 1/2 cup of salt (doesn't have to be exact, just throw in a lot)
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine

Okay, so you buy your lobsters at hopefully a reasonable price, you bring them home in the bag and then what do you do? Do you leave them on the counter? No. Put them in the fridge while you add the 1/3 to 1/2 cup of salt to 8 cups of water in your biggest pot (If you're making roasted sweet potatoes, below, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit right away when you get home, and get your potatoes in the oven before you bring your lobster water to a boil). Lobsters are okay out of water for a little while, but definitely buy them the same day you want to make them, preferably right before, for the best results.

If you have a pot large enough to hold both lobsters, use it, and use all the water, but if you only have a smaller pot, you'll probably have to cook the lobsters one at a time. You can cut the water and salt amounts in half in this case.

By the time your water comes to a boil and you're ready to throw in a lobster, don't worry if they're not moving. They don't like dry land like Montrealers don't like winter.

Important throwing-lobster-in-water steps:

1. Do not remove the rubber bands around the claws.
2. Pick up the lobster by its behind from the bag
Lobster3. Place it in the boiling water and cover the pot with a lid (add the second lobster if there's room. You may need to push their pot-extruding claws into the water to get the lid on. Do so gently. You may also need to weigh down the lid. I have this irrational fear that the lobsters will rise out of the depths and seek vengeance on their murderer, so I seek comfort in the extra weight)
4. Do not lower the heat
5. Do not cry if they cry
6. Set a timer for 10 minutes (for a small or medium-sized lobster) or 12 for the UFC Heavyweight Champion of lobsters
7. Find a good way to remove the lobster(s) from the pot (tongs or very large slotted spoons)
Lobster2Lobster number 2 looks a little more excited to finally be warm.

In the meantime...

...get a few little bowls of melted butter ready. If you want a different kind of flavour you can use black bean paste or chile-garlic paste as a dipping sauce. Really, lobster meat doesn't need much of anything, but like corn on the cob, you can do it a bunch of different ways. It's not like most people eat enough lobster to get sick of plain lobster with butter.

How to shuck the lobster:
Wait for the lobster to cool to the touch (5 to 10 minutes). Break off the arms. There's a tiny bit of meat in each but it's up to you if it's worth trying to get it out. You can buy little lobster shucking utensils in kits (like at the kitchen supply place inside Jean-Talon, or most other kitchen stores) but you can also pull the head off the body (there's nothing good in the head to eat unless you're someone who thinks it's a delicacy, in which case you don't want my shucking advice anyway) and use the flat of a heavy knife to press down (hard!) on the under-side of the crustacean and crack it open. Scissors sometimes work to cut through the more tender underbelly and tail. For the claws...well, that big knife might be okay, but probably you'll want a nutcracker or something very heavy. Then little pokers (or fondue skewers) will help pull fine threads of meat out of thin cavities. The great thing is it takes a bunch of time to shuck the lobster, so you work for your dinner, instead of gobbling it up quickly and still feeling hungry and wishing you'd killed an extra lobster or two, barbarians that we are. Besides, all that butter needs time to soak into your body. It is my favourite kind of body butter. Take that, Body Shop.

Dip, and enjoy.

What goes perfectly with this? Roasted sweet potatoes.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
4 sweet potatoes (better to make more than not enough, since these are delicious)
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
1 tsp oil (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. There are a few ways to roast sweet potatoes:

1. You can roast them whole, naked (unseasoned), directly on the oven bars, or wrap them in aluminum foil. Just wash them and prick them all over with a fork so they don't explode in the oven.
2. If you want them to cook faster you can chop them into wedges or smaller pieces, and then you don't need to bother pricking them.
3. You can also put a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt on the palms of your hands and rub the potatoes all over, which gives the skin a nice texture. The sweet potatoes don't really need any other seasoning since you can dip them in butter (or chile-garlic) like your lobster meat, but if you're making them with a different meal maybe add some cayenne pepper, paprika or black pepper. Whole potatoes will take about 45 minutes to an hour to cook (more or less depending on the size) and chunks can taken from 20 to 35 minutes. They're done when they're tender. Use a fork and if it goes into the flesh easily, it's done. Over-cooking isn't the end of the world. They'll just be a tiny bit mushy, but that's fine too. They lose some of their nutritional value from cooking on such high heat, so if you have more time, turn the heat down (350 Fahrenheit) and cook them for longer.



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