In writing our book we ended up with more than would fit between the covers. Thankfully our digital notebook has some space. Here is how we look at cooking lobsters.
Preparing Whole Lobster
15 liters/ 16 quarts water
750 grams/ 26.5 ounces salt
In a large pot combine the salt and the water. It will take some time and stirring to fully dissolve the salt into the water. Be patient, it will dissolve. Once the salt is dissolved, divide the brine into three containers, one large enough to hold the lobster tails and brine, one to hold the claws and legs and brine and one to hold the heads of the lobsters and brine.
Preparing The Lobster Part One
We have found that quickly killing and breaking down lobsters produces a tender succulent crustacean. The process does not call for dropping in boiling water. It calls for quick and efficient killing and breaking down of the lobster along with patience in the cooking process. We found that even though a lobster may be dead, its muscles need to stop seizing before it is cooked in order to prepare a succulent lobster. The brining helps add seasoning to the lobster while also cleaning the flesh and further preventing coagulation of the lobster’s hemolymph to the flesh.
4 2-pound lobsters
Place a cutting board on a sheet pan. Place the lobster on the cutting board and with an oyster knife plunge a hole in the lobster’s shell between and directly behind the eyes. Twist the oyster knife a half turn and remove it. This procedure destroys the lobster’s brain killing it instantly. Quickly use a pairing knife to cut underneath the joint between the thorax and the tail of the lobster to remove the tail from the body. If any dark green roe is apparent remove it from the tail and place it in a bowl to refrigerate and reserve to make pasta. Place the tail in the container with the brine for the tails. Repeat killing and removing the tails from the other three lobsters. When all the tails are in the brine place the brine in the refrigerator for two hours.
Use a kitchen towel and a pair of scissors to dismantle the rest of the lobsters. Remove the claws and the knuckles from the lobster bodies. Also, separate the knuckle joint from the claws. Leave everything in the shells. With the claws and knuckles separated, place them in the container of brine. Place the lobster body’s legs facing up on the cutting board and use the scissors to cut the legs off as close to the body as possible. Place the legs in the brine with the knuckles and claws and place it in the refrigerator for two hours.
Remove the exoskeleton from the lobster bodies and scrape out the green tomalley and discard. Place the bodies in their container of brine and refrigerate for one hour.
The brining process is helping to rinse the lobster off and draw out the hemolymph, which runs through its body. As the muscles continue to contract the hemolymph and brine exchange places. The salt denatures the surface proteins of the lobster and the proteins in the hemolymph. This allows for the lobster to be cooked without developing much albumen coagulation on the outside of the flesh. Furthermore, the brine seasons the meat and makes for a flavorful lobster.
After one hour remove the lobster bodies from the brine and rinse them under cold water. Use a small spoon to scrape the gills off of the lobster head. Cut off the eyes and rinse the heads under cold water. Reserve the bodies in the refrigerator to make lobster stock.
After two hours, remove the tails, claws, knuckles and legs from the brine and rinse under cold water. Pat these parts dry and store in a high sided pan in the refrigerator overnight. The lobster muscle fibers are still contracting two hours after being killed. The benefit of cooking the lobsters later is that the muscles are no longer contracting. There has been no evidence that lobsters go through rigor mortis but waiting for the muscles to relax while essentially bleeding out the lobsters prepares them for optimum cookery.
Preparing the Lobster Part Two
Place a large pot of water on to boil. Since each part of the lobster is a different size and has a different muscle fiber structure we have found that each part benefits from its own cooking time. In most cases we blanch the lobster parts in boiling water to cook the lobster just long enough to remove it from its shell. The knuckles and the legs are the exception, they are just cooked through after blanching and can still be re-heated.
For the lobster tails, grab and squeeze the center tail fin in the tail fan and turn it 45°. Slowly pull it out and the lobster’s digestive tract should come with it. Repeat with the other tails. If it does not come all the way out it may be removed after blanching the tails. With the water at a boil, place the lobsters in the water for thirty seconds. When the time is up remove them from the water and place them on the cutting board. When the tails are cool enough to handle, flip them over so they are hard shell down. Use a pair of scissors to go cut along the inside of the shell. Peel back the shell and then carefully pull the lobster out of its shell. Place the tail in a pan or bowl set in an ice bath to cool quickly. Repeat the shell removal process with the other tails.
To cook the crusher (larger) claws, place them in the boiling water for four minutes. When the time is up, remove them from the water and put them on the cutting board. When the claws are cool enough to handle, hold them horizontally on the board with the rounded side of the claw facing up. Hold the claw by its pincers. Use the back of a heavy knife to crack the edge of the claw. The knife will make its impact in a perpendicular manner to the claw. After the first crack is made in the claw, lay it flat on the cutting board and use the back of the knife to follow the fault line so that a crack goes completely around the claw. Pick the claw up by the rounded portion of the claw and grab hold of the straighter smaller portion of the claw. Snap this smaller piece 45° in either direction to loosen it from the claw itself. Use a kitchen towel to remove the cracked off bottom of the claw and free the flesh. Gently pull the small claw tip out of the remaining claw. This will free the flesh of the claw and pull out the central cartilage that was inside the claw. Place the cleaned claw in the pan set on the ice bath.
To cook the pincer (smaller) claws, place them in boiling water for three minutes. When the time is up, remove them from the water and put them on the cutting board. When the claws are cool enough to handle, hold them horizontally on the board with the rounded side of the claw facing up. Hold the claw by its pincers. Use the back of a heavy knife to crack the edge of the claw. The knife will make its impact in a perpendicular manner to the claw. After the first crack is made in the claw, lay it flat on the cutting board and use the back of the knife to follow the fault line so that a crack goes completely around the claw. Pick the claw up by the rounded portion of the claw and grab hold of the straighter smaller portion of the claw. Snap this smaller piece 45° in either direction to loosen it from the claw itself. Use a kitchen towel to remove the cracked off bottom of the claw and free the flesh. Gently pull the small claw tip out of the remaining claw. This will free the flesh of the claw and pull out the central cartilage that was inside the claw. Place the cleaned claw in the pan set on the ice bath.
To cook the knuckles, place them in the boiling water for three minutes. When the time is up, remove them from the water and put them on the cutting board. When the knuckles are cool enough to handle, use a pair of scissors to cut through the shell and release the knuckles. To cut the knuckles, lay them on the cutting board with the bendable joint facing up. Follow the edges on either side of the knuckle and remove the plate of shell. Gently pull the knuckle out of the shell. As you pull the knuckle out, the cartilage, which runs though, it will pull out as well. Place the cleaned knuckle in the pan on an ice bath. Repeat this procedure with the rest of the knuckles.
To cook the legs, place them in boiling water for forty seconds. When the time is up remove the legs from the water and place them on the cutting board. Lay each leg on the cutting board with the pincer side closest to you. Place a rolling pin on the small pincer and roll the lobster leg flat. This process will push the leg meat straight out of the cut end of the leg. Repeat this procedure with the rest of the legs and place them in the pan on ice to cool. When the lobsters are all cooked and cleaned, wrap the tray in plastic wrap and refrigerate to cool completely.
4 lobster heads
992 grams/ 35 oz canned plum tomatoes
600 grams/ 21 ounces water
235g/8 ounces red wine
200 grams/7 ounces soy sauce
Use a small spoon to scrape the gills off of the lobster head. Cut off the eyes and rinse the heads under cold water. Use a meat mallet to smash the heads then place them into a food processor and puree them into a rough paste. Then place them in a pressure cooker. Add the water, tomatoes, red wine and soy sauce. Seal the pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for twenty minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. Remove the lid from the pressure cooker and let the stock rest for twenty more minutes. Remove the solids from the pressure cooker and then strain the stock through four layers of cheesecloth into a metal bowl set in an ice bath. When the stock is cool, place it in the refrigerator and let it rest overnight. Reserve the lobster stock for making soup and cooking lobster pasta and parts.
1000 grams/35.25 ounces lobster stock
700 grams/24.7 ounces heavy cream
113 grams/4 ounces whole butter cut into small pieces
1 bunch of tarragon
Place the lobster stock and heavy cream in a pot and bring to a simmer. Cook the soup at a gentle simmer until it reduces by half. Skim off any foam that appears during the reducing and make sure to scrape the sides of the pot clean as the soup reduces. When the soup has reduced, strain it into a blender and turn the speed on low. Slowly add the butter a piece at a time until it is fully incorporated. Season the soup with ten grinds of black pepper and pour it into a bowl set in an ice bath to cool. Add the bunch of tarragon to the hot and cooling soup to infuse and stir it around while the soup cools. When the soup is cold, strain it one more time and reserve it in the refrigerator.
To serve, heat the soup up over low heat. When it is hot pour into bowls or cups and serve with lobster rolls. Any excess soup can be frozen or used to enrich other lobster preparations.
Lobster Knuckle Sandwich
30 grams/1 ounce Hellman’s mayonnaise
2 grams/0.07ounces Siracha hot sauce
10 grams/0.35 ounces chopped chives
10 grams/0.35 ounces chopped tarragon
Reserved lobster knuckles
4 central ribs from romaine lettuce leaves
2 tops split hot dog buns
30 grams/1 ounce butter
In a bowl combine the mayonnaise, Siracha, chives and tarragon. Stir to combine. Cut the ribs of the romaine into a small dice and mix it into the dressing. Cut the lobster knuckles into individual knuckles and then cut each knuckle in half. Add the knuckles to the dressing and mix to combine and fully coat the knuckles. Melt half of the butter in a pan and when it foams, add the hot dog buns. Cook the buns until they are golden on one side and then turn them over and add the other half of the butter to brown the other side. When the buns are cooked, remove them from the pan and divide the lobster knuckle salad between the buns. Cut each lobster roll in half and serve alongside the lobster soup.
Fried Pincer Claw Salad
225 grams/8 reserved lobster stock
150 grams/5.29 ounces flour
18 grams/0.6 ounces/1 egg yolk
2 grams/0.07 ounces/1/3 teaspoon salt
1.5 grams/0.05 ounces baking soda
0.2 grams/0.007 ounces xanthan gum
In a blender add the lobster stock. Turn the blender on low and increase the speed till a vortex forms in the center of the lobster stock. Sprinkle in the xanthan gum and increase the speed to evenly disperse the xanthan gum. Turn the speed down to medium and add the egg yolk and the flour. Puree to just combine the mixture. Pour the mixture into an whipped cream canister and charge with one carbon dioxide charge. Alternatively if you have a carbonation rig, carbonate the batter to 50 psi.
4 pincer claws
50 grams/1.75 ounces kimchee
50 grams/1.75 ounces mayonnaise
4 small ripe tomatoes
4 slices of cooked bacon
10 grams/0.35 ounces chives
10 grams/0.35 ounces minced tarragon
2 heads of frisée
Heat one pot filled half way with canola oil to 176°C/350°F for frying the claws.
Puree the kimchee and the mayonnaise to make a smooth puree. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for ten seconds, and then place in an ice bath to cool. When the tomatoes are cold, remove the stem and peel off the skin. Season the exterior of the tomatoes with salt and a light dusting of cayenne. Set aside at room temperature to marinate. Clean the heads of frisée. Using a pair of scissors remove the dark green ends of the frisée. Cut the stem off the frisée and then separate the frisée leaves. Rinse in ice water and then spin dry in a salad spinner. Chop the cooked bacon into small pieces. Dispense the lobster batter into a bowl. Dip the lobster claws in the batter and fry until crispy. Remove to a cooling rack lined with paper towels to absorb any extra oil. Mix the bacon with the chives and tarragon. Dress the frisée with half of the kimchee mayonnaise. Add the bacon and herb mixture.
Place a spoonful of the kimchee mayonnaise in the center of each plate. Place a tomato on top of the puree. Top with a nest of the frisée salad and then lean the lobster claw next to the salad.
Cocktail Sauce Cavatelli
225 grams/8 ounces flour
2 grams/0.07 ounces salt
2 grams/0.07 ounces baking powder
120 grams/4.25 ounces smoked ketchup
50 grams/1.5 ounces preserved lemon
40 grams/1.4 ounces prepared horseradish
25 grams/0.9 ounce lobster roe
Combine the horseradish, preserved lemon, lobster roe and smoked ketchup in a blender. Puree until smooth. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to blend. Add the cocktail sauce mixture all at once and process to a soft, firm dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter top and knead until smooth and silky. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic, (or vacuum seal if you can) and let rest for at least 30 minutes before shaping pasta.
You will need a rolling pin, flour for dusting, and a butter knife or a bench scraper to shape the cavatelli by hand. Have a floured sheet pan at the ready on which to rest the finished pasta. Roll the dough out to a thickness of about 0.5cm/1/4in. Cut them into strips approximately 1cm/1/2-in thick. Cover the extra strips with a damp towel so the dough doesn't dry out while you are making the cavatelli. If you have a cavatelli maker you can use it here to run the strips through the machine, otherwise proceed with the following instructions for handmade cavatelli. Cut 0.5cm/1/2-in squares using a butter knife or bench scraper. Turn each square diagonally and then drag your butter knife of bench scraper at a 45-degree angle along the square, from left to right, The pasta will curl along the edge of your implement, leaving you with a beautifully shaped cavatelli. It may take a few tries to master the technique, once you develop a rhythm things move quickly.
Lay the finished pasta out on a lightly floured sheet tray and cook immediately or freeze. Once frozen, transfer the cavatelli to a plastic bag and keep frozen until ready to use, up to 1 month.
Cocktail Sauce Cavatelli
Reserved lobster legs
250 grams/8.8 ounces reserved lobster stock
25 grams/0.9 ounces chopped celery leaves
Bring a large pot of boiling water to a boil. Season the water with salt. Heat the reserved lobster stock in a small pot. Cook the cavatelli until it is almost cooked. Remove it to a pan and add lobster hot lobster stock to coat. Continue to add lobster stock as it cooks. When the pasta is just cooked add the lobster legs to heat though and the celery leaves. Add a touch more stock if needed so the pasta is coated in a loose but not flowing sauce. Serve in bowls
Aromatic Crusher Claw
4 reserved crusher claws
1 inch peeled, fresh ginger root
1 cinnamon stick
2 pieces star anise
3 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 dried bird chili
50 grams/1.75 ounces butter
250 grams/8.8 ounces reserved lobster stock
30 grams/1 ounce butter
250 grams/8.8 ounces oyster mushrooms
10 smoked hazelnuts zested
Zest of 2 lemons
10 grams/0.35 ounces chopped chives
Melt butter over medium heat in a heavy sauté pan large enough to hold all four lobster claws. Add the spices to the pan and fry just until they release their aroma. Add the lobster claws to the pan and baste generously. Do not let the pan overheat. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the meat just turns opaque and firm to the touch. When the lobster is cooked removes it to a tray set over a baking pan and pour off any excess fat and remove the spices. Deglaze the pan with the lobster stock and then add the oyster mushrooms to braise them. When the mushrooms are tender, add the butter to pan and swirl it in to emulsify. Turn the heat down and add the lobster claws back to the pan. Baste the claws with the sauce and then spoon a bed of mushrooms onto each plate topped with the crusher claw. Mix the smoked hazelnut zest with the lemon zest and chives and sprinkle on top of each lobster claw.
Lobster Tail with Fresh Polenta
4 lobster tails
515 grams/18.15 ounces scraped corn from 8 ears
4 grams/0.14 ounces/2/3 teaspoon salt
30 grams/1 ounce butter
0.75 grams cayenne
10 basil leaves finely sliced
Wrap each lobster tail in plastic wrap so that it forms a ball. Vacuum seal the lobster tails and cook them in a 55°C/131°F water bath for thirty minutes. While the lobster tails cook, heat the scraped corn in a pot. Season it with the salt and the cayenne. Bring the mixture to a simmer and stir. The natural cornstarch will thicken the corn. Keep the corn warm and when the lobster is cooked stir in the butter. Fold the sliced basil into the corn and spoon it into bowls. Remove the lobster from the bag and plastic wrap. Place a lobster tail on the fresh polenta.