December 31st, 2010
Lobsters are invertebrates – they have a hard external shell or exoskeleton. A lobster can live for up to 15 years, females reproduce from about 5 years old and produce up to 80,000 eggs at a time, once every two years.
Cooking a lobster:
Lobsters are normally boiled, then the meat is removed and combined with some kind of sauce, including the likes of, cheese, butter, sherry and eggs.
Traditionally lobsters are killed and cooked by dropping them into boiling water. They don’t have brains in the way we think of them, they do have a nervous system with two processing centres, but simply putting a knife through a lobster’s head isn’t a sure fire way of dispatching it quickly. The RSPCA recommend putting lobsters into a freezer for a couple of hours – they are used to living in quite cold water and in a freezer they should just go to sleep and die.
From the freezer, defrost your lobster and put it into a large pot of boiling, salted, water for about 15 minutes, up to a 2lb lobster – add 5 minutes per pound thereafter. Drain your lobsters when cooked, rinse them in water and allow them to cool. Make sure you don’t remove the rubber bands on a lobster’s claws, even when docile from the fridge, they can give you a very nasty pinch.
If you wish to grill your lobster meat and sauce in half a shell, then you need to carefully cut the lobster in two (see here for pictures), remove the meat, clean the shell and then put the meat and sauce back in before grilling. If you are going to bake or grill your lobster in a baking tray, then there’s no need to be so careful about opening the shell. If you remove the tail like a prawn, you can remove the tail meat in one piece. Crack open the claws and legs – you’ll find that a nut cracker is very good for this and there are some little metal poking tools (I bought a pack of 6 in France for a few Euros) that you can buy which really help in removing meat from the legs. There’s more meat in the body, the red roe (eggs) are edible too, as is the green liver (though some people don’t like it). Discard the green, feather like, gills. If you remove all the meat and cook it in a dish, it gets a lot less messy at the dining table, plus the meat from the claws is served in a sauce, rather than plain.
Lobster in cheese sauce recipe:
1 pint of milk
40g plain flour
6 black peppercorns
1 blade of mace
1 bay leaf
a slice of onion
2 carrot peelings
150g grated cheddar
50g grated parmesan
1 teaspoon of mustard powder
a pinch of salt
a sprinkle of cayenne pepper
Put the milk in a saucepan and add the pepper corns, mace, bay leaf, onion and carrot. Warm the milk up but don’t bring it all the way to boiling. Allow to cool. Once the milk has cooled strain and discard the additional ingredients.
Make a roux by warming the butter in a clean saucepan. Once it has melted, slowly add the flour and keep stirring. When the butter and flour have combined to make a paste, slowly add the milk (note, this doesn’t work well with warm milk, so do allow it to cool) and stir all the time so you don’t get any lumps. When you have a smooth sauce, slowly mix in your cheese. Finally, when the cheese has all dissolved, add your mustard and stir it in.
If you are grilling the lobster in the shell, mix the meat into the cheese sauce and pour the mixture back into the shell. Sprinkle with a little cayenne pepper and grill until the sauce bubbles, like cheese on toast.
To bake the lobster in cheese sauce, place the lobster meat into a greased (with butter) oven dish and pour the cheese sauce over the top. Sprinkle with a little cayenne pepper and bake at 20º C for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is a golden brown on top. You could also grill this, being careful not to burn the cheese.
Lobster in cheese sauce goes well with sauté potatoes and broccoli. I suggest using one lobster per person and making the cheese sauce quite thick, as liquid contained inside the lobster meat will thin the sauce during cooking.