Summer in all its sun-shining, ice cream-cone-licking glory, is unquestionably my favorite time of year. As a child, it always meant driving out to my mother's tiny little cottage in Rhode Island and spending all day at the beach in Narragansett -- where we had a one-room cabana that just about fit a stove and shower. At the end of a long beach day, when the air would finally cool off the water and the salt still clung to our hair, we would arrange an incredible feast overlooking the ocean. When I think of summer, it is always these dinners that I remember. The seafood was so fresh you could still taste the sea - possibly because my mother insisted on actually using it in her cooking (to be explained!), and the fresh corn and stone fruit pies beat out any 5-star meal you can find. Plus the view could not be beat!
The most exciting of these feasts, was the once-a-summer dinner where we got to eat lobster. During that feast my mother, having grown up in Rhode Island her whole life and thus being a master chef of New England seafood, had a ritual about how to prepare a lobster dinner. And since lobster prices are at an all-time low, this is a meal not to be missed this summer. In the spirit of sharing I thought I would divulge some of my mother's famous and until now -- secret -- lobster dinner tips!
Lobster prices are as low this year as they were last, which means a lobster dinner may actually fit happily into your budget. $8.99/lb. is a good price, but I have seen them as low as $6.99/lb. -- a truly GREAT deal and one that screams "lobster party" time!
My mother has one basic rule to live by -- never serve a lobster that is less than 1.5 pounds. Doing so, in her opinion, does not only reveal your amateur understanding of lobster, but it is also deeply calls into question your morals and basic understanding of human decency. It's important to note, however, that biggest is not necessarily best here. That's because lobsters can get as old as 60, and if they are too heavy, that means they are older and their meat can be a bit chewier. Larger lobsters are also harder to cook evenly, so1.5 lbs. to 2lbs is the sweet spot.
The lobster must be cooked -- and this really is non-negotiable for her - in ocean water. For us, that meant literally taking a pot, walking out knee deep into the ocean and scooping up a vast quantity of good old sea water. Understandably, if you do not live near the ocean this may prove impossible. I recommend (but don't tell my mom) seasoning your water with sea salt instead, if you absolutely must.
Finally, the cooking. Lobster boiling is a seemingly barbaric process, but one can take some consolation in the widely believed theory that lobsters don't have a central nervous system. One famous chef gives her lobsters vodka before they go in, and About.com has a few suggestions on how to kill it more humanely. In any event, they should go in head first and be cooked for 12-15 minutes for a 1 pound lobster (but I know you didn't buy those!), 15-20 minutes for a 1 1/2 pound lobster, and 20-25 minutes for a 2-3 pound lobster from the time the water starts boiling.
The best place to eat a lobster is outdoors without a doubt. They are messy and you don't want to fall to pieces every time a little lobster juice falls to the floor (it will). Serve them with a little side of melted butter, invite over a few friends, have them bring some rose, and voilá -- a lobster feast. If you are looking to save money, do it b.y.o. lobster style -- ask everyone to pay for their own lobster and you can prepare the sides. Send out a cheeky little e-vite asking people to "sponsor their own lobster" and then use a person-to-person payments solution to collect the funds. Believe me no one will mind paying $10 for a lobster if you can organize an evening of great company! So enjoy and get cooking!
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