Friday, February 8, 2013

Valentine's Day, So You're Gonna Need a Lobster

If you have a 'someone special' then listen up, Valentine's Day is next Thursday.  If you don't have a special someone, but would like one, its also best to pay attention.  Behind New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day is one of the busiest days for restaurants across the country.  Tables get booked weeks in advance and usually for the restaurant staff the day goes by in a blur of commotion and execution as table after table is turned, until finally everyone tiredly makes their way home.  It's nice because you feel as though you were a part of someone's love story, but at the same time it's quite a daunting feat to welcome 200 people in 2 hours.  Couples visiting restaurants encounter and become a part of the same madness.  Booking a reservation and making it to the restaurant on time are two different things, with everyone going out, traffic can be brutal.

 It's always fun to be in a crowd and everybody loves a scene.  But if seclusion and privacy is your thing, you are best off preparing a quiet, romantic meal for two at home.  For it to be special I recommend staying away from the chicken and steak, besides no one wants feel like they just ate a ton of bricks, especially if you have after dinner plans - like dancing.  From my experience, for no known reason, nothing says 'I love you', or 'I like you', or 'you're pretty ok' like lobster.  Tried and true, every Valentine's Day I see more and more lobsters being sold through the market.  Some do it every year.  Some have never done it before.  Usually those are the ones with a lot of questions and even more trepidation.  One thing is certain though, everyone returns happy and amazed at how easy and delicious live lobster can be to prepare.  Here's a quick guide to preparing your love bugs at home. ('Bugs' is another name for lobsters - seriously, ask anybody north of New York)

It's best to buy your bugs live and ask for hardshells.  Hardshells are lobsters that have not recently shed their outer skin and usually pack more meat than the softer shelled lobsters.  Now remember they don't turn that bright red until you cook them, so when you greet your guy it'll look a lot darker.
 I feel like 1 1/2lb lobsters are the perfect size for one, but I do recommend bigger eaters going for the 2lbers.  That sounds like too much, but remember a pound of lobster will only yield you about a quarter pound of meat.  What is gratifying is that lobster meat is very rich and good for you, so a little goes a long way, though it won't weigh you down like other non-seafood proteins.  The easiest way to cook your lobster is to boil it in flavored water.  I usually use black peppercorn, salt, lemon, and bay leaves, but feel free to add your own spices to your liking.  Submerge two 1 1/2lb lobsters after the water comes to a boil and 12 to 15 minutes later you are adding butter to the meat and serving.  Really it's that easy.  If you want to steam them just use less water, still season it, and add on about 10 minutes of cooking time.  Lobster meat when done will be white.  If you get a female you may find coral, when cooked it's red and raw it's green.  Don't shy away from it, it can be quite tasty.  You can crack the claws with the back of a chef's knife.  Just turn the claw on it's side and strike.   Twist the knife handle to split the claw.  It's easier to do this if you remove the rubber bands and moveable appendage of the claw first.  There is great meat in the knuckle area of the arm, so be sure to crack those too.  Use the knife to split the back of the tail to extract the meat.  Here is where the drawn butter comes in.

With a simple internet search you can find other recipes for lobster.  Some of my favorites include lobster pot pie, lobster poached in butter, and lobster salad.  Most markets will sell you lobster meat, just make sure it is fresh cooked and never frozen.  Preparing the lobsters yourself is always the better solution in my opinion, you can't get it any fresher than out of your own pot.  You shouldn't feel any pity for the lobsters either, after all they're just bugs, delicious bugs, but bugs all the same.  Lobsters have an underdeveloped nervous system, so their pain receptors are nothing like a humans.  Lobsters can lose an appendage in the wild and not miss a beat.  Usually the arm will grow back like nothing happened.  So if you are looking to avoid the whole Valentine's shuffle and do some entertaining of your own in the comfort of your home, I am recommending the love bugs for your love bug.  It tastes like you've been in the kitchen all day, but it actually frees up your time for more important things - like that last minute Valentine's Day card you forgot to get.

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