By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
Ah, the hot and lazy days of summer are upon us. Wait, I must be delusional. Where am I that I think it’s even remotely hot?
I recently wrote about Costa Rica, so maybe I’m still stuck in that frame of mind, because it certainly is not very hot here. Quite the contrary, it is downright frigid for being the middle of June, as I see my breath as I breathe out at the dock. It is difficult for me to get my head wrapped around this nonsense, but I do have that wedding in Key West next week, so that at least brings me a little solace and warmth.
But I digress. Summer is here (technically in a few days) as evidenced by boats on the water, tourists on jet skis who are endangering everyone within a nautical mile of their terroristic maneuvers, over-chlorinated pools opening all over the place, Memorial Day now a distant memory and orange crushes flying out the door. Yes, summer is here.
And for me, there is nothing better than sitting at Harborside or other commercial-harbor locales and seeing the lobster jib flying over Sonny Gwin’s boat. Fresh lobster right out of Washington canyon for a great price means a few things to me.
One, I need to finish my drink and run over and buy some before he’s out. Two, I need to cook a couple off to make lobster salad, and grill some off for a classic summertime dinner. And three, I now get to write a column about something that is near and dear to my heart.
When I was 16, I was already on my second cooking job in Annapolis at a place on Main Street called Key West Shipping Company. Grilled lobster was a specialty, and as we cooked over mesquite, there was a sharp contrast to the sweet meat of the shellfish that complemented it perfectly. Topping it with a fresh marinara (not today’s recipe) elevated the dish to new levels and turned a simple technique into a spectacular meal.
As we believed in a quick dispatch of the lobster to minimize the pain felt by killing it, we would split it in half as written in the recipe. However, the older, squeamish cooks didn’t always want to do it. I would jump in and take care of it quickly and efficiently, and eventually earned the nickname “Executioner,” a name that I wasn’t too particularly proud of. To me, I’d rather get it done quickly then imagine a slow death in boiling water or a steamer, but not everyone saw it that way.
Either way, I became efficient at it and it is still the best way to take care of things when you cook fresh lobster.
So today, with a chilly rain falling, I climb aboard the boat to pick out my lobsters and find four of them ranging from 1-3 pounds. I’ll grill the smaller ones, use the larger ones for the salad, and use all of those glorious shells (or at least the ones that are not going to be grilled) to make a lobster stock. I can freeze that and use it for bisque or a seafood pasta down the road.
And when all is said and done, I will have a pile of grilled lobster and lemon with a delicious garlic butter. And all will be right in the world; at least in my summertime world. Let the fun begin!
Grilled Lobster, Herb-Butter
4, 1 1/2-pound lobsters (or a size that you like)
1 pound Whole salted butter
1 bunch Italian parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
6 cloves garlic, smashed
Cracked black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. Paprika
4 Fresh lemons
- Let’s start with the compound butter first: soften the butter so that you fan mash it
- Chop the parsley and add along with the leaves of the thyme, garlic, pepper, paprika, cayenne and the juice and zest of two lemons
- Combine well and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors come together
- Take the last two lemons, cut off the stem and flower ends and cut in half width-wise so that you have two “domes”
- For the most humane way to dispatch the lobsters, place in a freezer for about half an hour. This calms them and also numbs them
- Quickly split the lobsters in half from stem to stern. The faster you do this, the quicker the “dispatch” will be, for lack of a better term
- Scrape out the tomalley (that green stuff) and set aside if you want to make a butter with it. This is optional as not everyone appreciates this
- Brush the lobster with some of the butter and grill meat-side down for about three minutes, or until there is a nice grill-char on it (do not burn!)
- Turn the lobster bodies over so that the shell itself is on the grill and slather with your compound butter. The shell will act as a cooking vessel and much more moisture will stay in the meat (as well as butter surrounding the meat – it becomes butter-poached)
- When the meat is cooked through, pull off and keep warm
- Grill the remaining lemon halves and serve your lobster with these and some more parsley if need be