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Leftobsters? Again?

CookingHomes

We're doing leftovers again. I know, I know. Only about a month ago, we were busy shucking out crabs left from our crab feasts, and now we're talking about taking the same approach should you plan a lobster festival to make the dog days a bit more fun.

At our house, the lobster festival is a transplant from years or traveling back to the Bay State in August, always a couple of weeks before school would start again. We'd cool off at the beaches Nawth o' Boston, in the oceanside towns that included Revere, Lynn, Nahant, Swampscott, Marblehead, Gloucester, Rockport … up theyah.

Whatever else we did to amuse our precious children, we always hosted a family/friend reunion in the garden of my father-in-law's seaside home (up a very steep hill with a limited view of the Atlantic). Rarely fewer than eight people, often double that, or more. Homerus Americanus (aka Maine or North Atlantic lobster) was the star at these festivals. They were usually at their lowest summertime prices in late August, so they were a relatively good deal. But it was always one person, one lobster. That's it.

After selling his business (that's a story for another time), "Papa" took a job in a "package" store near home. Happily, right next door was a lobster pound that sold — yes — lobsters and lobster meat. That's it. And that's where he acquired the culls that we customarily provided for the festival. Culls are one-claw lobsters, or lobsters that've lost a claw and have a new one generating. Unless you're a terribly picky lobster eater, you don't mind. After all, a two-pound lobster is a two-pound lobster and will provide just as much meat, whether it has one claw or a pair of them.

We mention all this so that in case you're thinking about hosting your own lobster festival, and are planning to get them from a local fish monger, you can go ahead and get the culls, as long as they're as lively as the two-claw ones (they're often kept in separate tanks).

Do it yourself

Plan the festival as you would a crab feast: A few (easy) appetizers. We always had steamed clams as sort of a first course (you'll have to settle for steamed little necks unless you can get some long necks, aka "steamers"). But the clams are not strictly de rigueur, unless you're entertaining my youngest daughter.

Some side dishes such as local corn, sliced fresh local tomatoes (you can do them with fresh mozzarella and basil and drizzle with a balsamic vinaigrette if you want to go gourmet). Add some baked beans, a pasta dish (like baked ziti or stuffed shells) and maybe even some oven-baked sweet potato fries.

Then after everyone's full enough so they won't demand seconds on the lobster — ta-dah — the grand finale, with clarified butter, of course, served just before dessert, which for us was usually a sheet cake and ice cream.

You can cook the lobsters yourself or, if you're squeamish, get them cooked. One per person, plus three or four more (which you don't' let on that you have). Ours were cooked outdoors in a huge pot over a wood fire, with a little sea water (when it used to be clean) and maybe even some kelp.

Anyway, since you plan to feast on leftovers, keep an eye on your guests. If they only eat the lobster claws and tail, but eschew the bodies and the "knuckles," be sure to confiscate the latter for a doggie bag. These are treasure troves of sweet lobster meat, which you'll harvest at your post-festival-shuck-out-the-lobstahs party.

By combining your whole plan-over lobsters and the wonderful sweet meat you can get from the knuckles and the bodies — anyone who's eaten crabs will have no problem accomplishing this — you'll garner plenty of fixins' for the "leftobster" dishes we suggest here. And while you're slaving over your chore, keep in mind that a pound of shucked-out lobster meat will probably run you nearly $25.

Go for it!

Lobster salad

No mayonnaise on this main-dish salad. But it does feature your lobster leftovers and can help you use up some of the leftover corn on the cob. Some artisanal bread goes well. Drink a dry white.

2 to 3 cups cooked lobster meat

1 1/2 pounds small red-skin potatoes, scrubbed, halved or quartered, depending on size

4 ears cooked corn, kernels removed from cob

3 cups grape or cherry tomatoes (use yellow, orange and/or some red), halved

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped frisee (aka French curly endive)

1/3 cup thinly sliced scallion (green and white parts)

Boston lettuce or leafy green lettuce leaves, for serving

Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh tarragon, plus some sprigs, for garnish

3/4 teaspoon country-style (coarse) Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon sea salt, optional

1/3 cup olive oil

For the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, tarragon, mustard, black pepper and salt (if using). Add oil in a thin stream, whisking, until mixture thickens slightly. If not using right away, put in a shaker jar and shake before dressing salad.

For the salad, cook potatoes in a medium pot of boiling, lightly salted water. Drain. Cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, combine, lobster, potatoes, corn kernels, tomatoes, frisee and scallions. Drizzle with most of the vinaigrette. Toss well but gently. Taste for seasonings.

To serve, arrange lettuce leaves on a large, chilled platter or 6 individual salad plates. Arrange salad atop lettuce. Garnish with fresh tarragon sprigs. Makes 6 servings.

Scalloped lobster

This is a real Down East treatment. Very comforting. Served with basmati rice, if you like. Or fries. A side salad. Some more of that leftover corn; just stream it gently for a few minutes to plump it up. Sliced tomatoes, too.

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, clarified

1 tablespoon finely minced onion

1 cup plain dried (canned) bread crumbs

1/2 cup Ritz cracker crumbs

1 teaspoon paprika

2 to 3 cups lobster meat

1 1/2 cups soft bread crumbs

1 1/2 cups light cream (half and half)

2 eggs, well beaten

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Scant 1 teaspoon prepared mustard

5 teaspoons lemon juice

Pepper, and salt (if you must)

For the crumb topping, to clarify butter, melt until bubbly. Spoon off milk solids that rise to the top.

In a medium, non-stick skillet over medium heat, saute onion in clarified butter until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add bread crumbs, cracker crumbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until crumbs are buttery and light golden brown.

Butter or spray-coat a 2- or 3-quart baking dish. Layer into the dish the lobster, the soft bread crumbs, the light cream, the beaten eggs, the 4 tablespoons melted butter, the prepared mustard, the lemon juice and some pepper. Top with buttered crumbs (with onion and paprika). Bake at 350 degrees until crumb topping is deep brown and lobster mixture is bubbly. Makes 6 servings.

Far East lobster

Here we combine good ol' American lobster with ingredients of Japanese origin for a somewhat challenging (for summertime cooking) one-dish dinner with lots of interesting flavors and textures. To serve on the side, you might acquire a seaweed salad at a local Asian market or sushi restaurant. Or make a Japanese-American salad of iceberg lettuce, carrot shreds, tomato bits, some scallion slices and a store-bought soy-ginger dressing. Some spring rolls would be nice, too. Drink some of the sake you chose to use in this recipe. Or beer.

3 heads baby bok choy

1/2 pound dried Japanese udon noodles

6 tablespoons (1/3 cup) vegetable oil

3 small shallots, thinly sliced

2 navel oranges, peeled, as much of the pith removed as possible, sectioned, then halved widthwise

1 medium-large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced

3/4 pound oyster mushrooms, wiped clean with paper towels, bottoms off, stems removed, large caps quartered

4 teaspoons light brown sugar

2/3 cup vegetable broth

3 tablespoons sake

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 to 3 cups cooked lobster meat

Finely sliced scallion greens, garnish

For the bok choy, in a medium pot, in boiling water, cook bok choy for 40 seconds. Remove with tongs and when cool enough to handle, quarter each bok choy head lengthwise. Set aside.

For the udon, bring bok choy water back to a boil. Add udon noodles and cook, stirring often, until al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain noodles. Return noodles to pot and cover with cold water. Wait a couple of minutes. Drain noodles into a colander. Run water over them. Lift colander and shake to remove most of the water. Repeat rinsing and draining, lifting and shaking two more times. Set aside.

More prep: In a medium, non-stick skillet, over medium, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer shallots to paper towels to drain. Salt lightly if you wish.

In a large, non-stick skillet, over medium-high, heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Add Vidalia onions and mushrooms and cook until browned, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add brown sugar, bok choy, vegetable stock and sake and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, add udon noodles and pepper. Taste for seasonings. Add salt if you must.

In a medium skillet, over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add lobster meat and cook until warmed through, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.

Crush the crisped shallots over the lobster and stir to coat.

To serve, transfer udon noodle mixture to a large serving platter. Arrange lobster, and orange sections atop. Serve warm. Makes 6 servings.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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