Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Contraption: Lobster Style

So, what did you and your life partner do for Valentine's Day? Yeah, that doesn't sound nearly as good as what I did. Let's see... I placed an order early in the week for a special package to arrive on Friday. An order that I had placed only once before, probably 5 years ago. It was for two 2.5-pound live Maine lobsters to be shipped via FedEx, and arrive at my door in time for a Saturday Valentine's, since Laura was on call Sunday.

The order five years prior included a bisque, some clams, and a Maine blueberry cobbler, which were all good, but the lobsters weren't large enough. I got smart this time, and skipped the promotional Valentines package, opting for only lobsters. I paid about 1/3rd less, and got double the poundage in lobsters. If you've ever ordered live lobsters, you understand that they usually come in a styrofoam cooler, packed with an ice bag, wetted with a little sea water and seaweed, and a packet of sweet Maine sea salt for cooking.

Lindley and I were at home when they arrived, so we quickly checked that they were moving, and placed the container in the back fridge. Live lobsters are only guaranteed to stay that way for about 12 hours after they arrive, so the instructions will tell you to cook them the day of arrival. I figured the environmental factors were all working in my favor: cold temps departing the frigid coastal waters of Maine, flying in the unheated belly of a FedEx plane at 40,000 feet, and arriving on my doorstep on a day when we would receive a rare eight inches of snow. I did feel the need to check them every couple of hours, though. Lindley worked on ideas for Lobster-style Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), in the event that one was a bit too lethargic. Thankfully, we never had to implement that plan. The lobsters showed movement until dinner time.

Since announcing the arrival of live lobsters to both friends and family, I had gotten many comments or "questions" on the subject of lobster movement prior to placing them into the pot (e.g. "Are you gonna cook them alive?"). I say "questions", because they were more like concerns or statements than questions. "Questions" included:

LINDLEY (6 years old) - "Daddy, I saw on Discovery Channel where they rubbed the back of the lobster shell and it fell asleep before they cooked it";
THE PAMPHLET - it came with the lobsters and said you could place them in fresh water for 15 minutes prior cooking, which would kill them. This is basically drowning the lobster, which to me, isn't any better than boiling it alive;
JW - "Don't put a stethascope up to the pot like Bobcat Goldthwait, cause you can hear them scream".

So, what did I do? Well, I gave them about 36 hours to die on their own, then I let the steam do the work. See the pics below for the less than politically correct way to cook a lobster.

You may recall The Contraption I wrote about back in the spring of 2009 that we used at the oyster roast. I had been to the 06 Oriental Market a number of times to procure a contraption for myself after that. After a dozen or more visits I finally managed to obtain one close to the size of the contraption loaned to me for the oyster roast. My contraption is 36cm, whearas the borrowed one was a 40cm version. Not enough to justify waiting any longer, so I purchased it back in September, and placed it on a shelf in the laundry room. I had forgotten the contraption until I was searching for a way to cook the lobster without losing too much flavor. Steam seemed to be the best option, and the contraption did the trick. With two layers, I put 2.5 quarts of water and a cup of sea salt in the bottom, which I let come to a boil, then gingerly placed a lobster and some seaweed on each of the two layers while wearing my silicone Orca gauntlet gloves, and placed the lid on.

Seventeen minutes later, the layers were removed, and two succulent lobsters were paired with twice-baked potatoes from the New York Butcher Shoppe, and some Schramsburg Blanc de Noirs. The audible pleasures heard emanating from the dining room could have been mistaken for "What About Bob?" on the DVD player or pre-Valentines festivities.

As an aside, I saw either a Bordain or Andrew Zimmern show recently that was filmed in Thailand. Hundreds of street vendors were using well-worn versions of the contraption made from bamboo, drums, etc. to serve up steamed dumplings. I may have to try some steamed pork buns on it soon- the 06 market has frozen ones.

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