Have you had your fill of lobster this summer?
(Does anyone ever have his or her fill of lobster?)
We’ve previously written about how to buy a lobster from the tank, if you’re taking it home to cook.
If you’re planning to enjoy a lobster dinner at a restaurant, here are tips from a restaurant chef who specializes in lobster.
When we first heard about Chef Shell, we thought it was a nickname complimenting his expertise with shellfish.
However, he actually is Executive Chef Rick Shell, who oversees all culinary operations at Cliff House in Maine.
If you’ve ever sprung for a pricey restaurant lobster, only to have it not live up to your expectations—not sweet, not tender—here is his advice.
Lobster can evoke both casual and sophisticated dining memories. You can be at a picnic table, cracking lobster claws while sipping a cold microbrew; or at the most expensive restaurant in town, dining on lobster risotto with shaved black truffles.
“There is no right or wrong way to enjoy this gift from the ocean,” says Chef Shell.
But there are ways to ensure your lobster is memorable when you dine at a restaurant, he advises:
Weight. Always choose 1-pound lobsters. The meat is the sweetest. Do not venture past the 1.5-pound mark. It’s better to have two smaller lobsters than a larger one. And those big lobsters, that look so impressive and portend a great experience? The least sweet, with the toughest meat.
Preparation. Chef Shell boils the lobster, then places it on a wood fire to roast in the shell. Ask your server how the lobsters are prepared to compare techniques at different establishments.
Chewiness. Lobster should be like velvet, not chewy or tough. Chef shell advises that the usual culprit is overcooking. You can’t tell if the lobster is overcooked until you take a bite, so tell your server to relay that the kitchen should err on the side of undercooking instead of overcooking. In other words: You want soft, succulent meat.
Venue. Pick a place that sells a lot of lobsters: a good seafood restaurant. Even a steak house may be iffy. Look around: If you don’t see lobsters at many tables, it isn’t a fast-mover. It is more likely to be overcooked if the kitchen doesn’t turn them out in numbers; and if it’s a lobster tail instead of a whole lobster, it may come from the freezer.
HOW TO EAT A WHOLE LOBSTER
More tips from Chef Shell:
First twist the tail off over a bowl, to catch all of the sweet rich goodness of tomalley (the soft, green substance found in the body cavity of lobsters, that fulfills the functions of both the liver and the pancreas). It is a delicacy that lobster-lovers adore.
Flip the tail over and slide the meat out. Eat the tail meat first and let the claws stay intact. This helps to keep them warmer until you’re ready for them. Ready for the claws? Then…
Gently twist the claws away from the body. First take the smaller part of the claw and break it off. This will also drain away any extra water, so be ready for that.