In honor of Mother’s Day I thought it might be nice to write something to do with my Mom. I’ve talked about her on the blog before, so by now you might know that she grew up in Maine, and that she is currently living in Switzerland.
Here’s something about my Mom that maybe you didn’t know. She is a big kid. Syndi McNally is sharp as a tack, with a mind for mechanics, and an almost effortless capacity for creativity. But in addition to her natural intelligence, she posesses a sort of child like innocence. She sees, and assumes the best in other people, in animals, even in inanimate plant life. I’ve seen her scold a plant, encourage a dog, and negotiate with a baby. She wears her heart on her sleeve. She giggles. She pouts. She stomps her feet when she’s mad, and she bats her eyelashes when she’s happy. Syndi McNally is just what she seems, a warm, funny, gifted person who looks at the world in her own way.
And she is REALLY good at eating lobster. If there is something edible in there, she is getting it out. My Mom eats lobsters the way I imagine a mermaid would. She sucks on the legs and picks through the ribs. She nibbles between its brains, and cracks open its flukes. My Mom knows that the secret meats are the tastiest, and thanks to her, my sisters and I know how to get to them too.
First of all, don’t go broiling your lobsters. Unless you are dealing with a 3+ pound beast of a lobster you can’t beat boiling when it comes to a cook method. Small lobsters will dry out and turn rubbery when they are broiled. Boil it, not too much. Got it?
Next, you’ll want to serve that red hot oceanic cockroach up with some melted, salted butter and a side of crusty bread. Some people go with french fries, but that’s not my favorite. You can use the bread to sop up the delicious lobster juices, and it makes a great vessel for the tomalley. What’s tomalley, you ask? That is the savory, green gob of lobster pate located in the beast’s underbelly. It’s kind of weird, but also kind of amazing.
Want to jazz things up a little? Pour yourself a cup of champagne to go along with the melted butter. Try dipping your lobster in the champagne, before you dip it in the butter. This will blow your mind.
Also, while I’m doling out Maine-centric lobster advice, you’ll want to boil your lobsters in salted water, over an outdoor fire pit during the Summer. Gather your friends and family together to go dutch on a pile of lobsters, corn on the cob, and clams. Boil it all over the fire, and drink cold beer while you wait to eat. Apart from this being one of the best ways to spend a summer afternoon, it’s also the primo time of year for cheap, tasty Maine lobsters.
Coolers filled with lobsters, beers, and clams. Signs of paradise.
Now that the stage has been set, we can move on to eating the lobster! You can begin with either the tail or the claws, which one doesn’t much matter. To remove the tail, uncurl it, then lift it back toward the head until it snaps. Pull back the tail flukes, and snap them off next. Unless your lobster is super tiny or overcooked, there should be some very tasty meat inside each fluke. Crack them open and find out. You may need to suck the meat out with your mouth. This is good practice for the legs. Pop your thumb through the bottom of the tail shell and push on the meat inside. The meat should pop out of the base of the tail. Before eating the tail meat, remove the vein. There should be a black vein running down the center of the top of the tail meat. It will probably be under a thin flap of meat. Pull that off, then pull off and discard the vein. Eat the tail with butter and champagne.
The claws can be snapped off of the body in the same manner that the tail was. To get at the meat inside the claw, you’ll need to crack it open. If the lobster has a soft shell, just do it by hand. If it is a hard shell lobster, you’ll need to use a cracker tool. Pull out the meat and nom away. There is also plenty of meat inside the claw knuckles. Snap each knuckle off of its joint, and use a tiny fork to poke out the meat inside. This is arguably some of the tastiest meat on the whole lobster.
At this point, after having eaten the tail and claws, most people chuck the lobster. That is very, very stupid, not to mention wasteful. There is loads of meat in the body! To get to it, start by snapping off the skinny little lobster legs. Each leg is full of meat. Break the legs at their joints, and suck the meat out. You might have to use your teeth to chew on the legs and push the meat out. It’s worth the effort though. Those little meaty legs are tasty!
Now pull the shell off of the body. This is very easy, and almost not worth explaining. Basically, just hold onto the underbelly with one hand, and pry off the top (red part) with the other hand. Now you’ll be facing a very weird looking pile of lobster stuff. If you see green stuff, congratulations! You are the proud owner of lobster tomalley. Tomalley ranges in taste from OK to heavenly, depending on the sweetness and flavor of your lobster. If the rest of your lobster was really good, you can expect the tomalley to be fantastic. Eat it just like a dip. Spreading it on your crusty bread, or smothering your french fries in it are two excellent ways to enjoy tomalley. If you see a rubbery pile of red pellets, you’ve found lobster roe. Roe is an aquired taste, but some people love it. Give it a try. If you don’t like it, set it aside, and offer it to your fellow lobster eaters. There may be a roe lover at the table.
Underneath the roe and tomalley, you’ll find a series of gills and ribs. Hidden inside these inedible parts is a treasure trove of super sweet, tender lobster meat. Getting at this meat involves a lot of picking and prying. Take your time, and savor every tiny nibble. If you have a decent sized lobster, you’ll find some similar meat in the head. Poke around and see what you find. If it is not chewy, you can, and should eat it.
At this point you have thoroughly annihilated your lobster. Way to go! Before you discard the shells, however, consider saving them to make some stock! A delightful fume can be created by combining your lobster shells with some leeks, celery, and fennel. Put them all in a big pot and cover with cold water. Bring the liquid to a simmer, but not a boil, and leave it at that heat, barely bubbling for 1 – 2 hours. Strain, and enjoy. The fume can be used to make soups and sauces.
Now that you are armed with genuine Maine lobster eating skills, I encourage you to order lobster in a restaurant and eat it this way. Freaking out the nearby tables just makes the experience better, and more authentic. Mainers often freak other people out.