Maine’s gift to the world—three ways
I cannot be alone in my admiration of the first person to come upon a lobster (in days of yore they were so plentiful, piles of lobsters would wash up on the shore after a storm) and think: “If I boiled that prehistoric-looking mini-monster, tore its shell open and ate it, I bet it would be totally delicious.”
Historians tell us that this culinary crustacean has been a popular food source since prehistoric times. Archaeologists have found evidence of lobster’s popularity with both the Greeks and Romans. Lobster was even featured at royal dinners in Restoration England.
Here in New England, we’ve been raised on stories of lobsters once being so plentiful that in early colonial times it was the go-to dish for prisoners and indentured servants. Poor families would bury the remains of their lobster supper under cover of night to hide their impoverished shame from the neighbors.
While lobsters are harvested year-round in Maine, prices drop appreciably when the unofficial lobstering season begins in late June and continues through December. This is just in time for tourists to enjoy myriad luscious and affordable lobster dishes from breakfast to dinner.
Nothing says summer on the coast of Maine like a traditional Maine lobster bake, ideally cooked in a fire pit dug on the beach and supervised by beer drinking, smack talking lobster lovers. A bed of seaweed is laid over hot coals. Lobsters are laid down, surrounded by sweet corn on the cob, potatoes, clams, sausage and eggs. More briny seaweed blankets the ingredients and everything is covered with a tarp. The results are a meal worth waiting for with moist delicious morsels imbued with the salty bite of seaweed and the smoke from the pit.
And where would the Maine culinary scene be without its iconic lobster roll? While the roll itself is non-negotiable—it has to be “New England style,” a flat, soft roll with crustless sides—there is debate as to whether the perfect lobster roll meat is dressed with melted butter, mayonnaise or left perfectly plain. This debate will no doubt continue through the ages.
Many of my friends from away insist on lobster three meals a day when they visit. I can do them one better. I can make them a lobster omelet for breakfast, a lobster roll for lunch, lobster guacamole at cocktail time served with lobster Bloody Marys and a lobster-stuffed baked potato for dinner.
Overkill or over the moon? You be the judge.
LOBSTER STUFFED POTATOES
4 large Maine Russet potatoes
1 pound Maine lobster meat, cut to bite sized pieces
1 medium shallot, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1/3 cup half & half
6 ounces sharp white cheddar (I use Cabot), grated
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chives, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
Bake the potatoes at 375º for about 1 hour or more or until center can easily be pierced with a fork.
Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and remove the pulp. Put in a bowl and put aside leaving a potato shell. Mash the potatoes, adding yogurt, half & half, cheese and 2 tablespoons of butter. Combine ingredients thoroughly.
In a medium sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Stir in lobster meat to coat with butter. Remove from pan when warmed through and reserve.
Melt 2 more tablespoons of the butter in the pan and add scallion and garlic. Sauté on medium-low heat until the onion and garlic are soft and transparent. Add wine, bring to a boil stirring frequently until liquid has almost evaporated.
Gently fold lobster, shallots, garlic and chives into the potato mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Stuff the potato shells with mixture. Bake at 400º about 30–45 minutes until hot then serve.
This recipe makes four entrée-sized potatoes. For a smaller side dish, use 8 small Russet potatoes.
2 ripe avocados
1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup of minced onion (red or yellow)
1/4 cup ripe tomatoes, chopped
1–2 jalapeno peppers, stems and seeds removed, minced (optional)
2 tablespoons (or more) cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
1/4 pound Maine lobster, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Maine sea salt
A dash of freshly grated black pepper
Cut the avocados in half, remove seed. Score the inside of the avocado with a blunt knife and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Put avocado in a glass or plastic bowl.
Mash with a fork or a potato masher until just chunky.
Add lime juice (this will not only taste great, it will help keep the avocado from turning brown), tomatoes, salt, pepper and jalapenos and cilantro if you’re including them.
Fold in the lobster meat. Reserve a claw for garnish.
(Here’s a quick quacamole or Lobstamole hack. If you’re not up for the chopping required with this recipe, you can mix a couple of tablespoons of your favorite fresh salsa into your mashed avocado and call it good. Just don’t forget the salt. Avocados need salt to bring out their full flavor.)
MAINE LOBBIE MARY
2 ounces vodka
6 ounces tomato juice (or V8)
1/2 teaspoon horseradish
1/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
2 tablespoons lobster juice (substitute clam juice if lobster is not available)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 lobster claw (out of the shell)
Garnishes—celery stick, lemon wedge, olive, cornichon
Mix first six ingredients. Pour over ice. Garnish with lobster claw and whatever else strikes your bloody fancy.
Candace Karu makes her living writing about food, fitness and travel. Follow her on Instagram: @candacekaru or at candacekaru.com.