The lobster, (the regal homarus americanus of east coast Canada and Main in the USA and its somewhat more modestly turned out European cousin), is generally regarded by epicures as the king of crustaceans because of its lordly appearance, relative scarcity and substantial, firm, delicious, “sweet” white flesh.
It is the main ingredient in a number of special recipes (Newburg, thermidor and armoricaine (not americaine as some authors claim). The lobster is so much in demand now that full resources of technology have been brought into play for lobster “farming” in teh USA, France and other countries, but so far these considerable efforts remain fruitless.
Surprisingly, when Europeans landed on the east coast of North America, lobster was in such abundance that soon many considered it poor man’s food.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, “slave contracts” contained clauses to the effect that slaves must be served lobster a maximum of three times a week!
Times have changed since, as fishermen managed to trap this complicated crustacean to near extinction, and greedy Europeans have exhausted all of them in the North Sea.
Lobster do not feed in captivity in close quarters; they east their flesh reserves. Fishermen observed this phenomenon and established lobster ponds (the first was founded in 1875 in Vinalhaven, Massachusetts).
Lobster pounds served two purposes, the first of which is to keep lobsters in captivity without loss, the second to regulate prices by trying to control supply and demand.
By World War II, lobster a ground crustacean feeding on crabs, clams, mussels, and on occasion a few sea urchins or slow-witted flounder, was considered a delicacy in New England states and later in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick.
Lobster should not be confused with spiny lobster aka rock lobster, langouste, crayfish, or crawfish (palirunus argus, palirunus cynguns, palirunus marginatus).
The authentic lobster has claws, whereas the spiny lobster has only long feelers.
Lobsters moult up to 25 times during the first five years of their life, and adults once a year. Shortly after moulting, the meat tastes watery and dull. Such lobsters must be avoided at all cost.
Many people think lobsters do not have natural predators, but in reality cod, flounder, wolfish, crabs, and eels eagerly look forward to enjoy moulting or just moulted lobsters.
Lobsters have a complicated mating ritual, and the pregnancy lasts for 20 months.
Lobsters are stress sensitive and become more aggressive in captivity, attacking each other. Some lose one of their claws and must be sold at a discount as “cull”.
The minimum acceptable restaurant size is 1-¼ lbs (approximately 700 grams) although often smaller species are caught, cooked and sold by unscrupulous fisherman.
It is best to buy lobster live, and from reputable fishmongers with a high turnover.
Ensure that the caws are secured and the lobster is lively not only alive.
Cook lobster, if possible, in seawater, for 10 minutes for the first pound (454 grams) and three minutes for every additional pound.
Overcooked lobsters taste mouldy, and are chewy and tough. Protein toughens when overcooked.
Simple preparation techniques are best, like boiling and serving with drawn butter, or cold, with home made mayonnaise or sauce Hollandaise
Lobster cocktail is popular, but never extraordinary, and fails to do justice to the richness of the flesh.
Lobster claw meat is an absolute delicacy and no self-respecting gourmet ignores these succulent morsels.
Elaborate preparations like thermidor and armoricaine are best left to experienced professionals to ensure success.
Enjoy lobster with fine dry Riesling from Germany or Alsace, France or Grand Cru Chablis or a fine white Burgundy.
Many gourmets consider Canada’s lobsters superior in taste to those from competing Maine. The cold waters and their low salinity around Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick result in better tasting and firmer textured lobsters.