With its firm, white meat packed with rich, sweet flavor, lobster has a high value as a premium protein. More chefs are featuring this versatile shellfish on menus across the board, from fast-casual restaurants to fine dining. Lobster also has allure for health-conscious clientele due to the crustacean’s lower caloric content, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
If you want your dishes to have more impact and resonate with your guests, consider the Maine lobster. Maine lobsters have a rich history in the Northeastern region and its hallmarks are its quality and heritage, thanks to those dedicated to sustainable practices that help maintain a healthy lobster supply. Harvesters work by hand, one trap at a time, which ensures the quality of the product and the environment. Knowing how it’s raised or caught and the people behind the food helps guide diners to choose a dish that features Maine lobster. It offers chefs the opportunity to be creative with flavors and presentation, and create a dish that will resonate with diners who are increasingly curious about where their food comes from. Maine lobsters truly tell a story, one that will enhance a restaurant’s ethos of being committed to sustainability and using only the best quality ingredients.
Handling Live Lobsters
When live lobsters arrive at your establishment, it’s best to cook them that same day. They can be stored one additional day if needed. Properly store lobsters in an open container packed with seaweed or damp newspaper to retain moisture, and place the box in a cold refrigerator. Lobsters should be killed right before cooking, so be sure not to store lobster on ice or in tap water, as fresh water will kill them immediately. With a firm, quick motion, insert the knife in the crack behind the lobster’s eyes and cut through the head. Finish by flipping the lobster on its back and slicing it lengthwise from head to tail.
Lobsters lend themselves well to a variety of versatile cooking methods. They are most commonly simmered and seasoned through the cooking liquid such as salted water or court bouillon. Although they are not as delicate as other fish, they can become tough and overcook easily if the cooking liquid reaches a boil.
Sautéing is another popular cooking method for lobster. This technique lightly caramelizes the surface adding an additional layer of flavor. The sauté pan must be hot before the lobster is added for a quick sear to avoid overcooking during caramelization. Large, thick pieces of lobster cooked in their shell may require lower cooking temperatures to ensure that it’s cooked without overbrowning the surface. After removing the lobster, use the same pan to prepare an accompanying sauce with garlic, onions, wine, lemon juice, fresh herbs, and seasonings.
Grilling is another great choice as it adds subtle smoky flavors to the lobster meat. If you’re going to grill lobster, split it lengthwise, brush with herb butter or oil, and grill flesh side up over medium heat for about 10 minutes, basting with additional butter once or twice. The split lobster can also be stuffed with a simple mixture of seasoned breadcrumbs, the lobster’s coral (roe), fresh herbs and seasoning.
Smoking is a trendy cooking method that can be applied to lobster as well. Place steamed lobster meat on a wire rack and then cold smoke it in a smoker or oven with apple or peach wood for no more than 5 minutes. The lobster should have just a slight smoky flavor and become sweetly aromatic. No matter which method you choose to prepare lobster, a constant rule of thumb is to cook it just until it’s opaque throughout. The slightest overcooking can leave the lobster flesh dry and rubbery.
Lobster rolls are to New England cuisine what cheesesteaks are to Philadelphia. Deeply embedded in Northeastern culture and culinary identity, traditional lobster rolls showcase chunks of buttery, tender lobster meat topped with a thin coating of mayonnaise served on a New-England style top-split toasted bun. This favored sandwich offers broad appeal and can be served hot or cold with a bit of celery or a dash of hot sauce. Create a point of difference from the competition with add-ins such as herbs, pickles, or onions and serve with lemon wedges, chips, or house-made coleslaw. Try spiking the lobster salad with gochujang instead of hot sauce for a smoky hint with a subtle burn. Or, instead of a buttery bun, wrap the lobster roll in alternative breads such as tortillas. To increase profitability, proper portions and consistency are essential when serving lobster rolls – especially when pricing can fluctuate throughout the seasons.
Bisques and Broths
The classic preparation of Lobster Bisque begins with lobster shells or bodies sautéed with mirepoix, afterwhich the pot is deglazed with brandy and white wine, and then simmered with fish stock, dried spices and fresh herbs. Cream is then added and simmered further before it’s strained and puréed with cooked rice to thicken. There are a myriad of ways to serve lobster bisque – most modern versions are very purist, containing very little lobster and focusing on the creamy broth. In other regions, it’s served heavier on texture along with other ingredients like zucchini and julienned carrots. Garnish the bisque with a few lobster chunks or shelled lobster claw for a classic presentation.
Go Big and Go Bold
The price of Maine lobsters has gone up in recent years, so chefs are getting creative in order to maximize profits. There are several ways to incorporate Maine’s succulent meat onto your menu. Consider taking trendy toast and upping the wow factor with a little lobster or increase the appeal of the brunch standby eggs Benedict and top with lobster for a luxurious take. Lure in diners, especially Millennial clientele, with signature flavor combinations. Try spicy, acidic, or mash-ups that take the familiar to a new frontier.
The sweet taste profile of lobster also pairs well with Asian flavors, finding its way into applications such as the classic Japanese preparations of tempura, Vietnamese-style spring rolls or simply poached in a miso broth served with shimeji mushrooms. An avocado-lobster ball is an interesting twist with a wasabi lobster salad stuffed into a whole avocado that’s coated with panko and deep-fried. Of course, you can’t go wrong with traditional dishes featuring lobster like in a risotto, ravioli, Cobb salad, chowder, or a Napoleon with avocado, cucumber, crème fraiche, and clementine segments.
Lobster In Action
One chef who is maximizing the appeal of lobster by taking a cue from a global cuisine is Chef Marc Forgione, who is also the special guest at this year’s Maines Food Show. The celebrity chef launched an entire fast casual concept celebrating the crustacean, the Lobster Press located in The Pennsy, the high-end food court in New York. Marc also has a knack for upgrading classic dishes with lobster, like grilled cheese. Putting a top-end ingredient like lobster in such a beloved comfort food takes the dish to the next level. Forgione has expressed his passion for the ingredient, championing its versatility and showcasing it in creative and sometimes unexpected applications such as lobster jello shots.
One of his flagship restaurant’s signature dishes, Chili Lobster with Texas Toast, is his homage to a beloved dish in Singapore called Chili Crab. In place of the giant crab typically served in the dish, he uses lobster and swaps out steamed buns for Texas Toast to sop up the juices. Marc adds Asian-inspired flavors by simmering the lobster tails in a stock made with sriracha, soy sauce, and lime, and serves the sandwich with a small bowl of chili sauce for dipping.