01 September, 2008

Labor Day and Lobsters!

Today is Labor Day in the US, a Monday holiday which is traditionally thought of by Americans as the holiday marking the "end" of Summer. Tourism drops off, the kids go back to school after the long summer recess, and many of us start doing chores that prepare for the coming winter.

And here in Southern New England, it's time for lobsters, because a home-cooked lobster dinner is just as traditional a Labor Day Weekend meal here as grilling steaks. And this year, with lobster prices as low as they've been in five years or so, bugs are flying out of supermarket and fishmonger tanks and into kitchens all over the area. (Yesterday, one of my local supermarkets sold out of lobsters - 1500 pounds of them - in four hours.)

Here at Chez Dave, we enjoyed our stereotypical "lobsterbake" of bugs, steamers, potatoes, and fresh corn on the cob yesterday. Although some people think that preparing lobster at home is difficult and time-consuming, if you have a very large pot - like a common blue-enamel canning kettle - a one-pot lobster dinner is simple to prepare and won't leave you with a sink full of pots and pans.

  1. Set the kettle on the stove; it gets heavy when it's full, and this way it will be all set to go when you fill it up.
  2. Put a rack in the bottom of the pan. Something like you'd cool cookies on, and as large as you have that still fits in the kettle. Round is ideal, but whatever fits.
  3. Line the rack with seaweed if you have any. If you don't have any, just skip this step. (If you live on the shore in New England, you've probably had experience gathering seaweed along the water to put in the pot with your lobsters. If you're not close to the beach, you can sometimes get some seaweed from your lobster dealer, because lobsters are often packed with seaweed for shipping. Keeps them from getting homesick or something.)
  4. The bottom layer of food should be small potatoes. New potatoes are okay, but you might want something just a little bigger so they don't get overcooked. I've found that small round Eastern spuds about 3 to 4 inches in diameter work best.
  5. The next layer is corn. Leave the corn in the husk, just trim off the hanging cornsilk and the brown tips of the leaves, and break off any excess stalk on the ends, then place the corn on top of the potatoes.
  6. Pour in water sufficient to cover the potatoes and come up a bit on the corn. You need four or five inches of water in there.
  7. Next, arrange the lobsters on top of the corn. Your lobsters should be alive and wriggling, but if you've just got them from the store they'll be feisty as hell. Fold their tails under and try to get their claws arranged under their faces if you can, and just keep putting them in layers until you're done. A canning kettle can usually hold three or four average chicken lobsters (those are 1¼-pounders) per layer.
  8. Scrub the clams under cool running water to remove any grit, and when they're all clean, dump them on top of the lobsters.
  9. Cover the kettle and turn the heat on high. Watch it for boiling. When it starts boiling hard, start timing. As soon as the clams open (about ten minutes,) they're done and you can remove them with a wide, slotted spoon, but optionally you can leave them in until everything's ready - about twenty minutes.
  10. Arrange the lobsters in a circle on a deep platter and pile the clams in the center. Serve the corn and potatoes right out of the kettle or put them on serving dishes as well. Serve with melted butter and put a roll of paper towels on the table so everyone has plenty of rugged, absorbent napkins!


Kian said...

Steamers! How I miss them. Can't get them anywhere outside of New England. Not even in New York. (Well, once in a blue moon I'd find them here. Often not very fresh.) How sad.

Summer said...

This sounds so yummy!!
Today was the first day of the Muslim fasting month , Ramadan. I with my family and most of the people in the middle east and the muslim world, were fasting from sunrise till sunset. I am so thankful it went very well although i was dreading it, but it went great despite the heat and the long fasting hours! i, at least stayed home and cooked a great meal for my family and friends...it is a great time for family gatherings and spirituality.
I love seafood and your recipe sounds so good...glad you enjoyed yours and happy labor day!

Foodycat said...

That sounds amazing! It's one of those traditions that I have heard about that I hope one day to experience. Better plan to be in New England at the end of August some time!

abadeeba said...

oh man, you're making me homesick. i'm a native mainer and have only eaten one lobster this summer. that looks really good.

Lisa said...

Just found your blog. Very nice and very interesting! I love seafood. I also have already made the delicious raspberry mousse you posted.

Michelle said...

I went to Maine yesterday and had a great lobster roll but it pales in comparison to this extraveganza! It's nice to see someone take the time and effort into a classic New England summer meal.