grilled lobster with herb butter
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Let me tell you: this is a seriously challenging endeavour. First off, to procure one: live lobsters don’t just perambulate along supermarket shelves, ready to be picked up and scanned through the till. Unless you, lucky devil, live in a shouting distance of fishermen’s boats and lobster pots, you have to hunt one in an oriental supermarket, order it from a friendly fishmonger – or have it gifted.
Then – what to do with the brute? If you boil and eat it straight away, it’s no biggie – twist off the tail and cut it open to get to the meat. For a grilled one which is oh so delightful with flavoured butter swimming all around the tasty morsels, you have to masterly halve the beast.
Claws are a cracker – mallet, rolling pin, a clog or a gavel if you’re a judge or an auctioneer. The so called ‘lobster crackers’ are useless; use them for nuts which in fact they usually simply are made for. The only trick is not to shatter the claw shell or you’ll be forever picking shards from among the meat.
I was lucky to be gifted a lobster called Bobster*, caught in the North Sea just off the Yorkshire coast and a home village to Captain James Cook. Somewhat panicked, I lobbed him into the freezer to anesthetise, then swiftly into boiling water, repeating to myself like a mantra that crustaceans do not have neural system developed enough to feel pain. Bobster obediently changed colour to lovely pink and went to chill in the fridge overnight. I spent it watching hundreds of YouTube videos on how to crack it.
The tricky bit was of course that I only got one chance at it – as it usually is the case with lobsters, hardly anyone can afford an unlimited supply to practice on. It was a huge success though – and the beauty of preparing a lobster like this is that you can buy already cooked one and save your faint heart the boiling process.
*I know, you shouldn’t give names to your food but the guys I got the lobster from named it. So that's all right, seeing as they didn’t eat it.
grilled lobster with herb butterServings: 1-2Time: about an hour; a lot longer for uninitiated
- 1 lobster, ideally weighing about 600-700g (1½ pound)
- sea salt
- 1 carrot
- 1 onion
- thyme, bay leaf or bouquet garni
- For the flavoured butter:
- 100g (7 tbsp.) of butter, softened
- 1 tbsp. of fresh ginger, grated
- 1 lime, zest grated
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
- ½ small bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped
- salt and pepper
1. Place your live lobster in the freezer for about an hour – to desensitise and knock it out. Prepare a very large pot of water salted generously, so it tastes like sea water. Chop roughly in the carrot, onion and aromatics. Bring the water to a rolling boil.
2. Plunge the lobster into the water head first, to kill it swiftly in case it survived the freezer. Put the lid on and boil it for about 5 minutes. Prepare a bowl full of iced water if you are going to split and grill it straight away – so it’s cool enough to handle. If you want to keep it in the fridge for a day or two, just place it on a tray and cover with aluminium foil; transfer to the fridge when it’s cold.
3. For the flavoured butter mix all the herbs and aromatics into the butter. Season well with salt and pepper – or only pepper if you used salted butter. Scrape it onto a piece of cling film, wrap and shape it into a roll. Chill until firm or place in the freezer if you’re short of time.
4. To crack the lobster in half and prepare for grilling you’ll need a sharp butcher’s knife, a rolling pin or a mallet, a spoon and a lobster pick or a long and thin dessert fork (fondue forks are handy if you don’t have specialist equipment. Have a lot of kitchen towels handy, and work on a sturdy board placed on a tray, to avoid spilling the liquid everywhere.
5. Pull off the claws and all the legs; place the lobster on its belly, head towards you. Insert the knife into the seam on the head, blade towards the head, and press it all the way down to crack the shell. Twist the lobster 180 degrees and cut through the middle of the tail. Press the knife down to split the shell all the way through.
6. Place the halves cut side up on the board and scrape all the gunk from both sides of the head to leave it clean. Use the pick to scrape out the black intestine from either side of the tail. Try to keep the tail and head parts joined but don’t worry if they come apart – that’s for presentation purpose only. Wipe the head shell with paper towels and place both halves on a baking tray.
7. Break the arm segments from the claws and use the pick to scoop out meat from each segment. Break the thinner pincer off each claw and scoop out meat from it. Crack the claws with a rolling pin or mallet, with a decisive tap in the thickest part of the claw; ideally the crack should let you pull the shell cleanly off the meat, but if you need to peel it bit by bit – that’s all right. Place the meat from each claw and knuckles in the respective head shell halves.
8. If your lobster spent the night in the fridge, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6 and slip the tray in for 5 minutes to warm it up. After that, or if it’s freshly cooked, preheat the grill to the highest setting.
9. Slice the chilled flavoured butter into slices and arrange 3 or 4 slices on each lobster half. Place it under the grill for 5-6 minutes, or until the butter is all melted and bubbling. Serve immediately.