My dad had a severe allergy to crustaceans, those water creatures that turn pink or red when cooked: lobster, crab, shrimp, and crawfish. Because they couldn’t be cooked in our house, they became very special occasion foods, something to be ordered in nice restaurants. My mom will still get a lobster roll on or near her birthday. Or any other time they are offered, really.
When Andrew was four, he tried his first lobster. He tasted a piece of the claw, then tried a small chunk from the tail. He chewed, swallowed, thought about it, then said (famously, in our house), “I’ll just have a big bowl of claws.” You and me both, buddy.
Babs and I, and later Chuck when he joined our lives, would make a pilgrimage once a year to Krones Lavallette Inn on the Jersey Shore. For a ridiculously low price (maybe $12 in 1988?), they would serve us a lobster steamed or boiled in beer, corn on the cob, french fries, and a salad. My memory tells me those were the best lobsters ever. Cheap drinks and friendly/salty waitresses perfected the experience.
One memorable lobster meal was a birthday party for my Uncle Jeff at a friend’s house. We all had lobsters, grilled chicken, and corn on the cob, then jumped in the pool. There was soon a notable butter slick floating on the water. I thought of that often when cleaning the pool at our house in Cincinnati – I wonder how long it took for the butter to filter out of that lobster party pool?
In my adulthood, I have developed a mild crustacean allergy, mild enough that I wonder if it’s all in my head. It is well managed by taking an antihistamine and not overindulging. When I make New Orleans barbecue shrimp or roasted shrimp cocktail, I need to keep the windows open and the exhaust fan blasting, or my face gets itchy. I can usually cook OR eat them, but not both. I overindulged on lobster salad (recipe below) last week, and had to double the Claritin dose.
About that New Orleans barbecue shrimp: it isn’t grilled or barbecued, and it doesn’t have anything like BBQ sauce on it. Traditionally, whole shrimp with shells and heads are cooked in an addictive blend of butter, lemon, Worcestershire sauce, and creole seasoning, heavy on the black pepper, rosemary, and thyme. It is usually an appetizer, served with crusty French bread to soak up that compelling sauce. For an entree, it may be served with rice. Pascal’s Manale, an old-school restaurant Uptown that claims to have invented the dish, serves it shelled on paneed veal (like a schnitzel). While they may have invented it, Mr. B’s on Royale Street has perfected it, and their website provides the recipe I follow when I make it. Mr. B’s BBQ Shrimp Also, see more of my recommendations in my New Orleans post: I dream of New Orleans
In the summer I like to make a lobster, corn, & tomato salad. Except for wrangling the beastie out of its shell, this is a simple preparation with beautifully cool, fresh flavors.
Can’t Stop Eating this Lobster, Corn, and Tomato Salad
- Two 1.25 pound lobsters, steamed (I usually have the market steam them for me) and cooled – or you can buy 2 cups shelled lobster meat if you’re feeling lazy.
- 4 ears of fresh local corn
- 1 pint grape tomatoes
- 1 small or 1/2 large sweet onion, like a Vidalia (substitute red onion if desired, but there will be a sharper flavor)
- Zest from 1 lemon
- Juice from 1 lemon, more to taste
- 2 tablespoons champagne or white balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- salt & pepper
- cayenne pepper, optional
Break off the lobster tails and claws. With kitchen shears cut the shells open and carefully extract the meat. Be sure to remove the fin of cartilage from the claws. If you are strong and in no hurry, you can also remove the meat from the legs & knuckles – this tends to be a slow process. You can whack the claws and legs with a mallet or hammer, to speed up the process, but be sure to remove any slivers of shell that this creates. Set lobster meat aside.*
Cut the grape tomatoes into quarters or halves (it’s a matter of taste), place in a colander over the sink, and sprinkle with a half teaspoon of salt. Toss gently, then leave to drain while preparing the rest of the salad.
Shuck the corn, and brush gently to remove as much corn silk as possible. Carefully cut the kernels from the cobs into a large bowl. Cut onion into tiny dice, then in a small bowl, whisk it together with lemon zest and juice, vinegar, olive oil, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne if desired. Pour over corn. Cut reserved lobster meat into bite-sized pieces, and add to the corn. Add fresh herbs and cut, drained tomatoes. Gently stir to incorporate all ingredients. Taste to adjust seasonings.
Serve over lettuce leaves. Should serve two for a main course, or more as an appetizer.
*The lobster shells can be saved to make into a stock. Shrimp shells, too. Put in a stock pot, add chopped onion & celery, cover with water and a lid, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for a couple of hours. Cool, strain, and freeze. Perfect for seafood gumbo.