How often do we think about where our food comes from? Like, really think about it? When we eat chicken, fish, cow or pig, we know that an animal died for us to consume it, but we don’t have to physically experience it. But when it comes to lobster, it’s a whole other story.
That’s because, as most of us know, the delicious crustacean is best purchased live and killed right before consuming. As soon as the animal dies, its meat starts decomposing and it’s no longer safe for consumption. But actually killing lobsters can be a gut-wrenching affair that’s not for the faint of heart, and has caused many debates over the years.
Anyone who has ever experienced throwing a lobster into a pot of boiling water knows that it can be a harrowing experience. The lobsters thrash and attempt to claw their way out; some have said they’ve even heard the lobsters “scream.” Others argue that those same screams are just a scientific reaction (water or gas escaping), and that a lobster’s central nervous system doesn’t feel pain the way we believe it to. Or that the thrashing is actually just muscle spasms, and that lobsters are just like really big bugs. The science is still out on which camp is actually right, but if you’re going to consume lobster (especially on June 15 – National Lobster Day!) there is evidence that shows throwing a live lobster into a pot of boiling water does toughen up that delightful meat.
So how do you ethically kill a lobster while maintaining the best possible flavour? There’s a three-pronged approach used by the pros. In his book, The Great Lobster Cookbook, Matt Dean Pettit, chef and owner of Rock Lobster Food Co., explains that the first step is to stop the thrashing.
“If you don’t like to handle the lobster while it is moving, stick it in the freezer for 20 minutes prior to cooking,” he writes. “Or, lay it on its back for a couple of minutes. Both of these things will put it in a catatonic state.”
Once the lobster is still, that’s your time to take action. The second step is to lay it on its back, and find the centre point between its claws. Draw a mental line up towards its head. Then, in the third step, plunge a chef’s knife in a swift chopping motion up the middle right through to its head (you don’t need to slice through the bottom shell). There might still be some muscle spasms but at this point the lobster is dead and ready to be cooked. Need a visual? Watch the video, below.
So now that your lobster is ready to cook, what should you cook? If you’re looking to switch things up a bit from the crack ‘n snack method, we’d like to suggest Pettit’s lobster corn dawgs — the perfect summer fare.
LOBSTER CORN DAWGS
What you need
- 1 live lobster (roughly 1 ¼ lb), boiled and meat removed
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 sprigs fresh tarragon, finely chopped
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 cups canola oil (for frying)
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- kosher salt
- 2 cups milk
- 2 eggs
- canola oil
- ¼ cup cornstarch (for dredging)
what you do
- For the corn dawgs, finely chop the lobster meat and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cream, mayonnaise, tarragon and cayenne pepper. Puree until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Spoon the lobster mixture into a piping bag that has a ½-inch-wide end piece. If you do not have a piping bag, use a sealable plastic bag with one of the bottom corners cut off to about ½ inch wide.
- On a flat work surface, lay out a large sheet of plastic wrap and pipe a line of lobster mixture (5 inches long x ½ inch think) onto plastic wrap. Wrap the meat mixture several times in the plastic and seal by twisting both ends.
- Cut the mixture into lobster “links” about 3 inches long and stick a popsicle stick in the end of each one.
- Lay the lobster links directly on a baking sheet and place in the freezer for 1 hour to set.
- Meanwhile, prepare the batter. Combine the 2 cups of cornmeal, flour, baking soda and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Mix together. Add the milk and eggs and, using a wooden spoon, mix well to create the batter. Set aside.
- Line a plate with towel.
- Add 2 inches of canola oil to a deep medium-sized saucepan. Heat the oil over high heat to 350°F.
- Remove the lobster links from the freezer. Discard the plastic wrap and dip one link at a time in the cornstarch and then the batter. Place the battered link in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Place on the prepared plate to absorb any excess oil. Repeat with the remaining links. Serve immediately with your favourite dipping sauce.