Change of Plans: Easy Ideas for Lobster

Melanie writes: I bought 4 chicken lobsters from the fish market for a dinner party.  Unfortunately my guests couldn’t make it at the last minute and now I have all this leftover lobster meat.  Aside from the obvious summer indulgence with butter, what other concoctions can I use them for?  Also how long is the meat good for?

Tony’s take: Interesting situation, Melanie. For me, the real question is whether you harbor any resentment towards your friends for bagging out at the last second; I would. I’m sure your friends are good people, but I still think there should be some sort of task force set up to investigate when people’s kids magically get an ear infection on a Friday night or the babysitter somehow no-shows or Jim’s flight back from Omaha gets delayed. Hey, I lie all the time to get out of going to people’s houses, so it only figures that there’s more people like me. Moving along, the silver lining is that this means there’s more lobster for you and yours. Let’s take care of the shelf life issue first. You’ve obviously purchased the lobsters pre-cooked which is nice because some of the messy work is already done. But my suggestion is that you use up that lobster within two days. It could hold for longer, but what makes lobster (and other shellfish) great is its mild brininess. Any longer than two days and this essence starts a slow descent into the realm of funkiness. Then there’s the issue of what to do with the lobster. I’m not sure what you originally had planned but I’ve offered up a trio of ideas which are perfect for lobster meat that’s already pre-cooked. All of them include little additional cooking because any more than a couple of minutes and the crustacean’s tender texture would turn to rubber.

Tagliatelle with Lobster and a Spicy Tomato Sauce: I’ve always been a big fan of lobsters in red sauce. On the one hand, it feels a little paradoxical merging this luxurious ingredient with a pedestrian, old-school tomato sauce. But the result can be really delicate and elegant; a tomato sauce that is light and slightly briny, but intensely flavorful. To do this, pick the lobster meat from the shells and cut it into 1-inch pieces. Give the shells a rinse (you’re going to use them for the sauce). Saute a couple smashed garlic cloves with a good splash of olive oil until they become fragrant and turn golden, about 2 minutes. Add a sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes, some chopped fresh rosemary, and a 28-oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes. Add a handful of the lobster shells, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes so the sauce picks up some of the lobster flavor. Discard the shells and puree the tomato sauce (you can discard the garlic if you like). Cook some pasta (try a long noodle like linguini) and add to the sauce along with the diced lobster. Toss well and serve sprinkled with chopped parsley (Parmigiano would be a definite no-no in the eyes of Italians, who don’t mix shellfish and cheese).

Creamy Lobster Roll with Lemon and Fresh Tarragon: Sure these are a summer staple, but a good lobster roll works at any time of year. Pick the lobster meat from the shells and cut into large chunks. In a small bowl, mix 1 cup or so of mayo with the zest and juice of 1 lemon, a little Tabasco, some salt and pepper and whatever you’re feeling for fresh herbs (I like tarragon with lobster). Fold this mayo into the lobster and serve on toasted and buttered (this is important – it may not be until August that you eat another, so live a little!) rolls.

Spicy Szechuan Stir-Fried Lobster: I love lobster in Chinese restaurants; the sauce is as wonderful as the actual lobster. The nice thing about this preparation is that you can leave the lobster meat in the shell (which does make for fun but messy eating at the table). Stir-fry some coarsely chopped garlic and ginger with a splash of peanut oil. Add 1 or 2 chopped Thai chiles (or 1 jalapeno), a light sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes and some diced celery and red pepper. Stir-fry until the vegetables are tender, then add a splash of soy sauce, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar (which replicates the Szechuan black vinegar), some toasted sesame oil and a cup or so of chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then thicken with a little corn starch if you like (1 tsp. corn starch with 1 Tbs. water). Stir in the lobster (chopped into large pieces – use a chef’s knife or cleaver) and cook until just heated through. Serve sprinkled with thinly sliced scallions and Jasmine rice.

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