I Cooked a Lobster for Spring Break
Every time we go to the store, the kids want to look at the lobsters.
Knick really likes eating lobster.
Can you see where this is going? I couldn’t.
Knick randomly told me this week that we should cook a lobster over his spring break. I said no way. He said I could blog about it. I said I’d be more tempted to do it if he told me it was a lifeskill for the kids or preparing me for some kind of future survival (should our electronic grid ever crash and I need to catch lobsters to survive…haha).
But, the more I thought about it, the more my distant farm roots started speaking to me. Growing up, I was around chicken butchering and farm-like activities (though never very much part of the process). When I was about 8, my grandmother (who grew up and ran a farm) caught a catfish from our pond and then nailed its head to a board right in front of me, before skinning it and preparing it for dinner. My dad was not thrilled he lost a catfish, but it was an important experience for me. There is a value in knowing where our food comes from and trying to approach that process with dignity. It takes practice to grow, butcher and cook correctly.
So, after quite a bit of research, we cooked a live lobster as a family.
Before I talk more about our process and experience, here is the recipe we followed. It is a mix between Cooks Illustrated and the advice of our local butcher.
Freeze the lobster for 20-30 minutes to stun. Just stick the whole lobster bag into the freezer. During this time, brown a few tablespoons of butter in a small skillet with breadcrumbs, parsley and chives. Set aside.
Drop stunned lobster into heavily salted boiling water in large pot for 5 minutes. Remove claws, placing them in a buttered cast iron skillet. Remove the tail and butterfly by slicing the softer underside and cracking the harder back shell. Run a skewer through the tail longways to stop it from curling up while roasting.
Coat with melted butter and then add salt and white pepper to taste. Add breadcrumb mixture on top and sprinkle with more chives. Place skillet in oven at 350° for 12 minutes or until tail registers 140°. You do not want to overcook or the meat will be tough.
Buttery Dipping Sauce for Lobster
I made up a dipping sauce that I think turned out pretty fantastic:
- 2 Tbs. melted butter
- 1 Tbs. Olive Oil
- 1 Tbs. Pinot Grigio (or dry white wine)
- Juice of 1 lemon wedge (1/6 of lemon) squeezed
- Dash of garlic
- Dash of cayenne
- Salt and white pepper to taste
Killing Our Lobster Humanely
We got our live lobster from Kroger. They offer a sustainable lobster program and have lobsters that are clearly active in their tanks. The kids helped pick out the lobster and were very excited about the whole process. They’ve been taking quite an interest in where their food comes from (garden, animal, etc.). They named our lobster Sam.
The guy who got our lobster out of the tank was from Boston. He told us lobsters are typically boiled alive because of the bacteria that replicates rapidly within them and can make you sick if there is any time between death and cooking. He suggested boiling the lobster for 5 minutes before roasting it in a butter sauce until cooked.
There is a lot of debate on how to humanely cook lobster. At first, I saw videos of chefs cutting the lobster through the head before boiling. This seemed like a quick death, but I later found out it only cuts through one major nerve ending (there are three total).
Scientists aren’t sure if lobsters comprehend pain or if they just feel stimuli to move away for survival (more like a large insect). It is a myth that lobster scream, since they don’t have the vocal ability to do so. They try to escape the pot, but the supposed screaming sound is the air escaping from under their shells. Regardless, many people are afraid they can feel the heat.
A device was recently invented that kills the lobster instantly through electrocution and kills the harmful bacteria, allowing them to be safely raw for 48 hours. What a genius invention. The next most humane way, as suggested by Cook’s Illustrated and other lobster professionals, was to stun them in a coma like state by freezing for 20-30 min and then placing them headfirst into the boiling water. This stops the lobster from trying to get out (they are stunned) and kills them almost instantly.
We put the lobster bag in the freezer for 30 minutes. I actually watched the lobster and it turned red almost the second it was in the water. It didn’t move, aside from some twitching that occurs with the death of most animals. It didn’t have time to scuttle around or try to get out.
It Shouldn’t Be “Scary”
I’m not going to lie…it took a lot for me to work up to the idea of killing something in our kitchen and eating it 30 minutest later. Butchered meat has never been a problem for me to handle. I have many family members that raise and show animals that are destined for the meat markets. I’ve cooked deer meat where I knew the hunter. But, I still like to be separate from the butchering process.
We’ve been watching Planet Earth a lot lately. The kids were uncomfortable at first with animals being hunted, but they’ve come to realize it’s part of the way other animals survive. Hiding death and predatory cycles from them won’t make it less true. Now they take an active interest in where their meat comes from like they do when we plant vegetables and harvest them later.
I wasn’t thrilled the Kroger employees kept bringing up the word “scary.” No. Lobsters are not scary. Cooking a lobster is not scary. My kids weren’t phased, but I don’t want them to be afraid of an animal unnecessarily.
Our checkout lady couldn’t believe we were taking home a live one. She said, “I hope the kids don’t know!” I said, “Oh they do, they helped pick him out!” She was horrified and then tried to scare one of the baggers with it.
The Kids Tried Something New
If you have toddlers, then you know how hard mealtimes can be. We try to get our kids to be willing to try anything and eat a lot of different things. I’ve found the more they are part of the process, the more things they are willing to eat. This was one more experience.
I was proud of Kaleb (our most easily scared kid right now) for wanting to see and touch the lobster. They both watched our process and tried the lobster more than willingly after it was ready. Neither one of them loved the taste or texture, but I was glad they tried it. I served our lobster with baked potatoes, pan-seared asparagus and small loaves of wheat bread.