Grilling 107: Consider the Lobster

Lobster prices have never been this cheap, at least not that I can remember. I have no idea. Perhaps benthic radiation for the Fukushima meltdown has caused an immense population surge among these frightening, immense arthropods, heralding the rise of another Cloverfield monster, and our own doom. Anyway, I have been eating a lot of them. The traditional method is to boil them up in a giant pot. But I don’t do that. It’s summer, and I don’t want my apartment filled with steam. Plus boiling is the worst way to cook anything not named spaghetti. So I always look to grill the things, whenever I can, and you should too.

Lobster meat is delicate, and you really have to be careful with it. Even I, a buddha of the coals, would be hard pressed not to ruin it.. At the same time, nothing is as marvelous as soft, sweet lobster meat that has been perfumed with the aroma of wood smoke. Here’s how you achieve it.

1. Get a lobster.

2. Cut it in half lengthwise. If it is moving, this will cause it to stop. Make sure to use a big, sharp, heavy chef’s knife. You owe both to the lobster and to your dinner. Start with what looks like the top of his head and go backward. Then go forward.

3. You will now be looking at a half of a lobster, or actually two. It will look gross. That’s OK. If you want to be ambitious, scoop out some of the tomalley, the grody looking green stuff. It’s actually good, and will help make a rich, piquant butter. If you are really lucky, and the lobster is a “hen” or female, there may be a deep red egg sac which can be as small as a marble or as big as the whole tail. Save every bit of this wonderful substance, which is called “coral” and is basically lobster caviar.

4. Melt some butter. Add the coral if you have it, or the tomalley, if you don’t. Also a lot of garlic. You are making a flavored butter. This stuff shouldn’t cook so much as take a warm butter bath. If the butter starts to foam you are cooking it too hot.

5. Light a coal fire and put both halves of the lobster shell down when the the coals are good and hot. You are (slightly) cooking the meat close to the shell. After a couple of minutes flip the lobster over and grill it very quickly – no more than two to three minutes. Alternately, move the lobster halves to the cool side of the grill, close it, and let them cook gently in a smoke bath. This option is better for the texture, but you don’t get any charring or browning.

6. Pour the coral or romolley butter onto each half. Eat them.

I’m not saying this is an easy recipe. If it were, it would be lesson two, instead of lesson seven. But it’s an amazing method if you can master it, and one of the only non-meat proteins you can make that can match a steak for pure porn appeal. The first or second time you make it will likely not be perfect. But with lobsters as cheap as they are right now, that’s ok. Even imperfectly cooked, they will still be good.

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