The Maine Lobster Festival held in Rockland, Maine ended last weekend, but that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped thinking about all things lobster. With its humble beginnings in March of 1947, the Maine Lobster Festival began an annual festival dedicated to all things lobster (of course) to reinvigorate summer activities in the area post-WWII. They offer food, games, crafts, and even a parade — all in honor of one beautiful crustacean. It’s definitely one of my bucket list things to attend, among other things to see and experience, but in the meantime I plan to hone my lobster-cooking game with simple and not-so-simple dishes.
Despite our week being crammed with all sorts of events and projects and errands, I still took the time to work a lobster dish into the dinner menu one night. I just had to feel like I was celebrating at the festival myself and we don’t often splurge on lobster for a weeknight dinner. Trust me when I say this meal was hardly frugal (despite the frugality of the other supporting ingredients) and hardly “light,” but oh-so-worth the momentary decadence.
Lobster Newburg is an innately American dish. One story gives its origin at Delmonico’s in New York where a sea-captain presented this simple dish to the restaurant manager. It appeared on the menu almost immediately and stayed until a falling out between the captain and the manager caused it to be removed. Later, however the manager merely reworked the title and represented it on the menu where it remained popular for many decades. (And then there are other, more vague, theories…)
The slightly humble Lobster Newburg is one of those dishes that has stood the test of time, but doesn’t get enough credit nowadays. With relatively few ingredients, it makes for a comparatively easy recipe for the home cook. The recipe I chose was actually a simplified version of many popular ones. One such note I made was that it omitted the addition of egg yolk in the sauce. I’m familiar with these types of recipes, but if one is not this can be a little off-putting. I really didn’t feel like it was an earth-shattering omission. Betty Crocker once again to the rescue!
Her recipe for Lobster Newburg created more of a béchamel sauce for the base and if you learn to make béchamel, you can master any sauce in my humble opinion. One alteration I made to really infuse the flavor of the lobster was that I cooked the chopped lobster in butter in the same pan I knew I’d be cooking the sauce. I simply removed the meat to a plate prior to starting the sauce and left the remaining butter and juices in the pan to impart their oceanic goodness into the whole.
Sometimes, I think, I take for granted that everyone knows how to cook these delicate creatures. There’s really not alot to it, but they can dry out and get chewy quick! I separated the lobster meat from the shells (I saved the shells for broth-making later, by the way) and cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. I dropped the pieces in a pan of 2tbsp of melted salted butter over medium heat and tossed frequently until they just started turning pink (about 3-5min). The same can be done for shrimp!
If you don’t have access to Maine lobster, it’s perfectly fine to use what you can find. In my case, I had to use rock lobster due to availability in my area. It won’t be exactly the same, but will come pretty close and hit the spot in a pinch. You can also use any other sort of shellfish in place of lobster for this recipe and it will be equally delicious — and better yet, your own!
This recipe wasn’t a smack-you-over-the-head-with-ocean-flavor dish, but one providing reminiscences of the sea while still maintaining some semblance of land-loving refinement. It was earthy with rice and flecks of parsley, but still sophisticated and special. If you’re reticent to buy a whole bottle of sherry for one recipe (2tbsp), the suggestion of apple juice will impart the similar breath of sweetness wanting or you can buy the widely available cooking sherry from the grocery (though this is rarely recommended in finer kitchens). Trust me when I say, it isn’t amazing and no one is drinking it.
What are some ways you enjoy lobster?
Currently Reading: Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America by Laura Shapiro