June 19, 2012

Ideal recipe for soft-shell lobster

Soft-shell lobster meat is not only easier to get at, many people claim it's more tender and a little sweeter than meat from hardshell lobsters.

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That makes it the perfect ingredient for this classic lobster and sweet corn chowder developed by one of our food columnists, Brooke Dojny, who has just published a new lobster-centric cookbook, "Lobster! 55 Fresh & Simple Recipes for Everyday Eating" (Storey, $14.95).

For a look at another Maine summer classic, lobster rolls, read the Wednesday Food and Dining section. This week, in honor of the first day of summer, food writer Meredith Goad explores non-traditional versions of lobster rolls for adventurous eaters who prefer something that goes beyond mayo and drawn butter.

LOBSTER AND SWEET CORN CHOWDER

Servings: Six as a main course

4 live lobsters (1¼ to 1½ pounds each), rinsed (see note)

1 teaspoon salt

¼ pound bacon, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 large celery stalk, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ cup dry white wine

4 medium all-purpose potatoes, diced (about 4 cups)

4 ears of corn, kernels cut from cob (or 2 cups frozen kernels)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

2 cups heavy cream

¼ teaspoon cayenne

Freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons butter

Bring 7 cups of water to a boil in a large soup pot and add the 1 teaspoon of salt. Add lobsters, cover, return to boil and cook, covered, until bright red and fully cooked, about 10 minutes per pound.

Use tongs to remove to a bowl, leaving cooking liquid in the pot. Break claws and tails off lobster bodies, rinse out most of the tomalley (green material), and add bodies back to the pot. Return to boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain through a medium-mesh strainer into a bowl. You should have about 5 cups of broth.

Meanwhile, pick out lobster claw and tail meat, chop into bite-size pieces and refrigerate. (These steps can be done up to 24 hours ahead.)

Cook the bacon in a large soup pot over medium-low heat until crisp and fat is rendered, about 15 minutes. Remove bits with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and reserve. Add onion and celery to the fat in the pan and cook over medium-high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and 5 cups of lobster broth and bring to a boil, stirring.

Add the potatoes, corn and thyme, return to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer covered until potatoes are almost tender. Add the lobster, cream and cayenne, and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary. Cut butter into chunks and add to the chowder to melt. Serve immediately or, better yet, refrigerate overnight.

Reheat reserved bacon bits in the microwave. Ladle chowder into soup bowls, sprinkle with the bacon and serve.

Note: You can also use 1 pound chopped picked-out lobster meat and 5 cups seafood broth, or clam juice or a combination of clam juice and water. Seafood broth or stock can often be found in supermarkets with the chicken and beef broth. Bottled clam juice is shelved with the canned seafood. If the clam juice is salty, dilute half and half with water.

-- Meredith Goad

 

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