This versatile casserole makes a lovely presentation at the table and is a great way to use leftover lobster. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

Editor’s Note: The Maine Lobster Festival, traditionally held around the first weekend in August, has been canceled for a second straight year, so the Masthead Maine family of newspapers decided to give the state a week of lobster coverage to help our readers enjoy our state’s iconic food.

Do you remember your first taste of lobster?

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundys Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

Consider yourself fortunate if you grew up in a coastal Maine household where lobster was abundantly and frequently served.

My first bite of lobster was at a family steakhouse in Rochester, New York, when I was a teenager on my first real date. I must admit I was less than impressed.

A few years later though, I moved to the Bay Area in California, where lobster tails could be splurged on at Fishermen’s Wharf for special occasions then toted home on ice to be buttered and broiled.

A decade later, I moved to Maine, and opportunities to buy live (and affordable) lobsters presented themselves right and left. Although I was squeamish at first, I soon got the hang of steaming lobsters in my own kitchen or in a big pot on the backyard grill for summer company. Ordering up a shore dinner at Cook’s or Estes’ in Harpswell or at Taste of Maine on Route 1 was how we celebrate birthdays.

I was a lobster purist until one day, in desperation to use up the steamed and picked lobster left over from a family gathering, I made Lobster Puff. I cut the lobster meat into chunks and added it to a creamy, eggy mixture made more substantial with torn-up bread. The casserole puffs up as it bakes and has a seriously crispy topping.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret: This versatile recipe also works well with crabmeat or even canned salmon or tuna. Furthermore, if you don’t have cream-of-whatever soup, a cup of simple homemade white sauce will do the trick. This soufflé-like dish is perfect for brunch, a summer company lunch and can also be spread on crackers.

So keep this flexible recipe handy, make it often in all its variations and dare to decorate it with other flavorful add-ins (I’ve used fresh corn kernels, sautéed mushrooms and a dash of white wine) to put your own spin on it.

Lobster Puff

1/2 pound cooked lobster meat, diced
1 (10.5-ounce) can cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup soft white bread cubes (about 3 slices of bread)
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 eggs, separated
Bread crumbs for topping

Sauté celery and onion in a little olive oil until softened. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine soup with the lobster then mix in all other ingredients except egg whites.

Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff. Fold gently into lobster mixture then spoon it all into a buttered 2-quart baking dish.

Sprinkle top of mixture with cheese and a light coating of bread crumbs. Bake for 1 hour or until golden on top, set in the middle and puffed. Yield: 4-6 servings

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