Friday, June 29, 2012

Celebrate Independence Day with the American Lobster

Photograph © Sabra Krock

What better way to celebrate the Fourth than with some American culinary lore and a great summery salad? Brooke Dojny’s new book, Lobster!, has just that and more. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction to her book and a great recipe to try:

The American or Maine lobster, Homarus americanus, found in the cold waters off the North Atlantic coast, is one of the most prized ingredients in the culinary world. Homarus americanus, a.k.a. “true” cold-water lobsters, are distinguished by their large, heavy, and very powerful claws. Spiny lobsters, also known as rock lobsters, live in warmer southeastern, southern Californian, and Caribbean waters and are sold mostly as frozen lobster tails. The rock lobster meat is not as flavorful or sweet as the meat of the Maine or American lobster fished out of cold waters.

Before the nineteenth century, lobsters were so abundant in New England that they could simply be plucked off the beach — but people who could afford not to, didn’t. Lobsters were considered a low-class food in old New England, and prisoners were forced to eat them three times a week. Or they were fed to the chickens. In the mid-nineteenth century, fishermen began lobstering by boat, and by that time their ­relative scarcity increased demand. Fishing smacks, boats equipped with circulating wells of seawater holding thousands of pounds of ­lobsters, ferried the live crustaceans from Maine down to Boston’s lobster-hungry populace.
Composed Lobster and Papaya Salad
. . . with Toasted Cumin Vinaigrette
Papaya lends sweetness and pretty color to this gorgeous composed salad flavored with tropical seasonings. Accompany with toasted flatbread and Rustic Summer Fruit Tart for an impressive and delicious summer lunch or supper.
Vinaigrette Ingredients
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon coarse-grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced pickled jalapeรฑo pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/3 cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salad Ingredients
1½ cups roughly chopped cooked lobster meat (8 ounces) (see Note)
1½ cups halved grape or tiny plum tomatoes
4 handfuls arugula
½ papaya, seeded and sliced
½ red bell pepper, cut into thin rings, then halved
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
½ cup fresh cilantro sprigs
Lime wedges for garnish
  1. To make the vinaigrette, toast the cumin in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring now and then, until one shade darker, 3 to 4 minutes. Combine the cumin with the vinegar, shallots, mustard, jalapeรฑo, and lime zest in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil and season with the salt and pepper (can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated).
  2. To make the salad, toss the lobster meat with about 2 tablespoons of the dressing. In another bowl, toss the tomatoes with about 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
  3. Spread the arugula out on a serving platter. Arrange the papaya, bell pepper, and avocado in separate but overlapping sections toward the edge of the platter. Scatter the dressed tomatoes over all. Heap the dressed lobster in the center and sprinkle the cilantro over the top (can be made up to 2 hours ahead and refrigerated).
  4. Drizzle with dressing, garnish with lime wedges, and serve.
Note: Cook one 1½-pound hard-shell lobster or two 1-pound soft-shells and remove the meat or purchase picked-out meat.

Excerpted from Lobster! by Brooke Dojny © 2012
All rights reserved

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