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Cooking Lessons from a Maine Lobsterman
Although Maine’s lobstermen and women make their living catching lobster, they also have strong opinions on how best to prepare the delicacy for eating. After all, lobstering isn’t just a business, it’s a way of life. We spoke with Dustin Delano of Friendship, Maine on what chefs need to know about cooking Maine Lobster.
What makes Maine Lobster such a special product?
Dustin Delano: I think it’s special because it’s very versatile. There’s so much to do beyond serving a whole lobster with butter, there are a lot of ways it can be cooked, prepped and consumed.
What are the differences in taste between Maine New Shell and Hard Shell Lobster?
DD: New Shell is sweeter, maybe a little more delicate. It doesn’t have a fishy taste, it’s a sweet protein that’s quite tender. The meat basically brines in the ocean water that’s trapped inside the shell, between the shell and the meat. With Hard Shell, it’s still tasty but a little bit firmer, the meat itself is less sweet, very dense.
Do you have a favorite way to prepare lobster?
DD: Oftentimes people refer to cooking lobster as boiling it, but it’s much better steamed in saltwater – definitely saltwater, not tap. That’s something that stands out to me – when I meet chefs, they often talk about boiling lobster, they don’t realize that you can steam it, too.
When you’ve talked to chefs, what are some of the misconceptions you encounter about Maine Lobster?
DD: We often find that chefs don’t know about New Shell Lobster, or if they did, though they had to be in Maine to get it – they don’t understand it’s shippable. They think New Shell can only be found in the Northeast, or that they can only get it processed. The truth is that live New Shell lobster can be shipped almost anywhere these days.
For the chefs I’ve talked to at events, they want to serve it, and they understand it’s a premium product. They can get caught up in the idea, sometimes, of thinking lobster is just a high-end product – but it doesn’t need to be. You can use it in everyday meals.
Is there anything people need to know about handling lobsters?
DD: When you’re handling, transporting, or cooking with a live lobster product, you have to treat it as a delicacy. Keep them upright and refrigerated until you cook them. While we ship lobsters all over the world, it’s important to remember that like Wagyu beef, lobster meat tastes it’s best when it’s been handled with care.
Do you have a favorite part of the lobster?
DD: I really prefer the knuckle meat over anything else.
Other than steaming, do you have any other favorite ways to cook lobster?
DD: I often grill them, we’ve also split the tail and then fried them. But even when you cook them in other dishes, you should steam them first.
Lobster’s good in anything – I’ve had it in omelets, pasta dishes, stews, you can have it plain, it tastes delicious by itself, or with butter and garlic. — there’s just a huge number of ways you can eat it.
I might not put it in cereal — but other than that I can’t really think of any way I wouldn’t eat lobster.