As you’ve probably gathered by now, I tend to eat everything except the squeak on things I cook.
They had a Fourth of July sale on lobster near by, so I bought one for eating later the following week. I simply cooked it, picked all the meat out, and reserved the green tomalley (lobster liver) and the shells. The shells are frozen for future fish stock, and the tomalley (pronounced like the Mexican “tamale”) was set aside for dressing for the lobster. I love lobster, but I only buy it on sale, or when I’m in Maine or Rhode Island.
Back in 2008 the FDA issued a warning about eating tomalley at that time, due to red tide (a plankton problem, producing a toxin lobsters — and various molluscs — might ingest), and this warning shows up on Internet searches (with that date), but at this point eating tomalley on occasion isn’t harmful, and is without red tide problems. Generally speaking, it can be quite nutritious. Just keep abreast of red tide alerts.
At the bottom of this post, I’ll discuss how to cook and how to shell/pick your lobster for salads. Most of you won’t need that information. Right now, let’s get right into the Meat O’ the Matter:
Lobster Salad with Tomalley Mayo Dressing:
Chilled lobster meat from one lobster, de-shelled, broken into bite size pieces where needed.
Raddoccio or other non-lettuce green (endive? small bits of celery?)
Onion greens or scallions
A slice of onion bulb, finely minced
Hearts of palm, sliced
Tomalley Mayo, see Dressing below
Lemon slices for garnish, if desired
1 whole egg (or two egg yolks, but the whole egg is supposedly going to help make a thicker mayo)
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice, squeezed from the lemon
1/2 tablespoon white wine or apple cider vinegar (I did the latter, it was what was here)
1/2 teaspoon ground white (or black) pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup oil — I used 1/2 cup avocado oil, and 1/4 cup regular olive oil.
Tomalley from one lobster (approximately two tablespoons)
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence. Try Penzey’s.
For the dressing, I essentially cribbed from the truly excellent book, The Ancestral Table, by Russ Crandall. While he doesn’t use tomalley, I needed a healthy base, and his promised that. (PS, at the moment I don’t get paid for links to Amazon or anywhere else, but I am planning on changing this in the near future…)
Bring all ingredients to room temperature.
Mix up the eggs or egg yolks, lemon juice, condiments and indeed everything but the oils. You can do this by hand or with a whisk, but have everything ready for a blender such as an immersion stick blender, or one of those old-fashioned hand-held blenders with the twirlybird electronics that your Mom probably used (I have her old set). You can also plop this into a blender, but this sounds like a mess to clean up after, what with the oil. If you are really talented with the whisk, you can do this without electricity, too. I’m not.
Slowly drizzle in your oil mixture (both oils already combined together). Mix, stir, or blend. Add oil gradually. Eventually you’ll get it. Eventually you can start adding more at a time.
My result wasn’t as sturdy as a store-bought mayo, but it didn’t separate, and was quite good. The tomalley taste is subtle, and adds good protein to your food.
For the salad, just simply add everything above together, or whatever salad ingredients float your boat, or are at hand. By the way, that lovely lettuce was from my garden. Also by the way, turning that lobster into a salad provided me three meals from one crustacean (not counting the shells waiting in the freezer). The photo was taken with the garden lettuce and the dressing; the fancier salad makings described above didn’t end up with any camera intrusions…
Reserve the extra dressing for some other seafood dish. I’m thinking if you grill up salmon or crab cakes, this might be good on top. Or reserve it for a regular salad of greens. Since this dressing includes seafood, I’d only store it in the fridge about three days, tops.
Cooking the lobster:
Get a pot of water to boiling (deep enough to submerge your lobster/lobsters).
Get your live lobster (1.5 pounds or thereabouts). Place in pot, and cover. (If you are feeling so inclined, you can put your lobster in the freezer for about half an hour prior to cooking, to numb his nerves.)
When the water returns to boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for ten minutes; remove from pot and allow to cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes. (Or, go ahead and skip the below, and just dine while still hot!)
Shelling the Lobster:
For shelling lobster, I find it handy to have to hand the following:
A good paring knife
A good nutcracker
A lobster pick (a grilling skewer can also work)
A spoon (for the tomalley retrieval)
Two bowls, one for the shells and the other for the meat.
Optional: A tall mug of tea or coffee, just for you, while working. Oh, hey, how about a glass of wine?
I prefer to shell my lobster out doors. This way, I don’t have to worry much about splatter. And lobsters do splatter. I also don’t have to worry about cats jumping in my lap while I am working (like one did just now as I typed this sentence). Which brings me to sanitary practices especially if you are going to be serving the salad to others. Save any nibbling to the end, and be ready to jump up and go back inside to use hot soap and water on your hands or any equipment any time during this process (which is what I did) or have those antibacterial towelettes to hand with you.
Tear off the tail, and use the knife on the inner portion of the tail, cracking down the “ribs”. Pull out the meat, and remove the dark “vein” that runs down the back side of the tail. Discard (yep, there are some things I don’t save…). Any hunks of orange-red matter are lobster roe, and this means you have a female. You can eat this, too. If you desire it, put it in with the meat pile. A note about the tail — at the very end of the tail are little flippers – some choice-tasting meat lurks within. You won’t find much there, but I reward myself with them while collecting my future salad.
Break off the claws where they join the main body. You can usually snap off the small pincer of each claw without using any tool. But use the pick or skewer to tease out the meat it contains. Break the other pincer off from the rest of the arm, and use the nutcrackers to break into the meat there. (On occasion, the pincer will not break this way — a nice flat rock underneath and a hammer above will do the trick…). There is a thin piece of cartilage in this part of the claw — remove it since you don’t want to run into it while dining on your salad. (Yes, it can go into the shell pile…)
Crack into the other segments of the lobster arms, and save the meat into the salad pile.
Tear off the little legs (spinnerettes) on the sides of the body. If meat comes out of the body at that point, reserve that meat. It is up to you if you wish to suck out the meat from the spinnerettes (another snack while you are shelling!) or if you wish to toss them, meat and all, into the shell pile. I opted for the latter.
Use the spoon to pull out the tomalley – you could do this earlier in the shelling process, of course. Reserve separate from the lobster meat itself. (And yes, I know some of you will simply… discard. Oh well.) You can usually retrieve at least a couple tablespoons’ worth. Break off the large torso shell, and then, gently, retrieve body meat from between the interior cartilage, avoiding the fibrous-feeling “lungs”, which are also not edible. It helps to have good light. Your patience level will determine how much meat you save from here, but it is worth collecting at least some. The rest can end up in the shell pile, and thus in the freezer.