January 16, 2013

Lobster Rolling Into Another Year

We all seemed so tired as 2012 came to a close. Just so tired. It wasn’t one specific thing. I’m not sure what exactly led to the sense of exhaustion. But as I racked up the good and the bad points, devouring our way out of 2012 seemed the best revenge.

It was an interesting year…the team I was on won a media award…and I learned tons technically...and I finally became a Canadian citizen……and I quit my job (phew…that was hard)…and we helped one of our Moms clean up, sell up, and move out of her house…and I went to Italy to help one of my graces celebrate her half-century mark…and suddenly the twilight of the year was here.   

I guess, on balance, that makes for a good year.

But it was hard, and trying, and testing and sparkling…

We have created a ritual. When we’re in town for new year's eve, we get together with friends to cook and enjoy a feast – a feast of many dishes…and small portions…and many hours of lounging. And laughing.

Everyone was very busy this year…so I decided, with more time than anyone on my hands, to get it together and get us into 2013 happy and full.

We started with lobster rolls.

I’ve never had lobster rolls. Seriously.

I’ve been lucky enough to eat lobster twice, the best way possible – full food karma – on the Atlantic coast.

The first time was in Lubec, Maine. I. Love. Maine.  
We were there to tell the story of a dedicated, passionate team of whale researchers who were getting to know, and save, the most endangered whale in the world – the northern right whale.

At the time, there were about 300 whales left in the north Atlantic. They had gained the name right whale from the days of whale hunting…they moved so slowly they were the “right” whale to hunt.

Moira (Moe) Brown, a fellow Canadian, and her gang have made huge strides in protecting them.

When I reconnected with Moe in the fall (I’m so happy to have relinked), she told me the population is around 500, averaging about 22 calves per year for the last decade…and most of that, I think, is because Moe and her team and have worked tirelessly for decades now to keep the slow, lumbering animals out of harm’s way – even convincing the governments to move the shipping lanes so that the gentle beasts don’t get run over…

On our last night in Lubec the research team bought a pile of lobsters for dinner (we paid for ours). 

They cooked them in a pit in the backyard – with seaweed, and stuff and more stuff…I’m not sure what…as we had also bought a pile of wine and the recipe dimmed into the twilight and night. But the lobsters…were…sooo…good. We made tables out of doors and all plonked ourselves down for a seafood feast.

Then we all went over to Campobello Island, where FranklinDelano Roosevelt spent many summers, and walked, well…weaved along, the raised boardwalk through a bog to a big wooden platform – and under a perfectly clear sky, wrapped in sweaters. We laid on the platform on our backs and looked up at the stars. One of the researchers had brought his telescope…and he set it up…and we all marvelled at the crab nebula. An appropriately crustaceous end to a lovely evening.

We were back on the east coast the next year meeting up with Gary Dedrick to explore the disappearing fish from the sea banks off Nova Scotia. Gary was a fifth generation fisherman if I remember correctly, and all his brothers but one were fishermen. 

He was a passionate defender and advocate of how to responsibly maintain the fish stocks – taking us through the docks, the various fishing methods (he was not fond of draggers), the fish plants where many women prepped and iced the fish…An entire way of life was disappearing as fishermen were sunk by few fish, big debt, and absolute misery.

We spent time with Gary, who is on the fisheries sector council, as he advocated for his fellow fisherman - turning defending his livelihood and everyone else's, into his livelihood. And with us he had to put up with having a camera in his face as we followed him around on his journeys for a week and a half...with us babbling constantly about how he should just ignore us...act natural...


He patiently explained to us landlubbers how the fishing industry worked…how he stitched together a living between long lining, lobster season, and swordfish season. 

So again on our last night, the Dedricks and friends invited us for supper, in their backyard. 

The lobster was a complete surprise for us, our host/producer had hinted at a lobster obsession. She is of small stature …but, man, could she pack away lobsters like a longshoreman. It was impressive. 

The Dedricks watched us eat. And they took video and pictures. Gary said, “Don’t look at the camera. Just pretend we’re not here…” They guffawed…”yeah just act natural.”

Gary also taught us that night that if you snap the lobster’s tail fan off, you can pull the meat out with a fork in one, big piece…And while that was almost 20 years ago,  I pulled out that very trick the night I made lobster rolls. 

Lobster rolls are really easy. It’s lobster meat mixed with a beautifully-flavoured mayonnaise sauce. Then it’s all stuffed into a hot dog bun. Traditionally…

…but this was New Year’s Eve.

I looked up about a half-dozen recipes for this – and made up my own concoction in the end. And bear in mind I made this for 8, but it was an appetizer/first course, so the portions were smaller…adjust amounts accordingly if you’re planning this as a main course.

Lobster Rolls

4 lobster tails – can be frozen if necessary
1/2 cup melted butter
pinch of paprika
salt and pepper
1 lb fresh wild shrimp
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, a little set aside
olive oil, enough to coat shrimp
1 cup mayonnaise (depending on how mayonnaise-y you want it)
2 tbsp lemon juice and some lemon rind
a small splodge of mustard (optional)
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp or so of capers, roughly chopped
parsley, finely chopped (optional)
8 buns – split open, toasted if desired

I bought lobster tails and broiled them. I decided to broil them after watching how. I split the tail shells down the middle with a pair of kitchen shears (not as easy as it sounds, and there are many spiky bits that the lobster keeps for its last revenge). I pulled open the shell a bit, poured the melted butter on the meat, and sprinkled it with paprika, salt and pepper and broiled them until they were opaque. About 10 minutes. I watched them very, very carefully because one minute too much and the meat would have been tough.

Remove the meat from the tails and roughly chop into bite size pieces. Set aside.

Now that the broiler is off…turn the oven on to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash the shrimp, and let them drain well.

Chop garlic (2 cloves or so to your taste) and set a little bit aside (you can cook the shrimp with most of the garlic and add the remaining raw garlic you’ve set aside after the shrimp come out of the oven.)

Toss the shrimp in olive oil, chopped garlic and salt and pepper. Lay them out in a single layer on a tray. Put them in the oven. They too should only take 8-10 minutes at the most. Keep a close eye and pull them out halfway to turn them over.

Toss them with the remaining raw garlic and set aside.

At this point, you can put the seafood in containers and refrigerate until you’re ready to mix with the mayonnaise and serve. I don’t know that I would let it sit too long in the mayonnaise…but maybe I’m just being paranoid.

So…the mayonnaise – this can be a bit of a creative jaunt.

Put the mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.

Add the lemon juice and rind. Mix thoroughly. Add the mustard, celery, green onion, capers and mix.
The key is that this concoction gets to sit in the fridge for a few hours to mature.

When you’re ready to serve, mix the mayonnaise sauce with the lobster and shrimp meat. I shelled the shrimp before putting them in the mixture. (By the way, the shells from both would be a good source for fish stock – if you are partial to that kind of thing).

Toast the bread buns if you desire, then line them with lettuce or greens and spoon the seafood mixture into the crevice. Serve…

And dream of the ocean. May we all get a taste of the ocean in 2013...

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