That is, the lobster was giant, not the rice. Though that was a pretty substantial pan of food as well, come to think of it. If I remember right, I actually brought this sucker home on the same day that I had to pick up the younger cat from the vet. With the 5 pound cat in a carrier on one hand and the 7 pound lobster in a bag with ice on the other, they were feeling pretty much the same weight. o.O
The before video. But wait! Aren’t bigger lobsters less tender and thus not as good eating? Hmmm. Well, it’s true that the ideal lobster for eating plain on a plate with butter is around 1.5 pounds, while they’re still young and sweet. It’s also true that a larger (say, 7 pound) lobster has more meat by volume than 4-ish smaller lobsters equaling the same weight. And for this particular recipe, I needed plenty of lobster meat. Besides, quality has a lot to do with how you cook it — a small lobster can be botched just as badly as a big one by the right person. Or, y’know, made well. Moving along.
The after picture. Lobster fried rice. No particular recipe, this one was just one of my happy experiments in flinging things up and seeing where they landed. This one turned out especially well, but I have to give much credit to the crustacean in question. It’s hard to go wrong with a good lobster. It will be quite a while before I see another lobster, since they aren’t particularly common in stores up here and highly expensive when they do appear. *wistful sigh*
Start with a plump, feisty lobster. Because this is a multi-person dish of fried rice, I would actually suggest a larger critter. They also tend to be cheaper because the majority of people only buy lobster if they’re going to do something fancy with the tail, and end up getting the smaller ones. You can usually get them to give you a discount for taking the monster ones. Make sure that its shell is hard and it hasn’t been sitting in the tank for too long. They lose weight every day they’re out of the ocean and you don’t want to end up with lots of shell and a skinny bug inside. I buy my lobsters at 99 Ranch while in Southern Cali, since Asian markets have a very high turnover rate for their shellfish. You won’t find any old critters there.
If you bought your lobster in the morning, as I did, and won’t be cooking him until late in the day, store him in the fridge packed loosely in damp paper. I lined the crisper drawer here with a damp paper bag and tossed some damp paper towels on top of him. They can survive just fine for a day or two out of water, as long as they don’t dry out. Never put your lobster directly on ice, because it will drown in the fresh water as it melts. Lobsters are saltwater animals and don’t tolerate fresh water at all. You want to keep your lobster alive as long as possible because it will start secreting a chemical that decomposes the flesh as soon as it dies. And that’s just… ew.
Now it’s time to get the show started! Heat up a large pot of water to just below boiling. A pot big enough to fit your bug in. I had to pull out my giant stock pot, in this case. I prefer steaming my shellfish, because it cooks the meat nicely without waterlogging it the way boiling does. So here you see a couple inches of water with my steaming rack over it.
Here I toss in sea salt to flavor the water and help the boil. Use 2 tablespoons of salt per quart of water. It is important to salt the water so that the salt in the flesh of the lobster is not drawn out during the cooking process. While the steam itself is pure water and does not carry salt or flavoring, the small particles of water splashing from below during the cooking definitely do, and they’ll get all over the lobster and flavor it.
Add in one bay leaf. Those things are strong, so don’t overdo it. They’re great in moderation but can ruin delicate meat with a pervasive bitter smell if allowed to overpower a dish. I speak from sad past experience. This lobster, however, was no victim.
Huh. I guess I also added a tablespoon of dried onion. Probably for the aroma and because it’d go well with the rice. I don’t remember this at all, but I do remember it all working out nicely. Told you I was just flinging things together.
Half a tablespoon of black pepper to the water. It’s starting to look like I’m making soup, eh? But the steam will smell really nice!
Finally, it’s time to wake up our sleepy buddy and prep him for his bath. For those of you that can’t stand the idea of a flailing lobster in your pot, it is suggested that you stick it in the freezer for five minutes to more fully anesthetize it. It will significantly cut down on their activity levels and give the squeamish amongst you less nightmares 😉
Give Mr. Lobster a good rinse under cold running water, then pop him into his Sauna o’ Flava. The water should be at a roiling boil by this point. Yes, my lobster was almost too big for even this ginormous pot. I ended up having to bend his claws around in a very awkward position to make it work.
My patented lobster containment system. Steam a lobster for 13 minutes per pound, for the first pound. Add 3 minutes per pound for each additional pound. For example, a 2-pound lobster should steam for 16 minutes and a 1 ½-pound lobster should steam for 14½ minutes.
Your lobster is done when it turns bright red. Like this guy. Another way to tell is if his antennae are easily pulled out. Give it a tug! It will be extremely hot, so take it out carefully with a pair of heavy duty tongs. Run it under cold water again to stop the cooking, then let it cool for at least five minutes.
Then, I removed all the meat from the entire critter using my bare hands, a pair of shears and a chopstick. No kidding! You don’t need a mallet or fancy metal crackers or any of those newfangled Western inventions. Of course, you’re free to use them if you’re a sissy. Just kidding. But in my case, I didn’t have any tools on hand other than a chopstick. Luckily, I also had a pretty good sense of lobster anatomy from devouring countless numbers of them since childhood. Snap at the joints, cut through the thin shells, poke around and through with the stick, and you’ll get almost all the meat out with just a little dexterity. You’ll practically need a sledgehammer to get through the really big claws otherwise. What a waste of energy.
A very large bowl of pure lobster meat. Mmm. You want it fairly well shredded or in bite-sized pieces because it’s going to be tossed together with rice in the next step.
I didn’t photograph it, but I had steamed a pot of rice in prawn stock the day before and left it in the fridge to cool down and harden up a bit. I tossed that in the wok with some soy sauce, sesame oil, a splash of mirin, and a sprinkling of garlic. Popped in the lobster, gave it a few good shakes at the highest heat setting, and dinner was served. We had veggies on the side, but you could probably have tossed in some frozen broccoli or peas as well for some color. Maybe next time.