Grilled lobster with garlic and herb butter

Thursday, August 25, 2016
The first time I had lobster was in St. Ives in Cornwall, caught locally. The owner of the restaurant was quite fierce and didn't like younger generations making noise, but she let me in because she liked the look of my Chelsea boots.
Grilled lobster with garlic and herb butter, crushed Anya potatoes and French beans wrapped in pancetta
Sometimes simple is best. People can get carried away with lobster dishes, maybe it's best to enjoy it as it is - this is what the host of this party asked for, and it went down really well with everyone!

This was a farewell dinner for the owner of the rather impressive Bibury Court. It has been run as a hotel for nearly 50 years, but small one off boutique hotels are very hard to make work financially. A couple of years ago they reverted it back into a large country house and were letting it out as a whole venue. Pretty amazing for a wedding! We did their Christmas and New Year catering in 2014 - 5. But now, sadly, it has been sold to a wealthy individual who is converting it back into a private house. That's going to be some awesome house!
Native vs. Canadian lobsters
Always go for the native variety - normally from Scotland or Cornwall. Much better all round flavour and texture. 

Do lobsters scream when being plunged into boiling water?
Only in gifs. In reality if you do hear a 'scream' it's air escaping from the inside of the shell. 

Do you have to kill lobsters before you cook them?
If you try cooking dead lobsters (as in dead for a few hours), the flesh breaks down, becomes mushy and disintegrates when cooked - not good to eat. Bacteria works very quickly on lobsters once they die - and it's the bacterial growth which makes the flesh disintegrate. It can also lead to food poisoning. This is why they need to be cooked fresh - you have to respect your ingredients! 

There are humane ways to kill them just before cooking however: 
  • You can place them live in the freezer for 20 minutes prior to cooking to put them to sleep slowly before boiling. 
  • You can stun them before cooking (now required in Switzerland). A stun gun might set you back £2,500.
  • A cooks knife plunged into the head about 4cm down the head in one quick action.  
If you're grilling them, much to the horror of the waitresses you have to split the lobsters live and put them directly on to the grill pan.

Why is lobster tough?
If you've ever sampled lobsters in a restaurant and found them tough, this is most likely when they are pre-cooked and refrigerated, then heated up when serving - the same as if you're buying them cooked from a supermarket. Sacrilege. It's even worse if they're left overnight in the fridge - then you might as well be eating rubber. This is why I would never suggest buying cooked lobster from a shop.  
It may also be that it's been overcooked. Like steak, you don't want to be overcooking your lobster. 

How to cook lobster
Cooking lobster deserves love and attention. You need to cook it absolutely at the last minute before serving, even if this makes a bit of stress in the kitchen. 

Boiling lobster? About 10 minutes for a 1 pound (half kilo) lobster. Lots of salt in the water to bring out the flavour of the lobster flesh. 

Let it cool down slightly before cracking the shell. Don't plunge it into cold water - I've found the lobster flesh sticks to the shell, so when you crack the shell the flesh can tear apart. 

Grilled lobster
Because this is being finished with garlic and herb (chives, sage and thyme from the garden outside the kitchen I was cooking in + tarragon and dill), you cook the bodies slightly less, then take the legs off and put them back on the grill pan to finish cooking. The legs can then be cracked and kept warm and added to the head cavity to garnish just before serving. 
Then the lobster bodies get a brief poaching with the garlic & herb butter in the oven to get the flavour through there just before serving, taking care that it's just cooked, soft & delicious! 
This was the hottest night on record this year, which is why the guests delayed to a 9:30pm start - by which time the air had begun to cool (well in the restaurant area at least! #chefslife).
Golden beetroot and baby leaf kale salad to accompany
The secret ingredients? You can add crushed pink peppercorn and ground cardamon to the garlic butter. Every bit helps!
The lobster's revenge!

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