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The Heart of New England
The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
Lobster "Pie"
by Charlie Burke

Printer-Friendly Version

There are some foods which should not be altered in their presentation –
perfect August tomatoes, sweet summer corn fresh from the field, and lobsters
right out of cold New England seawater. I usually serve
lobsters steamed or
boiled with melted butter, corn on the cob (in season), steamed potatoes and
salad.

It is hard to improve on these elemental foods, but my mother found a way to
serve lobster out of the shell, enriched by butter and the lobster’s “tomalley”
but still preserving the taste of fresh lobsters. She served it on New Year’s Eve
and special occasion, and I still make it on holidays and for friends. It is really
not really
lobster pie, but that’s what she always called it. Her recipe contained
only the lobster meat and its juices but she did mix butter and, of all things,
Cheese–It crackers with the green liver to cover the meat to keep it moist
during cooking.

In our recipes we rarely use packaged ingredients, and I prefer fresh bread
crumbs to flavored, but I must admit the rich flavor of the tomalley blends
perfectly with the cheese crackers. I have added the chopped shallot, white
wine and the tarragon to the recipe, but they are not essential and can be
omitted if you prefer your lobster unadulterated.

This recipe celebrates the perfect flavor of New England lobster and can be
prepared ahead when entertaining. It is easy to prepare, especially when
cooked lobster meat is used, but live lobsters, slightly undercooked, work best.
I limit the butter to two tablespoons for the topping, but a little extra mixed
with the meat echoes the drawn butter served with boiled lobster.

Two servings

Two 1 ¼ pound lobsters or ½ pound lobster meat (ask for 2 – 3 ounces of
tomalley)
2 Tb spoons butter, plus extra for the baking dish
2 teaspoons chopped shallot
½ cup dry white wine (1 cup if using cooked lobster meat)
½ teaspoon dried tarragon or 2 teaspoons fresh
1 ½ tablespoons chopped wide leaf parsley
Sea or kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
½ cup bread crumbs or crushed cheese crackers - optional

If using live lobsters, heat two inches of water in a large pot, add 2 Tb of salt
and place lobsters on a steamer rack after water comes to a boil. Steam for 11
minutes, then remove from heat.

Remove meat from lobsters, reserving liquid from the shells, the green
tomalley and the roe from the females. The roe is red when cooked, but may be
inky black in undercooked lobsters. It will turn red quickly in the sauté pan
and adds a mild flavor and its color to the dish. Peel the thin dorsal layer off
the tails to remove the intestinal vein. Cut the meat into 1 inch pieces, but leave
claw meat whole. Season lightly with salt and pepper and add tarragon. Place
meat into a buttered shallow baking dish, sized so that the meat will make a
layer 2 ½ - 3 inches thick. Pour some of the reserved lobster liquid into baking
dish to a depth of ½ inch. If using lobster meat, bring the extra ½ cup white
wine to a boil and add to meat.  

Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat and add shallots, stirring until
they are soft but not browned. Add tomalley and roe, and cook until roe is
deep red. Mash the roe with a spoon and add white wine and parsley, boiling
until reduced slightly. Add crumbs, if using.  Spread mixture evenly over the
lobster meat. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours if you are preparing this
to be served later. Remove from refrigerator for 1 hour before cooking.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place baking dish, tightly covered with foil, into the
oven on a middle rack and cook for approximately 30 minutes. When juices are
bubbling, cook uncovered for 8 – 10 minutes and serve immediately. The
richness of this dish calls for a good red wine, such as an excellent Chateau
Neuf du Papes, or, if you are splurging, a Chateau Haut-Brion would be the
ultimate.

Although I feel lobster is best enjoyed boiled or steamed and served on a
picnic table with steamers and corn and with diners’ shelling their own, this
casual New England feast doesn’t travel well into the dining room. In this dish,
lobster makes a more formal entrance suitable for special occasions but
maintains its salty Down East flavor and character for all to enjoy.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer'sMarket Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at
Weather Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.
Lobster Pie
©The Heart of New England online magazine
...celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont!
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