How to choose fresh fish, avoid bad clams and triumph at the lobster pound by choosing the smaller, softer crustacean
Apparently lobster prices in Maine are at an all-time low. That’s very rough for all the hardworking lobstermen and women in my home state, and if you don’t think lobstering is tough work, think again. Imagine being out on the water in freezing weather (every month of the year but July) on an open boat deck, wearing rubber overalls while handling bait and pulling traps up from the bottom of the bay to earn your living. It’s cold, it’s backbreaking, it’s dirty and it’s dangerous.
Whatever the price, if we don’t buy lobsters, the lobsterman’s labor is all for naught. So as we approach the season of my most favorite of all seafood, the soft shell lobster (or shedder), I thought you might profit by taking a gander at my seminal look at seafood, Avoid the Bad Clam, originally posted in October of last year. It contains many handy tips on choosing seafood to prepare at home and an invaluable guide to successfully navigating the lobster pound. Here you go:
Your guide to vacationing in Maine this summer
It was recently brought to my attention that in my last post, Welcome to New York! Now get out of my way, I may have come across as a bit, how shall I say, strident. Some might even say elitist or xenophobic. I don’t know, I’ll leave the choice of adjective to you. In any case, in the interest of fair play (and as part of my ongoing commitment to tourist safety), I’m taking the quite possibly unprecedented step of rebutting myself on this one with some advice for New Yorkers who plan to visit the great state of Maine this summer. Why? Well, for one thing Maine has fairly “relaxed” gun laws, and those objects you see bisecting the rear windows of pickup trucks are not golf-club racks.
I can’t carve a cooked bird to save my life. Even sober. Though let’s be honest I can’t even recall the last time I got to the carving stage with my feet in my shoes and my bra on the inside of my sweater. I start pretty well, but eventually am reduced to tearing away at the flesh with my fingers and flinging it on the platter so as to get it to the table while it’s still warm and the guests are still upright. Anyways, the always helpful Jamie Oliver has a video on his site demonstrating how to carve up a chicken and it looks so easy I may even try it again myself. By the way, that’s one of Jamie’s minions (presumably a relative) who carves up the bird. When I first cued it up I thought I’d opened that pesky time machine by mistake again.
Now, I was considering starting a video series myself, but then I was thinking maybe I don’t have any particular skills to demonstrate. That was until I clicked on Jamie’s video of how to prepare a cooked lobster, and let me tell you that is just wrong. As I may have mentioned, I grew up in Maine where lobster shells are used as teething rings, and if there’s one thing I’m really good at, it’s extracting every last shred of edible foodstuffs from a lobster. And I don’t need no stinking knife to do it either, Blondie. So stay tuned.
If you’re wondering how to choose a lobster (or any seafood for that matter), take a stroll through my archives.
I am a magnet for bad seafood. At a restaurant table of six, everyone gets a delicious portion of crab cakes, broiled scrod or lazy man’s lobster. Except me. If there’s one malodorous, borderline piece of fish, one rotting lobster tail or just a single rancid clam in the kitchen, it magically finds its way to my plate. So, out of necessity, I have become something of an expert in the choosing, purchase and preparation of fish. If you’d ever been on the business end of a bad mussel, you would be too.
I’ll spare you the usual foray into my sordid past and get right to business.