Wednesday, February 11, 2009

When life gives you lobsters, make lobster stock.

My wife loves shellfish. It's a love bordering on obsession, and I guess it's due to her navy brat upbringing. She has loads of stories about going crabbing in Annapolis with her dad, and putting traps all along the sea wall, to pull up loads of crabs that they'd cook up. Her biggest obsession is lobster though. She's had a pretty inflexible rule for years. On her birthday, she doesn't want me to take her out to a restaurant. She doesn't even want me to cook something nice. Her single demand is that she gets a live lobster, gets to cook it herself, and gets to eat it at home, where she can be as messy as she pleases. Now I like shellfish well enough, but I've never been able to fuss with things like lobster in the shell. One, it's just too much work to get at food, and it's usually just served up with butter and not much else. That said, I know the rules. The lady gets her lobster. Not just on birthdays either. Last Christmas, her dad came to stay with us and brought her four live lobsters. In the span of two days, they were gone. I've bought live lobsters to win arguments. I've bought live lobsters whenever I need brownie points to get on her good side. I've bought lobsters just because I'm a nice guy, and I love my baby.

Now, this isn't entirely an altruistic endeavor on my part. It's mostly altruistic, yes, but there's a silver lining in store for me. Lobster eating leaves lobster bits and lobster shell pieces. Most people trash that sort of thing. I make lobster stock! By putting the dearly departed sea-bug remains in a stock pot, adding a mirepoix (1 quartered onion, 2 stalks of rough chopped celery, and 2 rough chopped carrots), a sachet of two bay leaves, and leveling that off with water, I can boil that up for a while and simmer for a few hours to make a delicious lobster stock. Run the pot through a collander to strain, and you can reserve this golden elixir for so many wonderful things.

One of those things is lobster risotto. As with any risotto, you ladle a bit of hot stock bit by bit into your risotto rice, stirring as you cook to let the rice absorb the liquid and get all swollen and creamy. Usually risotto pairs with cheese to add a little flavor note, but with seafood risotto, I like to add a little saffron to give a delicate flavor and a beautiful color. For this one, I finished up with some seared scallops, which isn't relevant other than the fact that they're delicious.

At any rate, my point is to never throw out lobster carapace. Lobster stock can be bought at specialty stores, but it's kinda expensive and if you've already sunk cost into a nice lobster, why not maximize the benefit?

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