Maine lobsterman Gary Parsons and his family don't eat lobsters too often because "we've had so many over the years. The only thing is," he says, "we can have them when we want them."
The exception is 9-year-old Mark, who "eats quite a few because he's so young" and hasn't had his fill. That doesn't mean Parsons, his wife Mary and his other children (Brenda, 24; Debbie 23; Donnie, 21) don't enjoy lobster.
When they do have the fruits of his labor, Parsons says they "boil them; actually it's a combination of boiling and steaming. I've had them in a restaurant baked-stuffed but baking seems to dry them out too much."
The Parsons put a couple of inches of water in a pot ("doesn't matter how big the pot is, always a couple of inches of water," he says), add enough salt (they don't bother with sea water, "that's too much trouble") so "you can tell it's salty" and bring the water to a boil before putting the lobsters in head first.
"For pound, pound-and-a-half lobsters, we go 15-18 minutes after the water starts to boil again," he says, "and after nine minutes you take the ones on the bottom and put them on the top tongs are obviously advised , and the ones on the top and put them on the bottom, so they'll cook evenly. Otherwise the ones on the bottom will overcook and the ones on top won't cook enough."
That's all there is to preparing the basic lobster. Serving them simple Maine style is no more difficult. Standard picnic-table presentation includes melted butter for dipping the meat, cold beer and potato chips. Fancier fare calls for baked potato and/or a garden salad. In either case, have plenty of napkins, or paper towels, handy.
Leftovers, if there are any, are also simple to deal with: make either lobster salad or lobster rolls. Serving and Eating Lobster
Put a large pot in the middle of the table for the expended shells and spread nut crackers and picks around the table. Serve with the claws and arms removed and excess water drained from the lobster.
The diner separates the tail from the body by bending the lobster backward with a slight twist into a V so that it breaks on top where the body and tail meet. Break the claws at all of the joints either by twisting or with a nutcracker, twist the fins off the end of the tail and break the tiny legs off the body.
Squeeze the meat out of the tiny legs with your teeth. The meat in the other pieces is recovered by using the pick or breaking the shells with the nutcracker.
The tail meat is recovered either by pushing it out from the end where the fins were removed, or by splitting the tail. In the latter method, the tail shell is broken by placing it top down across the palm of the hand and squeezing. The underside of the tail will split, and the tail can then be pulled open and the meat lifted out. The alimentary canal along the underside of the tail can then be removed much like pulling up a piece of string. when eating tail meat, be sure to cut it into small pieces, as it is tougher than the rest of the lobster and overeager eaters can choke on oversized pieces.
The body is what separates the pros from the dilettantes. There's a lot of delicious eating there, yet many inexperienced lobster eaters merely toss the intact body into the refuse pot. The green tomalley (liver), for instance, can be spooned up, or saved for use on crackers or in lobster salad. The red roe is another unusual taste treat, or can be saved as a garnish. The soft white along the sides of the body can be scooped out in a spoon. There are little bits of meat where the legs attach to the body and there is even a little piece of meat in the front behind the eyes. Making Lobster Salad
If there are leftovers, either because you planned ahead and tossed an extra lobster in the pot or because some of you didn't eat the bodies or all of the claw and tail meat, the obvious use is a lobster salad on a bed of lettuce the next day. It's also a way to present the tomalley in a more innocuous form for the squeamish.
Pick the bodies and leftover claws and such for all the little bits of remaining meat. Cut larger pieces down to bite size. Finely dice celery and mix the meat, celery and tomalley with just enough homemade mayonnaise to hold the salad together and provide a complementary taste to the meat. Chill before serving. Leftover mayonnaise, for other uses, will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week. MAYONNAISE (Makes about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic
3 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 to 2 cups olive oil or half olive oil and half vegetable oil
Mince garlic in blender or food processor. Add egg yolks, mustard and salt. Process until mixture is thick and foamy. Add lemon juice and process 10 seconds. With the motor running, add the oil a few drops at a time until mixture thickens, then continue adding remaining oil a little more quickly until all the oil has been incorporated. If the mixture is too thick add a few drops of lemon juice. Lobster Rolls
Lobster rolls are always made with hotdog rolls, and always the kind with soft sides, because the roll is simply a vehicle for the lobster salad and should have no role in the taste sensation.
The roll should be slightly toasted, just enough to give it slight rigidity. The lobster salad should be made with commercial mayonnaise (some people prefer Miracle Whip) rather than homemade for the same reason a hot-dog roll is used: it does nothing to detract from the lobster flavor.