Valentines Day is nearly here; time to plan a special meal.
Last year I made Valentines Day Jerky, flavored with chocolate and chiles. I even cut the jerky into heart shapes. But for some reason, my wife was not really impressed.
So this year, I'm pulling out the big guns. And nothing says I love you more than lobster.
Only one problem: lobster is not something you find floating around much in Fort Worth. I mean, this is Cowtown Give us a steak and we're good. But lobster?
Which is why I thought I'd jot down a few tips on where to find the famously decadent crustacean, what to look for when you do find it, and how to prepare a romantic lobster dinner.
First off, you need to decide if you want to cook whole, live lobsters or just the tails? If this is your first time fixing lobsters, or you're just a little squeamish about cooking something live, I'd say: tails it is.
The tail is where most of the meat is anyway. (Ill save cooking the whole lobsters for another post.)
But before you go fishing at the market for lobster tails, you'll need to be able to crack the code of these hard-shelled creatures. There are two basic types of lobster tails: cold water and warm water, and there's a significant difference. Cold water tails, from the waters of Maine, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, are considered the better tasting tail. The meat is whiter, more firm and sweeter. They also cost more and are harder to find in grocery stores. Most restaurants serve cold water tails.
Warm water lobsters, which come from Florida, the Caribbean, Cuba, Nicaragua and Latin America, do not have claws like the true lobsters that come from Maine, and are normally sold just as tails.
How do you tell the difference? First, simply ask or check the label. Chances are, if it's not labeled cold water, Maine or from one of the cold water regions mentioned, assume it's a warm water tail. You can also check the shell; warm water tails usually have yellow spots and yellow bands across the tails.
So I did a little lobster hunting this weekend at Costco and Central Market. Costco had some huge tails (one was 2 pounds!), but they were warm water tails from Nicaragua. I had my heart set on cold water tails, which I found in abundance at Central Market. And they were on sale for Valentines Day ($5.99 each for small tails and $9.99 a pound for whole lobsters). I decided to get four tails since they were on the small side, but in hindsight, two tails would have been plenty.
If your tails are frozen, the best way to thaw them out is overnight in the refrigerator. If you are in a hurry, you can thaw them out in running cold water. Never use the microwave or you will end up with some rubbery tails.
Grilled Lobster Tails with Bacon Butter Sauce
- 4 strips uncooked bacon, minced
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 to 4 lobster tails
- Steak seasoning or salt and pepper
First, we need to make our bacon butter to season the tails. In a small saucepan over medium heat add minced bacon and cook till crispy. Remove bacon bits from pan and remove pan from heat (turn off the burner). With the pan still off the heat, add minced garlic to pan and let cook for a minute, than add the stick of butter. Let butter melt in pan, it should take a minute or two, then add chives, stir and cover. We will use this bacon butter to season the lobster tails before cooking, then later, we will add cream to it to make a sauce.
Next we need to prep the tails. The prep won't take long, so now is a good time to start preheating the grill if you are planning to cook the tails right away. Be sure to set the grill up for indirect heat (that means coals to one side or only turn on one side of the gas burners).
Back to prepping the tails. Using kitchen shears, cut the top of the first tail's shell lengthwise, almost to the end of the tail. (Check the step-by-step pictures in the slideshow.) Put tail on its side and push down until you here a crack. Pick up the tail and work your thumb in-between the bottom of the tail's shell and the meat. Wiggle your thumb to loosen the meat from the shell, working it out of the top of the shell, but leaving it connected to the end of the shell. Rinse the tail with water to remove any bits of shell. If you see a vein along the back of the meat, remove it. Spread tail meat on top of the shell and repeat prep with the rest of the tails.
Place tails on a plate and spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons of bacon butter on top of each piece. Sprinkle some steak seasoning or a little salt and pepper on top of meat, and rub some of the bacon butter and seasoning onto the bottom side of the meat. Push tail meat back into the shells, which will help protect it on the grill and add flavor. Now, skewer the tails to keep them from curling up like shrimp on the grill. Tun the skewer through the bottom of the tail lengthwise.
Now it is time to grill the tails. Be sure the grill is nice and hot (350 to 400ºF temp range) and is set up for indirect heat. You will want to grill the tails on the indirect side of the grill to prevent flare-ups from the bacon butter. Place tails top (cut) side down and grill for 6 to 8 minutes (depending on the size), I usually figure around a minute and a half an ounce. Turn tails over and spoon some bacon butter onto the tail meat through the cut on top of the shell. (Watch for flare-ups.) Cook another 6 to 8 minutes. The tail is done when the meat has turned from opaque to white and has firmed up. I don't like my tail meat to overcooked, so I pull them pretty fast when I think they look done.
Cover tails with foil to keep warm. To make the bacon butter cream sauce, put the pan with the leftover bacon butter back onto a burner on low heat and whisk in a half cup of heavy cream. Let sauce almost come to a boil, then pull from heat.
- To serve tails, remove the skewers and pull the lobster meat so it sets on top of the shell, then plate. Spoon a tablespoon of the sauce on top of the tail meat and garnish with bacon bits and chopped chives.
My cold water lobster tails turned out great! Sweet and tender, with a little char flavor from the shell. The bacon butter cream sauce was fantastic. (Bacon, butter, garlic and cream -- you can't go wrong with that flavor combination.)
Most importantly, my wife was impressed. Happy Valentine's Day.
Be sure to check out the slideshow above for step-by-step pictures.