Waters: While lobster used to be as almost as common as cod in the waters surrounding Europe and North America, popular appetites have reduced its territory. The ever prized Maine lobster can be found off the Atlantic coast of the northern U.S. and Canada, while the European varieties inhabit the warmer Mediterranean and South African waters. Spiny or rock lobsters live in the coasts bordering South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Florida and Southern California.
Description (in waters): There are two kinds of lobsters, “clawed lobsters,” which have, as their name suggests, two large front claws, and “spiny lobsters,” which have longer antennae and a rougher shell then the clawed species — perhaps to make up for their own lack of claws. All lobsters have ten legs, a jointed body and hard shell encasing their flesh. The European clawed lobster has a dark, almost blue tint to its shell, while the American lobsters tend to be colored primarily orange and black.
Description (in market): It’s imperative that you buy live lobsters on the day you intend to cook and eat them. They must either be cooked immediately after you kill them, or cooked still alive. Therefore, you’ll find live lobster sold in tanks at many fish markets, as well as whole and chunk lobster sold precooked. While live lobster maintains a mottled orange, blue and black shell, cooked, the lobster shell will take on a vivid coral color. While clawed lobsters wear their meat in both their two frontal claws and their tails, the meat of spiny lobster is almost exclusively located in their long, broad tails.
Habitat: N.E. Coast to Canada
Flavor Profile: firm texture, sweet, mild distinct flavor
Fishing Technique: Fishing Pot
Special Note: Can re-generate its limbs
Suitable Sub: Canadian lobster
Best cooking: Because lobster meat is so delicately flavored, tender, and rather costly, most chefs agree that it’s best not to over-embellish. While whole lobsters can be cooked in a variety of different ways, many people think it’s at its best simply broiled, boiled, or steamed… and eaten fresh from the shell, dipped into melted butter or a light sauce.
Buying tips: When buying live lobster, you’ll want to make sure to pick the plumpest, healthiest specimen in the tank, since sick or dead lobster carry bacteria. Pick up the lobster and look to see if its tail curls under its body — a sign that it is alive. (When purchasing precooked whole lobster, the bright red tail should also appear curled — a sure sign that it was alive when it was cooked.)
Like clams, lobster are distinguished and sold according to their size; “Chick” lobsters typically weigh between 1 to 1 1/4 LBS… “Quarters” average 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 LBS… “Halves” average 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 LBS… “Selects” average 1 3/4 to 2 LBS… “Deuces” average 2 to 2 1/2 pounds… and “Jumbos” over 3 pounds.
Note: While lobster is considered one of the rarest delicacies today, back in 18th century Maine, the creatures were so prolific that farmers used lobster for fertilizer, and prisoners complained of their steady, monotonous diet of lobster. Similarly, in 19th century Europe, lobster was thought of as poor man’s fare.