Jan 082011

Comes from Maine.  Everyone agrees. 

But for those who believe there’s better flavor in free-range chicken or organically fed beef, here’s a tip.  Order your lobster directly from Maine to be shipped overnight  instead of buying from a tank in a local market.  Sadly, those lobsters – which have been out of their natural habitat for days in transit, then in the tank at the local market – are stressed and starving.   It affects the flavor.

We’ve done blind taste tests comparing live Maine lobster purchased locally versus shipped overnight from Maine.  In this case, “local” is never better. 

A great source is third-generation purveyor H.R. Beal & Sons in Southwest Harbor, Maine, which ships nationwide, year-round.  For New Year’s Eve this year we tried something Sam Beal says is increasingly popular – lobster pre-cooked before it’s shipped.  

How’s it work?  The lobsters are cooked in Gulf of Maine sea water for the minimum time to be considered “fully cooked,” chilled immediately in cold sea water, then iced.  They arrive overnight in sealed bags in a small cooler.

 All you have to do is reheat the lobster for about ten minutes.  I used my pasta kettle with a removable basket with only a half inch of salted, boiling water for steaming.  It’s important not to boil the lobsters in water, which will wash out the flavor.

Decreasing the time to market is an idea that is catching on among entrepreneurs in the Maine lobster industry.  Featured in a compelling video about the impact of the recession on lobstermen, Catch A Piece of Maine is shipping lobsters overnight from Portland.  Says founder John Ready, “People want to know where their products are coming from.”  Their lobsters not only ship fast, but they’re tagged with the name of the captain of the lobster boat.

Our four 1-1/2 pounders from H.R. Beal & Sons cost $124.72, including shipping and tax.  We would have saved $8 if we had bought pre-cooked lobsters at Citarella, New York’s 70-year-old seafood mecca. 

Buying the lobsters directly from Sam Beal ensured their freshness and, for me, provided traceability to a place I know and love.

Buying them pre-cooked offered another benefit.  We had the pleasure of dining on new shell lobsters, which can’t be shipped live because of the risk to their fragile shells.  I think new or soft shell lobsters are always sweeter.

 After a great feast for dinner, we had lots of lobster meat left to serve with a little lemon and mayonnaise on a brioche roll for New Year’s Day. 

Now you should start planning your own trip to Maine, including Acadia National Park, so that your next lobster dinner will have this view.

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