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my first lobster tail experience

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I've cooked whole lobster and as far as eating goes I'm a pro, but a couple of weeks ago I had my first cooking experience with lobster tails. I had left my beloved On Cooking book at a different house so I went by the instructions they gave at the seafood counter: With shears, cut down the back of the tail. Separate the meat from the shell by moving a knife between the shell and meat. Pull the meat up from the cut in the shell and lay it on top so it's exposed. Brush with butter and broil it.

Seems easy enough, yes? Well, what they didn't tell you about was my surprise. The lobster I got had been in its molting stage I'm thinking because I cut the shell and opened it up and I had a softer shell to deal with. What is one supposed to do when that happens? Is it a fairly normal occurrence?  I pulled it off, pulling off some of the meat as well and went to the next lobster, this one with no problems. Now, the next tricky part was getting the tail meat to balance on the shell, I think restaurants use magic to make that happen because it was a pain in the butt to get that to work.Broiling the lobster seemed like a bit extreme to me but I was going to do as it said, I made it this far.So I popped the little guys under the broiler with a good garlic infused butter and waited. After 5 minutes, the outside burned and the inside was cool to the touch so I butterflied the tails and put them back. Finally the inside was cooked and I served them up with some asparagus. It tasted fine but I was still left wondering.

What was that second layer? Was it a molt or did I get a mutant and how on earth am I supposed to handle that?

Is broiling the tails really a normal approach? It seems like such a delicate ingredient, using that high of heat didn't seem right with me. I think the tails were a little close to the direct heat, I got a new broiler pan and hadn't messed with it a lot. 

Any advice for future crustacean adventures?
It's a wonderful thing to be spoiled in the way of food.
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It's a wonderful thing to be spoiled in the way of food.
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post #2 of 12
Those are some weird directions you got. First, separating the lobster from its shell before cooking is difficult, and not necessarily a good idea as the shell protects the meat and gives it flavor during cooking.

If you really want to separate, I would "blanch" the tail for a couple of minutes so the meat shrinks a bit. It then become easier to detach. I personally avoid boiling the lobster, try to go for a poaching temperature.

But like I said, why separate the lobster from its beautiful shell? It protects it, gives it flavor, and serves as a wonderful serving vessel. Broil them with the shell on, then separate the meat, place back in the shell and serve in the shell. Brushing with butter is good, of course. Personally I also like parsely with lobster. I'm sure tarragon would work wonderfully if you like it.

Now what I usually do it first poach the lobster until almost cooked, then cut in half (keeping the shell on), salt and pepper, brush with butter and parsley, and grill face down (I suppose broil face up would work just as well) for a couple of minutes to give it some color.

Note that the choice of the technique(s) also depends on the size of the tail. A smaller tail may be easier to grill/broil without poaching. A bigger tail and you may have trouble getting an even cooking with such a high heat cooking technique.

Now you made me salivate.
post #3 of 12
Gummy - I think it must have been read to moult - that's the only things I can think of.

How to deal with it, no truly sure, but if you cook it in the shell first as per FrenchFries post, once the meat is cooked it may be easier to peel it off without losing the meat.

But the instructions seem odd.  A good straight cut down the back of the tail woould seem preferable if you want to present it in the shell.
If you don't necessarily want the shell, lie it on its back and use kitchen shears to sut a line just to the inside of where the legs were, one cut either side.  Pull off the middle covering of shell then ease the meat out and you have a whole tail - you may have to wrestle and crack the upper shell a bit to do that, gently.  Could even turn it over and snip down the center of the upper shell very carefully and remove it that way.

Hopefully a lobster expert will chip in.  Never done this myself, but seems to make sense.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #4 of 12
I concur that trying to separate the meat from the shell before cooking seems odd.  When grilling or broiling or poaching I've always left the meat in the shell.

mjb.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #5 of 12
I've prepared Florida lobster tails this exact way. It's referred to as butterflying the lobster tail and is done for presentation as well as ease of access for eating, and usually you do slit the meat down the middle so that when it cooks it ends up slightly flat. Here's a picture of how it should look after preparing this way:

lobster-tail-with-butter_web-705953.jpg
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
That's what it was supposed to look like! The instructions said nothing about cutting the meat to lay flat so I just cooked it as is until I realized it wasn't working. Those tails look much nicer than mine did though. Thanks for all of the advice guys, I'll be looking for some different cooking techniques the next time I prepare lobster.

Any ideas on what to do with the 2 shelled wonder?
It's a wonderful thing to be spoiled in the way of food.
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It's a wonderful thing to be spoiled in the way of food.
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post #7 of 12
Another way to prepare them is to par boil them to about half done then cut the tails in half lengthwise. Brush a little olive oil and season with your favorite seasonings, then grill them on a hot grill, serve with drawn butter. Here is a shot of some FL lobster tails I did this way, I also spent 3 days chasing the little buggers all around in the keys!

2810037602_39e10b2fa4.jpg
post #8 of 12
Hey nice photos eastshores, especially the first one.  Simply beautiful.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #9 of 12
Ahhhh yes Eastshores do you ever have it right! Beautifull pics....

mmmmm
My feet are firmly planted in mid air
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My feet are firmly planted in mid air
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post #10 of 12
Eatshore, your method is almost the same as the one I described earlier except I use butter, you use olive oil, but then serve with drawn butter (sounds deliciously decadent) - and your photographs look exactly like the end result I get (wish I had pics to share). I wish I could reach for the screen and grab some of it.. just a mouthful!
post #11 of 12
Ah yes French Fries I wasn't paying enough attention, it's exactly the same. I do want to point out the first photo is not mine, I found it on google images to show what the butterfly should look like and there wasn't any attribute for me to credit the original photographer. The second one is however my shot. Tasty little bugs!
Edited by eastshores - 4/14/10 at 8:56pm
post #12 of 12
I have cracked 1000's of tails...Easy...... With the large end of the tail pointing towards you, place your 10" chef's knife on the top center of the shell, now give the of the  top knife a good wack with your hand, that will cut the shell and into the meat....being careful not to hit hard enough to just split in half.... continue cutting through the meat about 3/4's of the way through... now it's  butterflied. Pull the meat from the shell, being careful not to seperate the meat from the end of the tail, and lay it on top of the closed shell.

Butter, olive oil,,,,what ever you prefer, s&p, hot oven.
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