This section is from the book "Real Cookery", by Grid. Also available from Amazon: Real Cookery.
That excellent gourmet, Commodore McVickar, of New York, U.S.A., teaches us how to cook a lobster:-
"If you have ever tasted a lobster* boiled in * I find the same applies to a crab.
my way you will never be so stupid as to buy one ready boiled which, for all you know, may be of yesterday's boiling, if not of the day before. Get a live (green) lobster and put it into a court-bouillon of parsley, carrots, a shallot (unless you prefer a touch of garlic), a handful of salt, and a pat of fresh butter. Let the water be absolutely boiling, then boil 15 minutes and add a claret glass of Ghablis or Marsala, and allow it to cool in its own court-bouillon"
So far the Commodore, who then goes on to describe the dressing of the lobster salad. For my own part I prefer the lobster served hot in its own court-bouillon strained; better still with the latter served in a sauce-boat.
Fifteen minutes is a good average time for boiling, but, as lobsters vary in size, it is well to observe that the fish is done as soon as it begins to float.
If you serve the lobster in the shape of a salad, with lettuce and a little watercress and "mustard," do not, please, kill its flavour by a rich mayonnaise sauce. Be content with oil and vinegar, salt and pepper, and do not let the lobster remain soaking in the mixture, but serve as soon as prepared, not forgetting to add the strained court-bouillon to the dressing. I have not the slightest doubt many an indigestion attributed to the much-maligned lobster was due to the mayonnaise sauce in which it probably was slumbering for hours before it came to table, and to other things indigestible, eaten before or after.
I do not hold with those who forbid lobster, not even when my friend is a dyspeptic; but in that case I recommend him to be careful as to the rest of his menu.
This is a very popular dish in the United States, and a very innocent one indeed. Again we are dealing, not with the boiled, but with the green lobster, cut in two lengthways.
Now, please, fair madam, do not imagine that this is a cruel way of killing it. As a matter of fact, the lobsters you buy ready boiled at your fishmonger's are killed in a far less humane way, because a great number of them are put into the pot together, and they linger for many minutes, because the water, though boiling at the moment they are put into it, is chilled at once by the great mass of fish, and I have even heard it asserted that they squeal in their death struggles. Gutting it in two, commencing at the brain, kills the lobster at once, and you may now proceed to put it on the grill, having, of course, washed it well before cutting; add a little butter during the process of grilling. Ten minutes will suffice if, as you ought, you had a hot fire to start with. Some amateurs like the shell burnt to a coal, but I do not quite subscribe to this.
Of course you have cracked the claws and joints before putting on the grill. Serve very hot, with a remoulade sauce, if you wish it. I don't 1
Being determined not to use any fishmonger-boiled lobsters, I have none but "green" ones for a curry. Gut up the lobster and stew in its own juice and the curry 18 minutes only. Pick the meat from the shells and return to the curry when the latter is sufficiently reduced and ready to serve. If you desire a rich dish, add the lobster butter, as described page 71 (crawfish butter).
The fish thus prepared ought to be exquisitely tender. If you had taken a boiled lobster it would have been hard and dry. Why cook a thing twice ? Shellfish twice boiled-in short, overcooked-must be indigestible.
Stew the green lobster, as above shown, shred the meat and put back into the shells with a little of the court-bouillon (see page 51), a few bread crumbs and slightly bake in the oven, salamander. Serve with the lobster butter separately, or with the sauce diphmate (see page 71).
One of the best dishes of the French cuisine is the Howard d l'Americaine (by the way, not at all an American dish), and there are several very excellent recipes for it. But, to my mind, it is a very inconvenient dish, even if prepared for you alone, because you have to handle the shells floating in a rich sticky sauce. Therefore, I suggest the following modification:-
Having cut it up, stew the green lobster with its juice in a " mirepoix " (see Sauces, page 71), add from half a pint to a pint of good, sound, white wine and half a glassful of brandy. Take out the lobster after 13 minutes, pick out the meat in as large pieces as possible, keep warm in a heated silver dish. When the mirepoix is sufficiently reduced and thickened only, if necessary, with flour or egg, place a boiled head (shell) of lobster upright in the dish and pour over the meat arranged around it the mirepoix, and over that again the lobster butter.
French authorities give 20 to 40 minutes as the proper time for stewing this fish. My own experience is that 13 to 14 minutes suffice to cook it and I am against cooking any longer than is absolutely necessary.
These, too, are generally overcooked. Let the court-bouillon of aniseed, carrots, and a little white or red wine (or none) be well on the boil before you plunge the fish into the kettle. Have a red-hot poker ready and keep stirring all the time. One minute will do the trick.
They are much better served hot than cold.
The best can be procured at 81, Wigmore Street.
These are the only fish you are to fry, and you are to pay great attention to the " surprise " of Brillat-Savarin's mode of frying in the very hottest of dripping or oil. Not a particle of grease to adhere to them when served.