Shelling out for the holidays

Lobster bisque—simply delicious.

Lobster always brings a little elegance to the holidays, but if you’re having a large gathering, a full-on lobster supper can be expensive. Get creative and you can turn half a dozen lobsters into show-stopping appetizers and sides your guests will love. Preparing lobster for these dishes might take a bit of planning, but the results will be worth it.

Some people believe female lobsters have a sweeter taste. While I don’t really believe that, I do prefer them for the roe, especially when I’m making a bisque. You can find the females by turning the lobster on its back and feeling the swimmerets (they’re about a centimetre long). Swimmerets on female lobsters are soft and feathery, where they are a bit harder on males. You can also tell the sex by looking at the tail. The male’s tail is narrow, and the female’s is wider; it’s where she carries her eggs.

Once you’ve got your lobsters home, you should either refrigerate them or begin cooking them immediately. To cook, bring a large pot of water (enough to cover your six lobsters) to a boil, and add about a cup of salt for every four litres of water.

Once the water is boiling rapidly, remove the bands from your lobsters’ claws to keep the rubber taste from permeating the shell while they cook, and plunge them head-first into the pot. Cook them for 10 to 12 minutes for the first pound, and four minutes after that for each additional pound. Once they’re done, place them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

After cooling, you can start shelling them and preparing the meat for your dishes (or refrigerate until you’re ready). And don’t forget: it’s not advisable to eat anything in the head of the lobster since the brain can be toxic.

Before using the meat, I like to set aside the claws for garnish—which will look especially nice for the potato recipe (on page GT9). The rest of the meat can be roughly chopped.