February 23, 2009

Lobster in Winter

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I have a fuzzy memory of sitting on my father’s lap when I was about four or five, eating tender morsels of lobster swimming in melted butter out of a little glass bowl.

Skip forward about ten years. In my teens, lobster didn’t really interest me. I think it was a texture thing. I thought it was too rubbery, not soft and flaky like fish. Sometimes my sister and I would pick the tips of the claws out of their shells and eat them. I now realize that this is probably the least desirable part of the entire lobster – it’s woody and flavourless. I really only saw lobster as a vehicle for melted garlic butter (oh, are we seeing a pattern here?).

I’m not sure what clicked for me a few years later. When I was 18, I suddenly realized that the rubbery stuff I had ignored was actually delicious. I went to Cuba that Christmas and ate spiny lobster, which was a bit different but also tasted marvellous.

One of my Dad’s best friends was a lobster fisherman named Kenny. Every year Kenny would give us about ten pounds of lobster, or maybe it was more. It was usually a lot of lobster, and it was free. In PEI, lobster is king, and everyone eats it, but getting it for free is pretty damn great.

The usual lobster dinner on PEI, served at lobster suppers in church halls all across the province, is a boiled lobster, served cold, with potato salad, coleslaw and a dinner roll. It’s rare that lobster is served hot, though I actually prefer it that way. My parents sometimes ate it cold with mayonnaise. I found this absolutely disgusting.

J’s family also loves lobster. They always eat it on Mother’s Day, and then again during the summer at least once or twice (there are two lobster seasons on PEI – one in May and one in August).

So when we moved out to land-locked Edmonton, I kind of thought I could kiss my lobster-eating days goodbye for a while, at least until my next summer trip home. I figured that even if I tried to get lobster here, it would never measure up and would just leave me disappointed.

So I was kind of surprised when J’s brother called us last weekend and said he and wife were going to pick up some lobster and come on over.

“Really? Lobster?” I thought. “But it’s January. And it’s Edmonton.”

Well, I was the one feeling foolish a few hours later, as we were all digging into delicious Nova Scotia lobster, shells flying and nutcrackers cracking. It turns out the Nova Scotia lobster season lasts all year. This catch was as good as any lobster I’ve had on PEI in recent memory, and an amazing treat during the winter. We sat around the table “mmm”-ing so much that it became a joke. 

But as much as we love the stuff, we didn’t want to just eat lobster for dinner, so J and I made a roast chicken. The evening turned into a drawn-out feast. I realize that eating Nova Scotia lobster doesn’t say much for our eat-local goals, but we were willing to make an exception. And we tried to even things out by cooking a local chicken with local potatoes, carrots and apples.

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Lobster was the first course. Roast chicken came next, succulent and juicy, and the roasted vegetables and apples were caramelized and flavourful with chicken juice. This is the easiest and best way to roast a chicken that we have so far discovered. Everything cooks at the same time (we snuck the veggies back into the oven for a few minutes to get crispier while the chicken rested) and turns out beautifully.

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(We bought red potatoes at the market that turned out to be a gorgeous pinky-purply shade inside…surprise!)

Finally, we gorged on chocolate cake (the rest of Claire’s birthday cake) and vanilla ice cream.

Far from home, far from the sea, it was a reminder of summer and beaches and salt water. Of good food cooked among friends. Of the way life should be. 

Roast Chicken with Vegetables
Adapted from Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver

1 free-range chicken
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves of garlic
6 bay leaves
potatoes and carrots, or any other root vegetables
white wine
garlic
herbs
one or two apples, if you have any

Preheat the oven to 375. Rub the chicken with oil, season it with salt and pepper, and stuff the cavity with the garlic and bay leaves. 

Chop the potatoes into quarters and the carrots into rough chunks. Drizzle them with olive oil and put them into a large roasting pan. Place the chicken in the pan, breast side down, on top of the vegetables. Roast for 1 and a half hours. (Putting the chicken in upside down doesn’t make for as glorious a presentation as the other way around, but it makes the meat deliciously juicy because the fat from the back drips down through the meat.)

About halfway through roasting, add some cored and chopped apples, garlic, and any herbs you may have, such as sage, rosemary, or thyme, to the pan. Baste the chicken with some white wine, lemon juice, or water.

Remove the chicken from the pan when the juices run clear. If the vegetables aren’t quite tender enough, put them back into the oven while you carve the chicken.

Serves four hungry people. Even people who have already eaten lobster.

4 comments:

Cheryl A said...

Well, you didn't buy the lobster yourself...
A worthy exception, I would do the same.

Court said...

Where did you get the lobster and how expensive was it? I love lobster, but always assume it is a no go here in the prairies too.

Anne said...

We had lobster for Mother's Day too, only a little way into the season, so it was the first taste after the long winter. Kenny usually brought his gift later in the season. You make me crave some right now!

H.Peter said...

HA!
Home made, oven roasted Chicken.
Here I thought I am the only one left.
It's become such a convenient item to pick up at Costco for 6.99 to most people.

But, as you so well describe, nothing beats the one you roast at home.