Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Cotuit On My Mind
LOBSTER...not such an elegant word for a dish considered by millions of food enthusiasts to be luxurious, upscale and decadently delicious. Perhaps its Latin handle Homarus Americanus would more aptly lend the proper cachet. Imagine if we were to start ordering 2 pound homarus at lobster pounds or requesting twin americanus in restaurants?!
I learned to love lobster from my mother's side of my family. When I was a yound child, we spent summer weekends in a great little cottage in Rye Beach, New Hampshire. The hard packed sands of Rye Beach were a seven minute walk from the cottage, which sometimes seemed like miles to me, laden down as we were, with books and towels, chairs, picnic baskets and bags. This was playtime, a bit of Coppertone number 8 and you were set to stay out in the glorious sunshine all day. I would read book after book, my brother would read his comic books, we would run into the ocean, paddling about in the frigid water, hunt for shells and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Isn't that why they call them sandwiches?
Often my grandparents would come and stay for the whole weekend. These were the times I loved the best. They would pull up in Grandpa's truck, bringing big hugs, smiles and boxes of Dunkin Donuts. I've never been a donut fan, they incite instant and intense heartburn in my chest cavity, but everyone else was happy and happy was good.
When dinner plans were made, lobster was often on the menu. The minute the decision was announced, I could feel a sense of excitement in the air, like a very special party was being planned. Off we would go to the lobster pound. I can still remember that the briny ocean air by the docks smelled so intoxicating. The scent of Maine and New Hampshire ocean water is so potently fragrant. No where else can you smell that particular blend of frothy saltiness blended with a top note of seaweed. It spurs the appetite and soothes the soul.
We would point to the lobsters we wanted and the burly, weather beaten lobsterman would scoop them out of the tank with his big net. He would deposit them in a white bag which would twitch the whole way back to the cottage. Soon afterward the center of the dining room table would be full of steaming, scarlet, now still, bodies waiting to be decimated.
Not one single inch of those lobsters went unexplored. We were leg suckers, body pickers, tomalley takers...my grandfather could pick a lobster body cleaner than a crow feasting on carrion. When the rest of us were sated, he would take the carnage and somehow find even more meat. He picked and prodded and would eventually fill a bowl with fluffy shards of the most tiny, tender pieces that my grandmother would fold with a bit of mayonnaise and lemon for sandwich filling the next day. Lobster salad sandwiches on the beach...pretty elegant.
It's been many years since we all gathered in that pine walled cottage. My grandparents are gone,the cottage was sold long ago.
But I have found a new haven amongst new friends, a place where the sand is soft and sugar white, the clear water is emerald green and the lobster tastes even more succulent. My new world is Cotuit, Cape Cod, the "Caribbean of New England!"
This new house is also filled with love of family and lobster. But the lobster is prepared quite differently. I was taught to steam those writhing sea bugs, in a big, black, enamel pot, on the stove. This method yielded plenty of pleasureable flavor, but there was always the matter of the salt scum encrusted pot to clean afterwards, a fearsome feat of acrobatics, as the pot never fit in the sink.
Ed, the owner of and host at the Cotuit house, GRILLS his lobsters over charcoal. No, he doesn't place them directly on the grill rack, he arranges them in an aluminum pan, ($12 for 6 at BJ's)adds several inches of hot water to the bottom of the pan, secures the corners with a bit of folding and crimping and places the lobster laden bathtub on the grill. Lid on and 40 minutes later Ed releases the lobsters from their torrid tomb. Donning heavy duty, bright yellow latex gloves, he cracks the bright red lobsters apart for serving, draining each portion as he goes. Not a drop of steam or stink permeates the Cotuit kitchen. This is a method for the masses!
The taste? The meat is lush, sweet and perfectly cooked with a subtle smokiness from the grill that has me swooning. Quite frankly, family, it's the best damn lobster I've ever eaten.
Oh yes, I confess to dipping my lobster liberally in hot butter AND indulging in a cold glass of Russian River Sauvignon Blanc. These are the good times. Love and lobster, what a wonderful celebration of life.