August 06, 2006

Father's Day

Father’s Day is a special day and as such a special dinner was required. My Dad’s side of the family is from the East coast so we’ve always got an underlying lobster craving, and special occasions are the perfect time to satisfy this craving. Lobster eating is a spectacle, hands on and interactive, different from any other edible undertaking. At what other time is it acceptable to dismember your food at the table? If you’ve never experienced this before, my heart breaks for you. Allow me to explain. Begin by pulling some lobster from the ocean. What? You don’t live on the ocean with lobster crawling into your traps? Yeah, me neither, but it’s nice to dream. Begin with a giant pot of boiling water, salt it liberally, don’t be afraid of salt, there should be enough to float an egg. Into the pot you drop the live lobster, they must be alive and kicking (or pinching) right up until the time they hit the water. Supermarket lobster will do, so long as they’re fresh. While waiting for the water to boil you can amuse the children by letting the lobster crawl on the kitchen floor, let them name their favourite one, (Pinchy is always popular). When it’s time, remove the rubber bands from their claws, pick them up by the tail so you don’t get pinched and drop ‘em in the pot. Don’t even think of putting them in with the rubber bands still holding their claws shut, nobody likes the taste of rubber, this is a surefire way to ruin your feast. Just before the lobster’s done, set the table with bowls of melted butter for dipping and empty bowls to hold the shells, lobster bibs are optional. A lobster feast in its purest form should be done straight up with butter, nothing else is needed. Usually someone is put in charge of cracking the claws open with a big cleaver, everything else can be done by hand or with the aid of a good pair of kitchen shears. Once the heaping plate of whole lobsters is set on the table conversation ceases and the serious part begins. Lobster deconstruction is an art form. It takes years to master and you’ve got to be worked in properly. When I was little, my parents and grandparents would give me all of their legs as they devoured claws, tails and bodies, moving on to their second and third lobsters. I would spend the entire meal sucking and chewing on the lobster legs, determined to get all of the meat out. Hours of work probably didn’t even equal the amount of meat in one tail, but it kept me busy. It was an excellent tactic on the part of my parents because the legs were something I could work at on my own- they didn’t require any cutting or breaking of the shell, something my small hands couldn’t do. And as long as I was working on the legs I couldn’t pester them to break shells for me, thus interrupting their lobster eating. As I got older and hungrier I began to learn to guard my claws and tail and not to be distracted for a second lest they be swiped from my plate and replaced with legs. With time, practice and imitation I learned first how to push the tail out of the shell with a fork and then later how to excavate the meat without any tools by squeezing the shell with one hand, cracking it, making it easy to pop out the treasure inside. Of course I still took the time to get the meat out of the legs, but I also realized that the tail and the claws were so much less work and resulted in far greater rewards. Once you’ve got the meat out of the claws and tail, it’s butter time baby, (as an aside, should you ever find yourself at The Keg, having ordered the Surf ‘n Turf, it’s good to know that the lobster butter can be used for everything, everything). Dunk the lobster in the warm butter, don’t be shy, no one is watching, it’s ok if it drips, it’ll do that. Take time to savour the flavour. Mmmmm lobster… The intricacies of dissecting the body eluded me until well into my lobster eating career. You have to know the one part of the lobster that you can’t eat and how to avoid it. I usually skipped this task, my Dad took care of it for me, he then usually took care of eating all the good parts too, but at the time I thought it was for my own safety. Now that I know better I like to save the body of my lobster for a sandwich the next day.

In the rare event of leftovers, a lobster sandwich on crusty Italian bread is heavenly. Leftovers generally only occur when someone is exercising some restraint (rare) or when they’re on their 3rd lobster and are too lazy to get the meat out of the body. Some people neglect the bodies, don’t even bother with them. These people make me sick. The best sandwiches are made from the meat cleaned out of the bodies and mixed with the “red stuff”, (female lobster) or “green stuff”, (male lobster), or ideally a combination of all three along with a little mayo, some tomato slices and lettuce. There’s no need to get fancy, you want that lobster flavour to shine through.
But back to Father’s Day, once you’ve had a meal as rich as lobster, why stop there? For dessert I made my first pecan pie. My Dad made a comment about wanting one the other day so I decided to indulge him. The pie was actually pretty straight forward. Pecan pies are sort of like giant butter tarts, I imagine whoever invented the pecan pie had tried to make tarts and realized that small things weren’t worth doing, they might even have though to themselves “go big or go home!”. I tweaked the recipe a bit by adding maple syrup. I also wasted my time neatly arranging the pecans into a design before adding the filling, they floated randomly to the surface with no evidence that a design ever existed. I told myself it was abstract.

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*For documentation’s sake, I made 2 rhubarb pies today with lattice tops for the Lions Club, the stuff just keeps on growing. I threw in some apricots because I can never just leave things the way they are.

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