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Wednesday, October 24 2007

If you travel to the Caribbean islands or along the coast of Central America, you'll often see lobster on the menu of the restaurants. This isn't the true, or Maine type lobster you may be more familiar with, but rather a somewhat similar looking creature called the spiny lobster or rock lobster.

Have no fear. Spiny lobsters are every bit as delicious as their more northern distant relative. But there are some differences between the two that you should be aware of, especially if you're the one doing the cooking.

It's quite likely you'll encounter a spiny lobster in your local supermarket any day now, if you haven't already. Spiny lobsters are generally more abundant and less expensive than true lobsters, and acceptance among consumers is growing. In many restaurants in the U.S., when you order lobster tails, you'll be getting tails of spiny lobsters.

You should first of all know that the cousinship between spiny and true lobsters really is a distant one. They are related by virtue of both being crustaceans, but that's about it. Spiny lobsters are actually more closely related to freshwater crawfish (also spelled "crayfish"). In fact, some varieties of spiny lobsters are called see crawfish.

Spiny lobsters lack the claws, or chelae, of true lobsters. Thus, most of their meat is to be found in their tails.

You can cook a spiny lobster much as you would a true lobster, except of course that you must forget about getting any claw meat from it. If it's a good-sized specimen, though, rest assured that your spiny lobster will yield a generous portion of delicious meat from its tail alone. When cooked, that meat will be white, well textured and with a distinct hint of sweetness to it.

If you're starting with a whole lobster, you should place it in boiling, salted water, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Lobster tails can be cooked the same way, except you should reduce the cooking time to 8 to 10 minutes. Total cooking time will depend on the size of the lobster, of course. (If you're cooking a whole spiny lobster, you'll know it's done when its shell has turned a bright reddish orange.)

After cooking, take scissors and snip off the underside of the shell of the lobster tails. Lift the meat out of the top shell and put it in a bowl or on serving dishes.

Crave something fancier? Cook lobster shells as above, then salt and pepper the tail meat and brush it with melted butter. Top it with a tomato relish made from 2 cups of diced tomatoes, a tablespoon of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 3 fresh basil leaves, 1 minced shallot and 1 minced garlic clove. Wonderful!

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 09:13 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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