Home News and Features Making Lobster Stock: Step One, Have a Lobster Fest

Making Lobster Stock: Step One, Have a Lobster Fest

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red lobster with vegetable and lemon on black slate plate
August and September bring a bounty of vegetables to Vermont, but I associate lobster with these last warm days of summer. The cost makes it possible to have an abundance of lobster, and what is more luxurious than an abundance of lobster? Plus, the majority of bugs are gone, and your lobster fest can be held outdoors where the table can be sprayed off with a hose when you’re done. We traditionally gather with another couple or two and, throwing restraint to the wind, have a BYOL party (you guessed it, bring your own lobster). 

Pricing is subject to availability. May through July brings “soft shell” lobsters locally in New England (they don’t travel well) and prime lobster season is considered from October through December. After that lobsters are dormant until the spring. One year I unthinkingly agreed to serve lobster for Easter dinner. At $15.99 a pound it is unlikely to become a tradition. Lobster pricing also depends somewhat on size, the larger the lobster the higher the price per pound. Last year we could get pound-and-a-half lobsters for $7.99 a pound. This year they haven’t gone below $9.99. Chicken lobsters, those weighing roughly a pound, are usually the best deal for your money; we scored one-and-a-quarter pound lobsters at $5.99 a pound this year.

Look for the feisty ones, those that thrash around coming out of the tank. After getting home, store them in the refrigerator. Don’t put them in fresh water as this will kill them immediately, and they should be put into the pot live. (If you are squeamish, you can do as a friend of mine does and “swing them to sleep” by their tails before dropping them in the pot. I can’t guarantee the effect on the lobster, but it certainly makes my friend feel better). We plan on two for each of us and let other guests bring what they think they will eat. 

A lobster dinner needs very little in the way of accompaniments. We usually settle for a good loaf of crusty bread to soak up the juices and a kettle of corn on the cob (you’ve already got the melted butter going). Purists prefer clarified butter, but I like unsalted butter, simply melted. There is some discussion about whether boiling or steaming is the better cooking method. Either works, though I steam more often; it’s easier, quicker, and I reserve the liquid for stock (recipe below). Lobster is done when it is uniformly bright red, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Put larger lobsters in first to give them a couple extra minutes.

Make sure to have several dishes of melted butter, plenty of paper towels, and, most importantly, a large bowl for discarded shells. Nutcrackers and picks are great, but we invariably run short and so my partner has perfected his shell crushing technique and generally uses a French knife or cleaver to split the tails and crack the claws for everyone before the lobsters go out. 

Some diners enjoy the roe (bright red, eggs), tomalley (green, liver), and suck each little leg empty; others merely eat both claws and the tail and call it done. In either event they have hopefully placed all the shells in the waiting receptacle, to which you should add the reserved steaming water and not more than ½ a cup of leftover melted butter, cover tightly and put in the fridge until tomorrow. 

Making lobster stock is a simple and wondrous thing. The stock can be used to make divine chowders, velvety bisques, and lobstery sauces. Below is a modified form of Julia Child’s lobster stock. One of our favorite uses of lobster stock is to simply add some crushed canned tomatoes, half and half to the desired creaminess, quartered mushrooms if you feel like it, and, voila, a poor man’s bisque.


Lobster Stock

(Makes 4–5 cups, feel free to double)

2 tbsp peanut or olive oil

Roughly chopped shells from four lobsters

½ cup chopped onions

1/4 cup chopped carrots

1/4 cup chopped celery

6 cups liquid (at least three of chicken stock, remainder from reserved steaming liquid)

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes OR ½ cup chopped canned Italian plum tomatoes

1 bay leaf

1/4 tsp tarragon

Heat the oil in a saucepan large enough to hold all the ingredients, add the chopped shells, carrots, onion, and celery; sauté on high for five minutes, stirring. Add liquid, wine, tomatoes, and herbs; bring to a simmer. Cover partially and let simmer for 40 minutes. Strain. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate for use right away or freeze in 2-cup containers. 

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