Lobster doesn’t have to be expensive when you use the whole animal..
At our most recent dinner party, most of the adults were stuffed with one 1.5 pound lobster. Since we’re out of season, the price was a little high at $9 per pound. If you purchased 1 lobster for each of the 8 people who attended, you would need 12 pounds of lobster ($108); or $13.50 per person which isn’t exactly cheap but is comparable to a some fast food dinners.
However, shells from 12 pounds of lobster will easily make an additional 3 liters of hearty lobster stock (even if you served 1.3 cups of broth each, you’d have an additional 9 servings). That lowers the cost in half ($6.75 per person). We also make a lobster paste which you can cook with or use over fresh pasta (or add to chowder) and easily stretch it to another 6 or so servings.
That’s 23 servings (albeit with sides) for $108 or about $4.70 per serving. Maybe that’s not a frequent meal but it’s certainly a lot more affordable than many perceive (especially if they only eat the tail and claws and need 2 lobsters to fill them). It’s often stretched even further as my stock is often diluted with 0.5-1 parts water as it’s so strong (in the best of ways).
We’ve explored how to buy, cook and eat lobster so far. Let’s move on to making stock and paste with the leftover (non-chewed) shells.
A few quick notes:
- The final stock is very full-flavored and can often be watered down by an additional 50%. So don’t worry if you don’t have 8 lobster shells or the right amount of carrots or whichever – the heavy flavor comes from your shells and I’ve made this with as few as 3 or 4 lobster shells.
- I owe this comment to my family who considers a shortcut I take to be careless: there’s a sack behind the eyes (inside the shell) which we mentioned yesterday. If it bursts, it will supposedly ruin the flavor of the lobster and/or stock. My family will tell you that you absolutely must remove this for stock. I live on the wild side and leave it in tact; but I’m from the city.
- Lobster paste is a by-product of the stock. I used to throw it out; I now save it and use it like super-reduced tomato/ seafood base. Lightly coat noodles with it or sparingly add it to rice or fresh pasta. It’s awesome.
- Do not add salt to your stock – there’s plenty from the shells (you can always adjust at the end)
- This is very easy and will store well in the fridge or freezer.
- We’ll share recipe ideas for cooking with the stock later this week.
- I love that this uses parts of the lobster that would otherwise be discarded. This really exudes the nose-to-tail virtue that we are such fans of in our house.
Lobster Stock (and Lobster Paste) Ingredients
- Lobster shells
- A bunch of garlic (I add 5-6 cloves)
- 1 liter of vegetable or chicken stock
- 0.25-0.5 cups of brandy or sherry
- large onion, cut in quarters (you can add more if you’d like)
- roughly chopped celery (I use about half a head)
- roughly chopped carrots
- bay leaves (3-5, I like lots)
- olive oil
- 1 large tin of crushed tomatoes (if you preserve your own, blitz them in the food processor first
- Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
- Spread shells out on a cookie sheet (remove the sacs per above if you want to heed the advice of my family).
- Scatter olive oil on the shells and toss them around to lightly coat the shells.
- Place shells in the oven until they start to appear dry/ almost brittle. It will take 20-40 minutes and there’s no real magic ‘finishing’ point as long as you don’t burn them. You can also roast your veggies at the same time if you’d like (we often do)
- Dump shells into a large pot (I use large tongs).
- Using a tenderizer or kitchen mallet, crush the shells so they take less room in the pot.
- If you are comfortable with fire and lighting booze on fire, light the brandy and flambe the shells. If not, you can add it without lighting it.
- Add all other ingredients except for the water.
- Stir to incorporate.
- Top your pot with water to just cover the shells. I generally use at least as much water as stock and tomato combined.
- Simmer on a gentle roll for about 2 hours. The broth level will drop and that’s ok as long as it doesn’t run out entirely (which it shouldn’t; you’ll have a lot of liquid).
- I now strain the contents 3 times:
- For the first pass, I strain the shells out using a colander for pasta. I want to remove any shell bits and use the holiest colander I can get my hands on.
- For the second pass I use a rice strainer (this removes solids; mostly tomato and lobster ‘bits’). DO NOT DISCARD.
- For the last pass I use a fine strainer which removes the paste from the tomatoes and finer lobster bits. DO NOT DISCARD.
- Pick through the contents of process 2 and 3 above to look for any bone chunks (there likely won’t be any). Mix them together and you have your lobster paste.
- What’s left in the pot is your broth. If you used A LOT of olive oil for roasting, there may be a layer of oil on the surface. If this happens, simple refrigerate and you’ll be able to skim it off the top.
This is what the final paste looks like (note the small flecks of white are tiny pieces of meat that add lots of flavor to this):
What do/ would you make with lobster stock and paste?