Friday, April 21, 2006

Lobster Salad at Its Best

First, a little background: Last Saturday night was Lobster Night. It is a tradition that Mrs. Yi initiated some years ago to honor Paula and Dennis because their wedding anniversary and both of their birthdays are around this time of year. Every April, on a Saturday night, they are our guests, and we cook up four whole lobsters.

Either boiling them or steaming them works. Whenever I've got two lobsters that weigh about the same, I cook them two at a time in a pot. To boil, you need 3 1/2 quarts of water and 3 1/2 tablespoons of salt per lobster. To steam, you need two inches of water with a tablespoon of salt, and a rack. Regardless of whether you're boiling or steaming, you first bring the water to a full boil and then insert lobsters, head down and cover the pot. Thereafter timing is paramount. The key to proper timing---and once again it doesn't matter whether you're boiling or steaming--- is to stand by until the water has returned to a full boil. From the point the second boil has been reached, if you're boiling, continue to boil, still covered, ten minutes for the first pound and three minutes for each additional pound. If you're steaming, once the water beneath has returned to a full boil, steam 14 minutes for a 1 pound lobster, and 2 minutes for each additional quarter pound. Most important, and once again, whether boiling or steaming, is to base your timing on the weight of one lobster, not the total weight of two (or more?)lobsters, if more than one lobster is in the pot.

Now we'll move on to the lobster salad that is the subject of this post. It came about because our Lobster Night lobsters were bigger this year than in years past. As a result, neither Paula nor Mrs. Yi were able to finish theirs, so we ended up with a pound and a half of lobster meat. The next day, I decided to use it to make a salad from a recipe that I'd copied years ago and never tried. In fact, I'd never made a lobster salad of any kind. Even more intriguing was that Craig Claiborne proclaimed that this particular lobster salad recipe recipe worked just as well with crab or even a firm white finfish. More on that in a future post.

It is from Craig Claiborne's, Craig Claiborne's Favorites from The New York Times, 1975, New York Times Company. It, just like most recipes in this book, were from columns that were under his by-line during 1974. Since no other source is mentioned, our assumption is that this salad was the invention of Master Claiborne himself. Here goes:


1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon prepared mustard, preferably Dijon or Dusseldorf
1 tablespoon tarragon wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup peanut, vegetable, or corn oil
1/2 cup peanut, vegetable, or corn oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked lobster meat
3 hard-cooked eggs, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
3 tablespoons finely diced green pepper

Place the yolk in a mixing bowl and add the mustard, vinegar, Tabasco, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend well with a wire whisk. Add the oil gradually, beating vigorously with the whisk. Beat in the lemon juice. When the mixture is thickened and smooth, add the lobster, eggs, celery, capers, tarragon, and parsley. Blend with a spatula and spoon the salad into a serving dish. Sprinkle with the green pepper and serve. Yield: 6 servings.
Craig Claiborne's Favorites from the New York Times, by Craig Claiborne, New York Times Company, 1975