Saturday, December 31, 2011

Stuffed Lobster Caribbean Style

Stuffed Caribbean Lobster from
Mim's on St. Thomas, USVI
What better way to ring in the New Year than with a delicious lobster dinner.  As you know if you've been reading this blog for long, I often make lobster for this annual celebration.  But this year we find ourselves in the Caribbean islands  (at villa CalypsoBlu) and the lobster I'm quite accustomed to is not readily available or fresh.  And as I always prefer fresh local foods, I have embraced the Caribbean spiny lobster.

My usual menu includes those famous cold water lobsters (shown left) found off the coast of Maine and Newfoundland.  Of course, there are even different varieties of the cold water lobster, with their European cousins typically have a darker color and slightly smaller claws.  These clawed lobsters contain more meat then spiny lobsters, and the meat tends to be more tender and whiter than their warm-water cousins which we find here in the Caribbean sea.  If you are a Maine lobster lover and prefer the claws over the tail, you might be disappointed in the warm-water variety.  But well prepared, the Caribbean lobster can be just as delicious.

Spiny lobsters have no claws, a harder shell, very large antenna and very dense tail meat. (See image below right.)  The two main regions that support spiny lobsters are the California coast and the Caribbean, as they prefer the warmer waters.  You can also find them in Florida.  Spiny lobsters are most often sold live here in the Virgin Islands and I don't think I would purchase them any other way.

If you are purchasing lobster, you should always ask what type of lobster you are getting.  You see posts on certain sites that indicate the Caribbean spiny lobsters are smaller than cold water lobsters.  This simply isn't true.  In nature a spiny lobster can grow to a very large size, and these are sold regularly in the markets here in St. Thomas.  They certainly rival any Maine lobster I have ever seen.  The fish counter clerk can barely maneuver them into the bag because they are so large and active.

During the winter season when spiny lobsters are plentiful, most local residents tell me they love them and eat them regularly.  They often just split and grill them, then baste with garlic/butter and serve.  In California they are often accompanied in the classic Baja way with beans, rice, tortillas, salsas, salads, etc.   Here in the islands you often get them with rice or potato, and at Mim's, one of our favorite local seaside restaurants, you have the choice of traditional stuffing or Caribbean style, where the tail meat is removed and cooked in a sauce of local flavors.  Coco Blue, in the more upscale Red Hook area of St. Thomas also serves a good Caribbean lobster.

Grilled Caribbean Lobster with Shrimp Stuffing
2 Large Caribbean lobsters (approx 1.5 - 2 pounds each)
 1/2 cup sliced leek
 1/2 cup sliced celery
 1/2 cup chopped carrot
 1 egg white
 8 oz. largely diced shrimp
 1 diced shallot
 1 tablespoon olive oil,
 salt to taste
 1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning.

Using a sharp knife and having your kitchen helper hold the live lobster still, make a sharp down thrust just behind head and pulling the knife forward splitting the head of the lobster in two.  Turn the knife around and split the tail.  The lobster is now cut in half.  Repeat with the other lobster.  Wash thoroughly removing any inner materials from the body that you do not wish to eat and creating a cavity for stuffing.  Brush tail meat with butter and season with lemon-pepper seasoning.

For the stuffing, saute all the vegetables in the olive oil until tender, adding the diced shrimp at the end and removing immediately from heat.  Stir in the egg white.  Season the stuffing and fill the lobster body cavity leaving the tail meat in place.

Place the stuffed lobster on the grill meat side up and close the lid. Cook until the tail meat is white all the way through.  Serve with drawn butter for dipping of the tail meat.

Spiny Lobster Stuffed Caribbean Style
from Mim's on  St. Thomas, USVI

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