Italian -Americans often celebrate Christmas Eve with seafood and my family was no different. We always had a nice spread of seafood through the holidays but it was not until I was an adult that I heard this tradition called “the feast of the seven fishes.” Thinking back, I figured there were years we had fewer than seven, some years more than seven, but we never it called it anything. I figured it had more to do with the fact that nearly everyone we knew were fishermen. Regardless the reason, baked haddock, squid and shrimp, catfish (Atlantic wolf fish), pickled octopus, marinated whelks (we don’t call them scungilli – it’s macuni) lobsters, spider crabs, sea urchins (ricci), mussels and probably much more still adorns the Christmas Eve tables of my hometown.
My in-laws have always done it right, this year is no different with everyone’s favorite, baked haddock, along with baked stuffed shrimp. My contribution this year, thanks to my best-friend’s timely gift: Lobster pie.
My buddy is finishing up his lobster season and has a nice “sweet spot” where he got some good sized lobsters from deep, cold water. There were a few females in the bunch, which this time of year means a lot of roe and tomalley in the head.
After steaming them for about 15 minutes in a mix of white wine and salted water, I let them cool a bit before getting to work shucking the bugs. It’s been years since I’ve had to shuck this many lobsters and in the winter the shells are hard and the spines are sharp. If you have only experienced summer lobsters with the softer shells – sometimes filled with water instead of meat – these winter lobster take more work. However you are rewarded with lobsters that are crammed with the sweetest Lobster Meat you’ve ever tried.
I got so much meat out of these lobbies that I was able to make most of the pie out of tender claw and knuckle meat. The rest I planned to make lobster salad, that is until I got the idea to try my first ever lobster chowder.
Christmas Eve Lobster Pie
- 4-7 lobsters picked of all meat and any tomalley and roe (coral)
- 1.5 sleeve butter crackers like Ritz
- herbs: tarragon, dill, fresh parsley, paprika
- 1-2 stalks celery chopped fine.
- 1 shot of sherry
- 1.5-2 sticks of butter
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 425F. Take the larger pieces of tail meat and with kitchen shears, snip them into bite size pieces along the muscle fibers. You can do the same to the claw meat or leave them whole. Melt some butter in a frying pan and saute the celery until soft. De-glaze the pan with a shot of sherry and as it boils up, add the lobster and mix thoroughly before turning off heat.
Let the lobster cool a bit and absorb some of the pan juice. Meanwhile prepare topping by pulsing crackers, herbs and lemon zest in a food processor. Melt a stick of butter in a medium saucepan along with some of the lobster tomalley and roe that has been mixed smooth. When melted, add the cracker mixture and some lemon juice to make a thick buttery paste. Top with fresh chopped parsley, maybe another squeeze of lemon and put into the oven for about 10 minutes.
I apologize that I don’t have a picture of the finished product, but after much holiday “cheer” during the cooking process, I forgot about the camera. I will say this: It did not last long!
Rich and buttery, with plenty of lemon flavor. Pairs well with a pilsner, hard cider or a crisp white wine.
Feel free to use and modify this recipe during the holiday season or on any special occasion that calls for lobster…but not for plastic bibs.