Editor’s Note: This piece was published during the pandemic, when restaurants were trying stay open. However the local lobstermen in New England still have to compete on the open market with imported Canadian lobsters. It’s always good to support local economies, so when shopping for lobster try to buy as close to the source as possible.
I’ve been craving lobster lately and I don’t know why. For a seafood blogger I almost never write about lobster and I’m pretty sure I’ve never featured a lobster roll on the site. But with prices and demand down, and local restaurants doing their best to stay afloat, I figured now is a good time to show a little lobster love. Let’s start with the darling of Instagram: The lobster roll.
Lobster Rolls From Local Restaurants
I recently ate two lobster rolls, but only one was really good. Last week a local favorite opened up for take out and I decided to celebrate my birthday with a lobster roll. I’m not naming the place because I understand it takes time for a sit-down restaurant to adapt to the current situation. But what I got was so disappointing that I didn’t even take a picture.
Big pieces of lobster, but not enough of them, with no mayo at all, served on a roll that I couldn’t tell if it was lightly toasted or just stale. I ate it of course, and it was OK, but without any mayo it was just a few pieces of cold lobster. I improved it a bit my pouring some melted butter over it, but it didn’t satisfy my lobster craving.
My next lobster roll experience was much better. Charlie’s Place is a diner-style locals hangout known for fried seafood, especially their famous cod cheeks. I got their lobster roll and fries special for $22. Although the fries were a bit soggy from condensation, the lobster roll was very tasty.
Compared to some of the monstrosities I see online, Charlie’s Place lobster roll is more like how I’d make it at home. It was nice and sweet from using a lot of knuckle and claw meat, which is also less chewy than lobster tail meat. Just the right amount of mayo, loaded up on a toasted New England style hot dog bun. I really enjoyed it, but at that price, I am better off buying a whole lobster. So that’s what I did.
Live Lobsters From Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester
During what is now my weekly visit to Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester, I made an impulse buy. The plan was to get a pound of their day-boat 10/20 sea scallops, which at $15/pound is nearly impossible to pass up. However the wharf has been advertising on their website, a limited supply of lobsters from the offshore lobster boats at $8 a pound. It wasn’t listed on the menu board, but when it comes to fish markets, especially places like Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester that deal in wholesale…all you gotta do is ask.
The nice girls at the new seafood truck instructed me to pull over while someone went over to the wharf and weighed me out a two-pounder, my ideal lobster size.
Imagine that: I just got an offshore caught, two-pound lobster for $16! Compare that to the ever-rising price of a CHOICE-grade ribeye steak and makes you wonder why we all aren’t eating lobster once a week.
Of course, I got the scallops too. So for the next couple of nights I get to eat like I’m on the Forbes list, for only $31.
About Local Gloucester Lobster
Gloucester is the number one lobster port in Massachusetts and our next-door neighbor Rockport is fourth in landings. Besides the inshore lobstermen (like my dad) who are seasonal, we also have larger offshore boats that fish the deeper water in the colder months. In normal times, these boats supply much of the wholesale demand for lobsters, especially exports. When the “bugs” start to move into shallower water for the summer, these guys shift their gear closer to inshore.
Although their hard shells are more difficult to crack, I prefer these deeper water lobsters, caught before they molt. They usually are full of meat, lots of flavor and have been living in the cold, clean water of the Gulf of Maine.
This particular lobster, a two-pound female, happens to be the very first live lobster that I’ve ever bought for myself. I’ve bought a few for friends or caught them with my father for gifts, but around here, where so many friends and family go lobstering at least part time, it’s not rare. That being said, with the current situation, we need to help our friends in the business until demand increases.
Gloucester Lobster Steamed In Rosé Wine
I prefer to steam my lobsters rather than boil: it takes less time, you get less “gunk” from the lobster itself and I feel you get a better tasting product in the end. Steaming in salty water or beer are great options, but I like to steam mine with a bit of wine.
I cover the bottom of my big steamer pan with equal parts water and rosé, some salt and whatever fresh herbs I have. Not enough to overpower the lobster but a little bit does add a nice complement to the lobster flavor. Then I put a steamer insert into the pan and close the lid. When the liquid is boiling, it’s time to put the lobster in.
A lobster this big should take 13-16 minutes to cook. Remember the lobster will continue to cook a bit after you take it out. if you are afraid of overcooking, run the lobster under cold water. My lobster looked done at 11 minutes, however I probably should have let it cook a little longer. I could tell because some of the tomalley and roe (also known as coral) deep in the lobster head was still dark instead of vibrant green and coral red, respectively.
Verdict On The Lobster
There is a reason there are no more pictures after this, when I eat a whole lobster – it ain’t pretty. However it was delicious, especially the claws and knuckles, which were densely packed with the sweetest meat in the whole lobster.
I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t eat all the tomalley, but honestly, I was pretty full at that point. When I eat smaller lobsters I’m usually tearing it apart to get every last piece. On a two-pounder I couldn’t even finish all the small legs, which are sweet and have more meat than they let on.
Pro tip: don’t waste time trying to suck out the meat in those legs, instead, get your empty beer bottle and use it like a rolling pin, the meat will come out as easy as a tube of toothpaste.
Thanks again to all the folks down at Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester, Minglewood Harborside, and of course, the Gloucester fishing fleet!