Decadent Lobster Pie from Hard-Shell Lobsters


I know many visitors to New England first experience lobster pie during a summer vacation. For me, though, I always think of Christmastime. 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.” I think the Food Network has a lot to do with making our humble tradition the Instagram-worthy event it is today.

Thinking back, I figured there were years we had fewer than seven, some years more than seven, but it was never called anything. I figured it had more to do with the fact that nearly everyone we knew were fishermen.

Regardless of 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 will be a decadent lobster pie.

Lobster Pie in Winter

I once tried the delicious lobster pie at the famous Maine Diner, but it was such a hot day that I was in food-coma mode right after. Lobster pie is rich and decadent, which is why I prefer it during the colder months. 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.

lobsters in sink

Hard-Shelled Lobster are the Best

If you have only experienced summer lobsters with the softer shells – sometimes filled with water instead of meat – these winter lobsters take more work. 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. However, I was rewarded with lobsters 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 the 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.

lobsters lobster pie

What is Tomalley?

If you are used to eating lobster rolls, or you buy frozen lobster tails, then you may not have experienced the flavorful “gunk” located in the lobster’s head. The green matter that looks a little like guacamole is known as tomalley, and the red waxy substance is sometimes known as “coral”. Tomalley is part of the lobster’s digestive system, technically the pancreas. The coral is immature roe, which cooks up to a coral red and is firm and almost waxy.

Both have tons of flavor and add real depth to any lobster dish. These delicacies are an acquired taste but are part of the true lobster eating experience. I do have to mention that tomalley is to be eaten in moderation since it can contain toxins depending upon where the lobster was harvested. These deep water lobster were caught nearly a dozen files off shore, I’m not worried about pollution.

Buying Seafood’s Lobster Pie

Recipe by Buying SeafoodCuisine: SeafoodDifficulty: Moderate
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

20

minutes

There are plenty of lobster pie recipes out there, but I find mine is just as rich and satisfying without making a thick sauce. Don’t be shy about using the tomalley, it will create a very deep flavor to your filling with out too many “extras”.

Ingredients

  • 4-7 Lobsters picked of all meat and reserving tomalley and roe (coral)

  • 1.5 sleeves butter crackers like Ritz

  • Herbs: Tarragon, Dill, Parsley, Paprika

  • 1-2 stalks Celery chopped fine.

  • 1 shot glass of dry Sherry

  • 1.5-2 sticks of Butter

  • 1 Lemon, juice and zest

Directions

  • Steam lobster for about 15-20 minutes in a mix of white wine and salted water. Let cool before shucking.
  • 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.
    picked lobster meat
  • 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.
    lobster saute
  • Preheat oven to 425F.
  • 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.
    lobster pie before oven

Notes

  • Don’t sauté the lobster in the pan, just warm it as you incorporate the celery and all that sherry butter.

The Verdict on Lobster Pie

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 and oh so rich and decadent. It is so rich you will want to pair it with a pilsner, hard cider or a crisp white wine to help cut through it. I recommend cutting into thin wedges if it is not the main course. You mind might want seconds, but your body may be saying you are already full!

Feel free to use and modify this recipe during the holiday season or on any special occasion that calls for lobster…but not the plastic bibs.