Preparing a New England Lobster Bake
Fourth of July is just around the corner (can you believe how quickly this year is going by?) and it's a great time for an old fashion New England Lobster Bake.
I asked my friend Ian Reardon from Sagamore Lobster about the history of The New England Clambake and how to prepare one at home without digging a big whole in the lawn.
Ian runs a small operation but the lobsters are fresh off his father-in-laws lobster boat and their prices are competitive and their service is great. He sent me this article that I think you will enjoy.
If you are thinking of lobsters this 4th of July, be sure to read my article, How to Buy Live Lobsters Without Getting Ripped Off.
How to Prepare a New England Lobster Bake This 4th of July
The New England Clam Bake dates back to the days of the Pilgrims in Plymouth Massachusetts. Settlers witnessed Native Americans cooking clams over hot stones and seaweed and thus the New England Clam Bake was born.
Clam Bakes have become a summer tradition not only in New England but also all over the country. Now, with the Internet, you can have fresh Maine lobster shipped from New England anywhere in the United States.
Have you ever wanted to know what it takes to serve a New England Clam Bake? This article will tell you everything you need to know.
Selecting your Lobsters
Live Lobsters come in many sizes. The smallest lobsters are called chickens, and weight between 1 and 1.25 pounds. This lobster is perfect for people with small appetites or to be served along side another main course.
For the average appetite, you will want to select a 1.25-pound "Quarter" or a 1.50-pound "Half" lobster. These lobsters are larger than the chick and provide a hearty meal.
Picking the Right Shellfish
There are many kinds of shellfish and several different types of clams. Any shellfish will go great with lobster, but to be as authentic as possible you need to find New England steamer clams. Steamer clams are found along the coast of New England, and even stretch into Canada.
The steamer clam is often confused with the little neck clam which is found in southern New England. The steamer clam is larger, has a softer shell, and in my opinion, tastes much better. About 1 pound of clams is recommended for each person.
Choosing Side Dishes
Clam Bakes and Lobster Bakes are most often served with corn on the cob and red bliss potatoes. Both can be steamed, boiled or grilled in a similar fashion to the lobster and steamer clams.
How to Cook the Lobster
Clambakes have historically been cooked in holes dug in the sand with hot stones and seaweed. While this makes a nice presentation the truth is that our conventional ovens, pots and pans do a much better job.
The recommended way to cook live lobsters is to steam them. You're going to need a large pot, a steamer basket, and some salt. It is best to use sea salt, which is salt harvested from the ocean, but regular table salt will work fine.
Fill the large pot with approximately 1 and ½ inches of water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt for every quart of water. Bring the water to a boil and then place the lobster and the steamer basket inside the pot.
A one-pounder lobster should be cooked for approximately 12 minutes. A pound and a half lobster should be cooked for around 15 minutes. Check the pot periodically to ensure that all the water has not boiled off.
Add more water while the lobster is cooking if needed. Remove the lobster and pull off one of the small legs. Break open the leg and test the meat to ensure that it is cooked.
How to Cook the Steamer Clams
Steamer clams need to be rinsed and scrubbed before cooking. Use a large pot of cold water and a vegetable brush to scrub and clean the clams.
Melt ¼ stick of butter for every 1lb of steamer clams in a small saucepan over low heat. In a large pot combine ¾ cup water for every 1 lb of clams with the melted butter. Add clams. Cover the pot and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and allow the clams to simmer for 5 minutes. When clams are cooked they should open up. A clam that remains closed has not been cooked, and should not be eaten.
Remove clams with a slotted spoon and place in serving bowls. Pour the butter and water mixture into small serving dishes as they make a great sauce to dip your clams in.
How to Serve a New England Lobster Bake
An authentic lobster bake should be served outside, not only to enjoy the summer weather, but because lobster can be rather messy.
Place the lobsters and steamers on a large plate. Serve the potatoes and corn in separate bowls. Melt approximately ¼ of a stick of butter for each person to dip his or her lobster meat in.
The clams can be dipped in the mixture that was saved when the clams were cooked. Gather your family and friend and enjoy your authentic New England Lobster Bake.