- cassis Sep 17, 2010 06:43 AM
Friends in Europe are planning to visit us here in New England, and a lobster feast seems to be at the top of their agenda. They are planning to come in November, but are lobsters even available and good at that time of year? What is the debate about hard shell versus soft shell about, anyway?
Lobstahs are available year round, mostly. I'm pretty sure they're available all the time in restaurants, but during the coldest months (Jan - Feb) they may not be there everyday in supermarkets.
Lobstahs are crustaceans that grow bigger by getting out of their old shells and grow into bigger ones every year. This happens in summer. Hence summer lobstahs are so called "new shell", "soft shell" for this reason. The lobstah itself is smaller than the shell, the gap between the meat and the shell is filled with water. The texture is softer. Some people think it's sweeter. It's also usually cheaper. I think it's easier to eat because the meat slides right out, but messier because of all the water content.
As the lobstah grows bigger inside, the new shell hardens up at the same time. So we have "hard shell lobstahs" in winter through spring. The meat is firmer, less water content inside, and a little more expensive per pound in the supermarket. I personally prefer hard-shell lobstahs, but I'll chow down a soft-shell just as happily. :-)
According to this article, November should be okay but is not the best time of year. Are you planning on a restaurant, or cooking them at home? Jasper White's Pan-Roasted Lobster, available at Summer Shack, is as superlative as it is sinful (lots of buttery sauce). The recipe is in his cookbooks if not online. It was one of Julia Child's favorites. I figure the recommended serving is once a lifetime.
A buddy of mine runs traps out of Port Clyde, and he usually slows down after foliage season when tourist traffic disappears. In winter the lobsters move further out and so his fuel cost is higher and the weather sucks, but he can get as many hard shells (the best) as the local area demands.