Cooking a rock lobster tail
I live in Seattle, and every time I go to Pike Place Market, I look at these gigantic lobster tails at City Fish Company, and think, should I... I know they're not local--they describe them as "Caribbean rock lobster"--but this stall has a good reputation for quality, fresh fish, and they look sooo good. My only worry is, that's a LOT of expensive lobster to risk when I've never cooked it and have no clue what I'm doing. I think they suggest grilling them, but I'd like to have a little more instructions than that. Any suggestions? Direct or indirect heat? How long? Could I use a meat thermometer to make sure I'm getting them right (I've had overcooked lobster and I do NOT want to be responsible for doing that to a lovely piece of fish), and if so, what temperature am I aiming for?
Here's a photo, in case it helps you know what I'm talking about:
Any recipes or basic instructions would be greatly appreciated.
A heads up: Caribbean rock lobster is a different species from Maine lobster. Although some say the flavor is similar to Maine lobster, I disagree. And because rock lobster tails have been previously frozen, the texture is different as well. I've been seduced by them, tried grilling them, and wasn't particularly pleased with the result. They were partially overcooked, partially undercooked. If I were going to buy them, I'd look for a recipe calling for lobster meat and I'd steam or boil them and remove the meat from the shell.
They are different from Maine lobster and you'll likely come across lotsa debate on which is better. I don't think one is better than the other, but I prefer the caribbean lobster.
I also like grilling them, but start them in the oven first to cook, and then only briefly on a hot grill. First I use scissors and cut the top of the tail from the front to the last section before the fin section and crack open lengthwise. Gently pull the meat up and out of the shell leaving it connected downd near the fins. Close the shell and sit the meat on top. It should look like this
Again with the scissors, cut into the meat along the same line as the shell cut (about 3/4" deep), butterfly slightly, and de-vein (just like a large shrimp).
If this is too much trouble (its a nice presentation, though), simply cut in half lengthwise and devein.
Place on baking sheet (meat up), baste with butter, and into 350F oven until done, about 8-12 minutes. Get your grill very hot, place the tails over the coals, meat side down, baste with melted butter. The butter will flame up the grill giving the talils grill flavor. Turn and baste again, plate, and enjoy. The tail shouldn't be on the flaming grill more than a minute per side.
Should end up looking like this
and be delicious!
I tried grilling them from raw, but had similar results as JoanN. If so inclined you could baste with garlic butter on the grill (tasty). I also like sprinkling a smidgen of paprika on the tail before serving.
When I was but a young lad and playing out Caribbean travel fantasies, I came across grilled lobster tails in places like St. Lucia, Aruba, and the Yucatan. That was my seduction!
Later on, I tried to emulate a high end Montreal steak house (Queue de Cheval) on their version of 20+ oz lobster tails at my own place. When possible, I'd have my fish monger supply whole, fresh caribbean lobster and cook in a similar fashion.
Don't get me wrong, Maine lobster is very good, but is all too common. Spiny lobster has a certain cachet (to me) that brings me back to warmer climes and good times,
Don't get me started on the "access to a grill" thing!
These were served at a restaurant where I worked many years ago. The back was split open lengthwise, the meat separated, then put back in the shell, then cooked under a broiler. Topped with clarified butter when served.
Using kitchen shears, cut out the entire underside of the tail (the part with the legs). Take a bamboo skewer, cut it to the length of the tail, and thread it through the tail to prevent curling. Place in an already-boiling steamer setup, cover, and steam for one minute per ounce of tail. Serve with unsalted clarified butter, kosher salt, and lemon wedges.