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Spiny Lobsters versus Maine Lobsters

There has been quite a hullabaloo lately regarding Maine lobsters. A legal dispute between environmental activists and the federal government has caused the Marine Stewardship Council to withdraw its sustainability rating for Maine lobsters, which, in turn, caused Whole Foods not to stock Maine lobsters until the rating is restored. There are two varieties of lobster sold in the supermarket—the Maine lobster and the spiny lobster. If you are a lobster lover, there is no need to worry if Maine lobsters aren’t available. You can still find spiny lobsters at the supermarket.

Maine lobsters come from the cold Atlantic waters and are sold live and frozen. This lobster has five pairs of legs, the first of which is heavy claws. The Maine lobster contains a great deal of meat.

The spiny lobster is clawless and comes from the warm water of the Caribbean and off the coasts of Florida, Southern California, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Since it has no claws, most of the meat of the spiny lobster is found in its tail. The majority of spiny lobsters sold in the United States are tails and labeled “rock lobster tails.” The season for spiny lobsters caught in the waters off the coast of Florida runs from August to March; for California, the season is September to March.

Lobster tails are perfect for making lobster bisque soup. You don’t steam the tails but boil them in water to make lobster stock. Then, just like in a fancy restaurant, you put the shells in a skillet with a bit of Cognac and set them aflame. This is an extravagant, delicious recipe. It must be prepared with tender loving care. Its rich flavor is perfect for special occasions like Christmas Eve.

Lobster Bisque Makes 6 servings

For the lobster tails:

1 gallon water 4 to 5 lobster tails, about 4 ounces each or 2 lobster tails, about 8 ounces each Heat water in a large stock pot over high heat to boiling. Drop in lobster tails, cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove tails from the pot, reserving 4 cups of water. Let lobster tails cool. Remove shells (see tip below) from lobsters and finely dice meat. Set lobster meat aside, saving the shells.

For the lobster stock:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter Reserved lobster shells ⅓ cup Cognac ½ cup shallots, chopped 2 teaspoons minced garlic 3 tablespoons tomato paste 2 tomatoes, peeled and seeded 2 ½ cups white wine 4 cups reserved water from cooking lobster tails 1 teaspoon dried tarragon ½ teaspoon dried thyme Pinch red pepper flakes 2 bay leaves In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add lobster shells and pour in Cognac. Heat until Cognac is warm, then light it with a match. When the flames subside, stir in ½ cup shallots, garlic, tomato paste, tomatoes, wine, reserved cooking water, tarragon, thyme, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves. Simmer uncovered for at least 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves and lobster shells. Blend broth in a food processor until shallots and tomatoes are liquefied.

For the bisque: 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 3 tablespoon shallots, chopped 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour Reserved lobster stock 2 cups milk 1 ½ cups half-and-half Salt to taste White pepper to taste Reserved lobster meat

For the garnish: (optional) Crème fraiche Fresh parsley, chopped

In a stock pot, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons shallots and sauté for 3 minutes. Add flour and stir constantly for 1 minute. Gradually blend in the lobster stock. Stir in milk and half-and-half and heat over medium heat until heated through. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Stir in reserved lobster meat and continue to warm for several minutes. Garnish with a dollop of crème fraiche and a sprinkle of parsley. Serve immediately.

Tips on shopping for lobster tails:Avoid buying lobster tails that have discoloration, black spots, or yellowing on their flesh. Check the label. If the tails have been soaked in sodium tripolyphosphates, pass. If the tails are gray, it may mean that the lobster was dead before it was processed, and it will not be good quality. Tails between 5 and 12 ounces in size will yield the most meat and have a better taste and texture.

Tips on removing the tail from the shell: Hold the tails so that the shell faces down. Place your thumbs on each side of the shell. Pull back on both sides to crack the shell open and remove the meat. Rinse the meat under cold running water to remove the green tomalley and pat dry with paper towels. You can also place a small knife under the meat, loosen it from the shell, and gently remove it.

Tips on thawing frozen lobster tails: To thaw, place frozen tails in your refrigerator 24 hours before you want to cook them. Tips on peeling tomatoes: Core and make an X in the top of tomatoes for easy peeling. Drop into boiling water for 10 seconds and remove. Peel tomatoes and immerse in icy cold water to retard cooking. Set aside.

 Carol Ann

Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Insider Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at and explore her website,

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Carol Ann Kates

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