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Encounters with spiny lobster, naranjilla shakes, freshly toasted cashews, and more...

Tales of Travel
in Panama
without a Car

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Lobster in a White Wine and Garlic Sauce

From Omnivorous Traveler's lobster folder

Lobster has an aura of luxury—and, at times, snobbery—about it. It is often ordered as a confirmation of a person’s wealth, whether real or imagined. But as we all know, it wasn’t too long ago when lobster was considered ocean junk. Perhaps this was because few folks knew how to prepare it properly. And it didn’t help that hundreds of years ago, colonial servants asked to include a passage in their contracts stating that they would not have to eat lobster more than twice a week.

Now, with the price of live lobsters at the market, it looks like more than a few chefs have changed attitudes of diners.

Being that lobster is so expensive now, it’s a shame to err in the kitchen and turn the lobster into something with the durability of rubber dog toy.

Sure, it looks pretty cool when the critter is presented whole at the table. But it’s unfortunate that the claws and tail cook at different rates, just like the white and dark meat of a chicken. In either case, it can be difficult to cook both together so that one is not either raw or tough. As long as you don’t need to see a conquest-style entire critter on your plate, you can be more in control of the outcome of the meal if you cut the claws off, cook them separately, and then arrange the parts in whatever artful way you want on the plate. And it’s one less knuckle to crack at the table.

This recipe was inspired by a meal my wife and I had in Kuna Yala, Panama (I wrote about the experience in chapter 7 of Is There a Hole in the Boat? Tales of Travel in Panama without a Car). The Kuna cook used a spiny lobster, which has no giant claws like its New England counterparts, but the spiny does have some decent meat in its front antennae. The ingredients are basically the same except I added a little white wine and butter.


Two lobsters, 1½ pounds each, live and lively
3 cloves garlic, chopped
about 1 cup of dry white wine, preferably albariño or pinot blanc
olive oil
about 1 or 2 tablespoons butter
juice of ½ lemon

In a large sauté pan, sauté garlic in olive oil until fragrant, but not burned. Pour garlic and oil into soufflé cup or small bowl. Don’t clean the pan. With a large kitchen knife, dispatch the lobsters and cut them in half. Clean out the innards under cold water. Cut or twist off the claws and remove rubber bands. Put about a tablespoon of white wine into the garlic bowl along with juice of half of a lemon and mix. Rub mixture into the tail meat and the chest cavity. Sprinkle with salt.

In the pan on medium meat, deglaze with a little water or white wine. Add about a teaspoon of butter and melt. Place as many non-claw pieces as can fit, cut side down. (The claws will be steamed separately). Add a splash of white wine. Cover for about three minutes to steam. Flip the pieces and cover for another minute. Remove and add next batch, and repeat, adding wine and butter. The claws will need an extra two minutes. If the pan gets dry, deglaze with water or wine so there is enough liquid to steam.

When all pieces are done, pour the leftover pan juice into a small bowl for dipping. Garnish with half a lemon. Serves two.

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©2010 Darrin DuFord