Classic New England Lobster Boil
Lobster is one of my favorite foods and I love it in all forms – as meat pulled directly from the claws and tails and dipped in melted butter, in lobster rolls or in pasta. This recipe is for a traditional New England lobster boil using whole lobsters, kielbasa, red potatoes, sweet corn, and clams seasoned with salt and herbs. The ingredients are added at separate times to avoid overcooking. After boiling drain and pour the contents of the boil onto the table so that everyone can just go at it!
When breaking down lobsters I learned from the best – my Nana. I’ve never seen someone enjoy eating a whole lobster (even the gross parts) more. When my grandparents were on their first date at a fraternity lobster boil at Tufts University – Papa tells the story about how he couldn’t find where Nana went and he found her sitting at a picnic table making sure all the meat was completely cleaned out of every single lobster around. Waste not, want not! While some might think this is an exaggeration – I've seen her in action so I know this is definitely a true story!
When staring into that large salt water filled tank at the seafood market look for lobsters that are moving around – you don’t want the sluggish looking ones, as that could mean that they have been sitting there for awhile and their meat will have started to break down. They don’t usually feed the lobsters when they arrive at the store so you want to get the lobsters as fresh as possible for the best quality meat. I tend to enjoy lobsters that are about 1½ pounds in size – I know most people say that until they get to about 5 pounds they don’t notice a difference in the taste but I find that the smaller ones are sweeter and more tender and also are easier to crack! Even if you are cooking multiple lobsters at once the cooking time is still the same as if you were cooking one lobster.
Place empty bowls for shells on the table when serving. You might also want some lobster bibs as things tend to get messy!
½ cup kosher salt
1 bunch fresh thyme (tied together with string)
1 head garlic, top ¼” sliced off
1 pound kielbasa, sliced on the bias
1½ pounds small red potatoes
3 whole (1½ pounds each) live Maine lobsters
2 pounds scrubbed littleneck clams
5 ears sweet corn, shucked and halved
Fill a very large stockpot (may need to use multiple pots depending on sizing) with 2½ gallons of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the salt and stir until dissolved then add the thyme and garlic.
Add the potatoes and cook for about 6 minutes. Add the kielbasa then add the live lobsters, one at at time, claw first. Set the timer for 12 minutes. By then the lobsters will be cooked completely through and the meat will be solid white (if you are using a meat thermometer the temperature of the tail should read 180ºF).
At the 7 minute mark add the clams to the pot. When there are 4 minutes to go on the timer, add the corn.
When the time is up, drain the water from the pot and spread the contents from the boil on a large covered table or add the contents into large serving bowls.
Serve with grilled bread, lemon wedges and plenty of melted butter for dipping.
Some tips for cracking lobsters:
Start with the claws – twist them off and use a lobster cracker to crack the claws and knuckles. Remove the meat with a small fork or with your fingers.
Next, separate the tail from body, squeeze the tail until you hear the underside “crack”, then spread the shell and the meat falls out. Pull the top off the tail meat. Remove the vein under it and discard he vein. Cut the meat into small pieces and dip in butter. Remove the small legs and suck the meat and juices out.
Serves 6 to 8.