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GOOD COOKING

Lobster for Four the Easy Way

September 10, 1997|ABBY MANDEL | Mandel's latest book is "Celebrating the Midwestern Table" (Doubleday & Co., 1996)

For my taste (and friends), the best menu for casual end-of-summer entertaining is steamed lobsters, accompanied by spicy coleslaw, oven French fries, corn on the cob and warm rolls.

But it takes some strategic planning--not necessarily great cooking--to pull off a lobster menu for four that seems casual. That was my big lesson the first time I prepared this menu. My learning curve was steep, and you're about to benefit from it.

STEAMED LOBSTERS

Steaming lobsters produces juicy, tender meat, and there's little chance of overcooking or toughening it.

Water

1 tablespoon salt

4 (1 1/2-pound) live lobsters

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted, optional

2 large lemons, cut in wedges

Put 2 inches water and salt in large lobster pot and bring to boil. When water is boiling rapidly, add live lobsters. Cover and return to rapid boil. Cook, covered, over medium to medium-high heat 18 minutes.

Transfer lobsters to work surface, backside down. Split lobster down middle, head to tail, with large, sharp knife.

Transfer to large platter. Serve hot with hot melted butter, if desired, and lemon wedges.

4 servings. Each serving:

83 calories; 323 mg sodium; 61 mg cholesterol; 0 fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 17 grams protein; 0 fiber.

CHOPPED SPICY CITRUS COLESLAW

Adjust the amount of jalapen~o and its seeds to your own taste. This coleslaw improves in flavor if made a day ahead and refrigerated.

DRESSING

1 jalapen~o, partly seeded and minced

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

COLESLAW

1 head cabbage, split, cored, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice

6 green onions, thinly sliced

1 1/2 tablespoons minced cilantro

DRESSING

Combine jalapen~o, lime and orange juices, oil, sugar and salt in small bowl.

COLESLAW

Combine cabbage, bell pepper, onions and cilantro in large bowl. Add dressing and toss well. Taste, adjust seasoning and toss. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

To serve, toss, drain excess liquid and adjust seasoning. Serve chilled.

4 to 5 servings. Each of 4 servings:

154 calories; 485 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 22 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 2.11 grams fiber.

OVEN FRENCH FRIES (LOW-FAT COOKING

3 large (about 10 ounces each) baking potatoes, peeled

Olive oil spray

Salt

Trim sides and ends of potatoes to square off. Cut potatoes lengthwise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Cut each slice into 1/3-inch-wide strips. Cover with cold water until ready to bake.

Drain potatoes. Wrap in cloth towel and blot as dry as possible.

Put potatoes in single layer on 2 baking sheets sprayed with olive oil spray. Spray potatoes with olive oil spray.

Bake at 425 degrees 25 minutes. Turn potatoes with spatula and spray again with olive oil spray. Continue baking until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. (Note: Potatoes will taste bitter if they get too brown.) Season with salt to taste. Serve hot.

4 servings. Each serving:

168 calories; 602 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 38 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.90 gram fiber.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The checklist:

* Buy live whole lobsters from a reliable seafood source on the day of the dinner and keep them chilled until the last minute. Have them packed with ice or put them in a box that will fit in the refrigerator.

* Use a large deep pot, preferably a lobster pot about 13 inches in diameter, or a stockpot.

* Serve the meal where inevitable splatter is not a problem: on the porch or patio, at a picnic table on the grass or in the kitchen.

* If your table surface isn't stain-proof, cover it with colorful oil cloth or heavy paper.

* Use charger-size plates; dinner plates are too small.

* Add special lobster tools to each place setting: a lobster cracker to break the shells and a pick or tiny fork to pull every shred of meat from the hard-to-reach cavities.

* Use large absorbent paper napkins or attractive dish towels as napkins. Have extras close at hand.

* Provide each guest with a large bib.

* Place small ramekins at each place for the hot melted butter.

* Omit bread and butter plates but use individual salad plates for the coleslaw and the rolls; the corn and potatoes can be served on the chargers alongside the lobsters.

* Place a large bowl or container in the center of the table to hold the discarded shells and corn cobs.

* Keep a bag handy for the excess garbage.

* Supply damp cloths or finger bowls and clean napkins for necessary clean-up at the end of the meal.

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