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How to Cook Lobster

French chefs plunge them into boiling water; English ones, in an attempt to appear more humane, drive kitchen knives through their skulls before doing the same thing. No wonder the miserable creatures go red. They're mad as hell. What a way to treat the king of crustaceans. Let's make a pact.

From now on let's treat the lobster with the respect (and humanity) it deserves. Here's how: Use a pan deep enough to hold 6 liters of salted water to which you have added some shredded onion, a garlic clove or two and a bay leaf. Purists who live by the sea also like to add a pint of seawater. People like me, who've seen what gets washed up as a result of coastal run-off, don't.

Put a trivet or round roasting rack in the bottom of the pan, on which you will place the lobster. You do this so that it is not touching the bottom of the pan and will not be burnt as the metal heats up. Does this improve the flavor? No, it's purely for the comfort of the lobster. So, this is what you have - a pan of cold brine, seasoned, in which a lobster sits on a trivet as happy as a sand boy.

How do I know this? Because lobsters have two states of being - they're either happy or they're dead. Now, using a gentle heat, gradually raise the temperature of the water to around 90F, at which point the lobster will be fast asleep and sweetly dreaming. It will never wake up. You can now turn up the heat until the water reaches a gentle simmer and cook the lobster for around 8 minutes a pound. Drain and plunge into iced water.

Let it cool in there before draining again and transferring to the fridge until needed. The lobster will reward you for this kindness by being succulent and tender. It won't be stuffed with adrenalin and its meaty fibers will not have contracted into something resembling India rubber. The next step is to cut the lobster in half and to clean it. Lay it on its back and use a strong, very sharp, knife to cut it in half from tail to head. You will easily see the stomach bag at the back of the head and the blackish gut running the length of the body.

Remove these and discard. You may also, if you wish, discard the greenish liver, although aficionados hold this to be a delicacy. It's certainly edible, but personally I chuck it because I don't like the color.

And that's it. You can now serve your lobster cold with some freshly made mayonnaise, or indulge in one of the more fanciful hot dishes for which some restaurants have become famous. .

During the 1990s Michael Sheridan was head chef of the Pierre Victoire restaurant in London's West End, specializing in French cuisine. An Australian, he is a published author on cooking matters, and runs a free membership club and cooking course for busy home cooks at http://thecoolcook.com



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