Out the Door: New home, new shellfish

By Dan West | Jun 30, 2012

I have briefly written in the past about my love of shellfish of all kinds, but primarily clams.

On Block Island, where I lived for two and a half years, throughout the summer I would snorkel out over the clam flats and stir up some quahogs with my fins, dive down and pluck them out of the sand. I experimented with different ways of cooking them, from simply steaming or grilling to making stuffed clams and New England clam chowder.

However, having them raw, freshly pulled from the ocean, was one of my favorite ways to eat them. I wouldn't even bother with shucking them properly with a knife, but rather would use the "sea gull method" of smashing the shell against a rock or another clam. When eaten this way the clams have a freshness and sweetness that — in my opinion — rivals even the best raw oysters.

When I moved to Maine I knew I would get a chance to experiment with new types of shellfish, including the famous Maine lobster. I have been here now for nearly two months and have had several lobster meals — lobster stew at the Dockside Family Restaurant, Lobster Rolls at Weathervane — all of which were great, but I had yet to dive into a whole lobster dinner.

Last weekend I had my parents visiting from New York and decided it would be a perfect time to finally tackle my first whole lobster since moving. My parents decided to come up last weekend to catch the Beach Boys concert in Bangor, which was fantastic (hard to believe a bunch of 70-year-olds could put on such a fun show).

On their last night in town we went to Nautilus Seafood and Grill in East Belfast for dinner. We walked in through pouring rain, but inside was warm and comfortable.

My mom and I both ordered the lobster dinner and proceeded to have at it. No other shellfish, or any type of food, for that matter, that I can think of, fights back as hard as a lobster.

They may not be up to using their claws anymore, but they still sport spines and sharp shells. Even though you are given metal shell-cracking tools and a plastic spear to tease out the meat, I never the less found myself abandoning all utensils for ripping the shell open with my fingers.

During the meal I got to thinking that lobster could be the next diet fad, because surely I was burning more calories trying to get at the damned meat than I was ingesting.

My mom is a pro at eating lobster, even cleaning out the body and legs of all their meat, which I usually get little out of. She takes her time pulling the whole thing apart before finally rewarding herself with the tail.

I got frustrated and moved to the tail second after battling the claws — probably the sign of an inexperienced lobster eater.

But I have time to practice and experiment with the food most often associated with Maine. I'm going to bring some lobsters back to my own kitchen to prepare soon and hopefully get out on the water to haul a few traps someday. Until then, my next mission is to get back to my first shellfish love — clams. But this time, instead of those big quahogs I'll be after steamers.

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