Meet Your Mackerel at the Shack Tonight

The Atlantic mackerel have started swimming through local waters on their way to their cool summering grounds farther north. These are Scomber scombrus, the ones with the bold black markings on their backs. Their arrival coincides with the arrival of city visitors heading to their summering grounds on the Cape, and the opening of Mac’s Shack tonight.

One of my hopes for this season is to introduce these two different species of travelers to one another.

In years past, nearly all of our local mackerel catch went to Europe, where the Italians, Spaniards, and Portuguese have always appreciated its firm, meaty richness. It’s a shame to miss out on something this good, especially when we have access to it at its peak freshness. Alex and I are determined to keep some of it here from now on.

I’ve been working up a mackerel special for the Shack: a vinha d’alhos, that I think balances its richness perfectly. Fish done this way is a Provincetown tradition, translated from a pork recipe brought over by the Portuguese islanders who joined Cape Cod fishing crews here in force over a hundred years ago. The fish is skillet-crisped, then submerged in a wine vinegar marinade, just like for an escabeche. But alho means garlic, and ours packs a good punch of it.

I’m also excited about the way white beans, escarole, and pancetta taste alongside seared sea scallops. And I think you’ll like grilled calamari with a citrus vinaigrette and good, crunchy sea salt––they’re the best simple compliments for the sweetness of our local squid.

A chef’s life sure does include a lot of unadvertised hoisting, hammering and polishing around here. I’m just breaking in my new range, Ichi is still learning the geography of his expanded sushi bar, and the paint on the walls is barely dry, but we’re ready for our opening tonight and looking forward to seeing everyone again.

We start serving dinner at 5pm. Come on in and meet your mackerel.

Mackerel Vinha d’Alhos

Serves 4 as an appetizer

4 good size mackerels (8 to 10 ounces each… or buy 8 smaller 6-to-8-ounce mackerels)
1/2 cup flour for dredging the fish
1 teaspoon paprika, also for the dredging
olive oil for frying
5 cups good wine vinegar (I use a mixture including mostly champagne vinegar)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
a heaping 1/4 cup of sliced garlic
1 tablespoon red chili pepper flakes
1/2 sweet onion, sliced into thin half-moons
1/2 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced
1 scotch bonnet pepper (or less) minced if you like things on the hot side
spring lettuce greens or arugula plus a few scallions and chives for the garnish

Gut and rinse the fish but leave their heads on; pat them dry. Combine the flour and paprika in a shallow bowl and dredge the fish in the mixture. Quickly flash fry the mackerel––that is, fry it hot, so that it browns quickly without cooking all the way through. Remove the mackerel and set it aside in a glass or pottery dish deep enough to allow for marinating the fish.

In a saucepan, heat the marinade ingredients: the vinegars (any good vinegar will work, but I combine about one cup each of red, rice, white, and champagne vinegars, then add another cup of champagne vinegar; I like its delicate flavor), the sugar, salt, garlic, and red pepper flakes, bringing the mixture to the boil and stirring to dissolve the sugar well. Turn off the fire, drop in the sliced onion and peppers, and pour the marinade over the fish.

Refrigerate for 3 hours to allow the fish to cure and the flavors to meld. Leave it overnight if you prefer. It can go longer, but the flavors are brightest within a day or so. Plate on salad greens, spoon on plenty of the marinade, and garnish with sliced scallions and chives.

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My Kind of Easter Eggs

My brother came into the office last Monday morning looking like the cat who ate the canary. Not an uncommon look for an eater like Alex, I might add.

“What did you have for breakfast today?” he asks.

“Nothing. Toast.” I don’t ask what he had, but I can tell that he wants me to.

“Well, you shouldn’t have missed the staff meeting today,” Alex says. “The lady from Petrossian Paris was here. With samples.

“Fantastic stuff,” Alex goes on. “It’s amazing how much caviar tastes like oysters. Pure umami. Sea-salty brine. Richer than oysters, though. Buttery. I mean, think about it, they’re eggs, after all. They’re loaded with fat, the good stuff, Omega-3s. We picked four favorites to sell on the website. And I think we should stock some in our markets.”

There was one question that I knew might give Alex indigestion: “Did you talk about sustainability?” From what I’ve been reading, the Caspian Sea is drying up, and the sturgeon that historically produced great caviars are overfished to the point of near extinction. Tasting––let alone selling–– the stuff would not exactly be in keeping with our priorities.

According to Alex, the folks at Petrossian agree. It turns out that none of the caviar they offer is from the Caspian anymore. There are many species of sturgeon around the world, and Petrossian has been working directly with farms to develop caviars that show off the best flavors and textures of each. The rep told Alex, “It’s no longer all about beluga, ossetra, and sevruga.”

Being a caviar specialist is now about working with farmers to be sure the fish are allowed to mature before roe is harvested. That translates into firmer, more flavorful “beads.” Then Petrossian oversees the traditional process of rinsing and salt-curing the caviar without adding Borax, high fructose corn syrup, dyes, and all other nasty stuff that goes into fake products.

The Petrossian rep left Alex with a few jars, enough to set up another round of tasting, and strict instructions about how to go about it. You can’t scoop up caviar with a silver or stainless spoon––it will pick up a metallic taste. They actually bulk pack it in gold-lined tins, so I guess gold would work, but mother of pearl is traditional. Since we didn’t have either of those, we used wood.

You don’t exactly chew caviar. Instead you press it against the roof of your mouth with your tongue to feel its texture. The flavor comes bursting out of the roe. You’re supposed to close your mouth and breathe in over each bite, as if you were tasting wine.

You eat the really good stuff straight out of the jar, which you’ve wedged into crushed ice, or maybe on blini––small, buttery buckwheat pancakes. Our friend Teresa made some of those in order to get herself invited to the tasting (check out her recipe, below).

You’re supposed to save the garnishes like sour cream, chopped eggs, and minced red onion for the less expensive versions.

Champagne? Maybe. Vodka is preferable.

Here are our tasting notes on the caviars we picked. You can order them here on our website.

Kaluga Caviar: Large, green-gold beads, lightly briny flavor combined with a rich, almost sweet earthiness that lasts a long time on the palate. Alex liked this one best for its buttery flavor. Wouldn’t you know it’s the most expensive of our picks. (Huso dauricus, also called “River Beluga,” is a large sturgeon, farmed near the Amur River and the Shanghai mountains of China.)

Alverta President Caviar: Medium, darker beads. A pleasant yeasty nose and a mild nutty taste; balanced flavor that is neither as briny nor as buttery as the Kaluga. This is the one Petrossian considers its highest grade of roe from farmed American sturgeon. (Acipenser transmontanous, also called “White Sturgeon.” Native to the Sacramento River in California and farmed near its natural habitat.)

Classic Transmontanous Caviar: Medium, darker beads with a nice firm texture. Slightly briny, with a flavor that reminded us of Wellfleet oysters. In fact, it’s fantastic served on top of a Wellfleet oyster. This is the one I like best for its deliciously fresh taste––I don’t miss the earthiness of the Alverta or the butteriness of the Kaluga. Very reasonably priced. (Another Acipenser transmontanous, a sustainably farmed California sturgeon.)

Trout Roe: Big bright orange beads that go “pop” on your tongue, with an almost fruity brine. Some of us tasted a smoky flavor in this roe and all of us thought it was delicious. This is what I have in mind as an Easter canape––it’s a beautiful color, plus garnishes like sour cream and chives won’t bury its bright flavor. (Oncorhynchus mykiss, harvested wild in Armenia and imported.)

Blini

Makes 30 canape-sized pancakes

These little pancakes are the classic vehicle for caviar. The nuttiness of buckwheat flour is part of what makes them so right. That and the butter. The traditional version is yeast-raised, but these are quicker. This recipe is adapted from one by Ina Garten in Barefoot in Paris––buttermilk is the main difference.

1/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1/4 pound butter, clarified

Put the butter in a small saucepan and let it melt slowly over low heat. You’ll see that it separates into white frothy clumps and clear golden liquid. It’s the golden liquid you want––the white part is the milk solids, which are what make butter burn so easily. To separate the golden “clarified” part, just slowly pour it into a small bowl, leaving the white solids behind in the pan.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt. Beat the egg with the buttermilk and stir lightly into the flour mixture. Add one tablespoon of the clarified butter and stir just to combine.

Heat a heavy cast iron pan or pancake griddle and coat it generously with clarified butter. Make small pancakes using just one tablespoon of batter for each. Flip them to brown lightly on both sides. Wipe out any drips and spoon more clarified butter into the pan between each batch––you want the pancakes to be golden and buttery. These can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen, just thaw them and reheat in a well-buttered pan.

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Making Fast Work of the Maine Shrimp Season

Sometimes I don’t feel like cooking. Like the day after our eight-course Groundhog Day celebration of local food over at Preservation Hall (a few photos are over here on FB). But I’m not one to let that stop me from eating. So I took home a pint of Maine shrimp from our Eastham store. Give them about a minute with butter, garlic, and white wine and you have one fine dinner-in-a-skillet.

The inspiration here is straight out of Boston’s North End, where, for me, eating Italian used to mean ordering “Shrimp Scampi.” Later I was taught that scampi was the what Italians called their langoustines, and that in Italy those shrimp were typically pan-sauteed this way. So the Italian-Americans who opened restaurants here coined “Shrimp Scampi” as a way of saying shrimp cooked scampi-style. Now I hear that putting it on your menu is so unfashionable that it’s actually hip.

All I can say is it’s the right thing to do with Maine shrimp.

Maine shrimp, also called “northern shrimp” (Pandalus borealis), are a winter treat in New England, nothing like the bigger warm water shrimp we import. They seem delicate because they’re so small, but they’re surprisingly firm, sweet and flavorful. The season is going to be short this year, according to Talking Fish and other sustainability reports we follow, because after years of good harvests, landings were down last year. The idea is to support the population by limiting the number of days of fishing this time around.

The simplicity of a “scampi” sauce treats these shrimp with the respect they deserve. And then there are the pan juices: you will want crusty bread or a plate of pasta to sop up every last drop of them.

Maine Shrimp, Scampi-Style

If you’re serving this on pasta, you can have all the prep work done in the time it takes a pot of water to come to the boil. I even give the pasta a head start, because the scampi will come together in just a few minutes. One small step that’s worth a lot of flavor: drain the pasta when it’s al dente, then add it to the sauce in the skillet to simmer for a minute or two before you serve it.

serves 4

1 pint peeled Maine shrimp
1 small shallot, minced
4 fat cloves garlic, minced or sliced
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
a big pinch of dried red pepper flakes
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons butter
a big handful of Italian parsley (about 1/4 cup minced)
1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
4 wedges of fresh lemon
1 pound linguine or a loaf of crusty country bread

Drain the shrimp over a small bowl and reserve any juices to add to the pan sauce later.

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the shallot, garlic, thyme, and the pinch of red pepper flakes. Watch and stir the mixture for just a minute or so, until the garlic begins to soften and get aromatic––don’t let it brown.

Sprinkle the salt on the shrimp and toss it into the pan. Sauté the shrimp, turning it in the garlic and herbs for a minute or two, until it’s just opaque. Then remove the shrimp to a bowl and set it aside, but keep your skillet going.

Pour the white wine into the skillet. Add any shrimp juices that might have accumulated when you drained it. Simmer to reduce the liquid in the pan by about half.

Add the butter and whisk it into the pan juices to create a sauce. Whisk in the minced parsley and the breadcrumbs. Then either add the pasta to the sauce, let it a simmer for a minute, and toss in the shrimp, or skip the pasta and just stir the shrimp into the sauce and serve it with bread.

A last-minute squeeze of fresh lemon juice adds a nice bright note to the dish.

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Into the Briny Deep: Quick Pickled Winter Vegetables

All of us off-season cooks at Mac’s are busy working up a tasting menu for a benefit we’re hosting on one of my favorite holidays: Groundhog Day. We’re still working out the details of each course, but I can tell you this, one of them will involve pickles. Not the usual cucumber pickles you buy in the store, but something homemade with more unusual ingredients.

My wife Traci points out that Groundhog Day is not a holiday. But part of our purpose for this party is to honor WCAI (the Cape and Islands’ NPR station) for its reporting on the local food movement, and I liked the challenge of creating a winter menu focused on locally sourced food. Now through early spring, the Cape’s abundance is not so obvious. The good eating is here, though: have you tasted a Chatham bay scallop lately? Or an Eastham turnip?

Traci also reminds me that the last time I put pickles on the menu, things didn’t go so well. It was when we first opened Mac’s Shack. I couldn’t wait to serve my kimchi cod. I poached the fish in the brine from a huge garlic-laden container of Korea’s favorite pickle and garnished it with a healthy swirl of that funky chili-stained cabbage. I still cannot imagine a more perfect marriage of flavors. Nobody ordered it.

I’m into more fundamental pickles this winter. After a fall spent browsing Modernist Cuisine, Nathan Myhrvold’s encyclopedia of molecular gastronomy, I’ve decided there are plenty of fascinating transformations to learn about in ordinary cooking. I know my kitchen laboratory is nothing like Ferran Adrià’s, but I’ve got a sourdough starter bubbling on one counter, and it wants to be fed. On the other counter stands a brand new fermenting crock that has me studying up on how the sugars in a cucumber are converted into lactic acid during the pickling process.

The pickles I’m thinking of for our First Annual Groundhog Day Winter in Wellfleet Feast are the kind known as “fresh pack” or “quick” pickles, so they’ll develop in the fridge, not the fermenter. I’m experimenting right now with beets, parsnips, turnips, Brussels sprouts, scallions, onions, cranberries and broccoli-flower in a very basic brine: three parts vinegar to two parts sugar to one part salt.

I’ve added some dried chili peppers, and I’m tasting every day to see how these develop.
Maybe over the course of the winter I’ll soup these up with other spices. Right now, I’m just into the pure briny deep.

Basic Quick Pickled Winter Vegetables

2 quarts winter vegetables, cut into bite-size pieces (be sure to include onions in the mix)
3 cups red wine vinegar
3 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 cup salt
6 dried chili peppers or two teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
(optional: 2 tablespoons of traditional pickling spices, such as yellow mustard seed, coriander seed, fennel seed, black peppercorns, cinnamon or cloves, or a combination.)

Clean and cut the vegetables into bite-size pieces. I like to make a variety of different shapes, all about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick: longer, squared off batons of peeled parsnips and carrots; wedges of turnip and beet, also peeled; white to pale green lengths of scallion, with the roots sliced off; broccoli in florets; and Brussels sprouts? Just trim off any beat-up outer leaves, and halve them if they’re large.

Pack the vegetables into clean two quart mason jars. I like to pack each vegetable separately, though I always put a little onion into each jar. But a mix is fine, except for beets: keep them on their own or they’ll turn everything pink.

Combine everything else in a large pot––this is your brine: the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and any spices. Simmer the brine, stirring a couple of times, and once the sugar and salt are thoroughly dissolved, kick it on up to the boil for a minute. Then take it off the fire.

Carefully ladle the hot brine over the vegetables. Fill the jars to just 1/2 inch below the top. Cover and let the jars cool, then store them in the fridge.

A note about food safety: Even though these unfermented “quick” pickles are too acidic to allow for the growth of botulism, and the hot brine and canning jar lids will create a seal that should keep unwanted yeasts at bay, the USDA doesn’t consider non-processed pickles to be shelf-stable. So there’s really no reason you have to use mason jars for these. You can just pour the hot brine over a ceramic bowlful of vegetables and let them marinate in the refrigerator. The jars just say “pickles” to me. I keep the ones I make for my family for up to a couple of months in the fridge––never longer because they’re always eaten up by then.

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Shrimp That’s Not Skimpy

A few years ago, some chef friends and I started a tradition of cooking for each other on New Year’s Day. It was supposed to be all about kicking back after the weeks of long hours that go into pulling off special holiday menus for guests and family. What we needed was a pot luck. And maybe a beer or two.

But of course we all ended up trying to show off. The trick at this kind of gathering is to do something spectacular but make it seem totally offhand. I’m still thinking about the pickled green beans Eric Jansen put on the table last year. (If you’re a serious eater I’m sure you know Eric’s cooking well; if you don’t, get yourself to Blackfish in Truro as soon as they open up again this spring.) I’ve still got today to keep last year’s New Year’s resolution to get that recipe from him.

I’m thinking about trying to get a rise out of people with something equally old-fashioned: shrimp cocktail. It’s a classic crowd pleaser, and with this group, that’s code for boring. But if I do it right, I know they’ll end up eating every last shrimp.

My brother Alex would say it’s because we’ve got our hands on a superior species of shrimp, the Mexican brown (Farfantepenaeus californiensis) found wild on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

In the case of shrimp, wild is definitely better than farmed. Intensive farming, done mostly in India, Thailand, and Ecuador, is threatening the mangroves that protect whole coastal communities. And it’s rare to find farmed shrimp that is not treated with antibiotics and other chemicals. Yet I’ve read that well over 80% of the shrimp consumed in the U.S. is farmed.

Alex discovered these Pacific shrimp several years ago when he went with friends for a mid-winter week at the beach. He is not the kind to be deterred by a few tequila sunrises. As far as I can tell, he spent most of his time on those trips sussing out tacos and stuffed peppers and shrimp.

Local shrimping families used to set up their coolers on the port and sell out daily, but Alex says that now they’ve joined together in a co-op and share a nice market facility. They’ve also beat the big industrial trawlers at meeting conservation regulations by using gear that doesn’t ensnare turtles.

The Mexican brown shrimp are undeniably excellent. But the way we handle and cook them also makes a huge difference in texture and flavor. The shrimp arrive in a block of ice––a rare exception to our focus on fresh seafood that has never been frozen, but there’s really no other way to get it here in excellent condition. We thaw them gently, then, even though they’re already deveined, we extend that cut along the back so they butterfly nicely when cooked.

Then we boil them in well-salted water (about two tablespoons of salt per quart of water will approximate the salinity of seawater) for not much more than a minute. You can blame all that rubbery shrimp cocktail out there on overcooking. As soon as we drain the shrimp, we plunge them into ice water. But here’s the real secret: this water is also salted. The shrimp retain their true seafood flavor because their natural salt content is not ever replaced by fresh water.

Now to the cocktail sauce. I’m not going to cheat and make something exotic. I’m going to start with plain old ketchup and tabasco like everybody else. I actually like that familiar tart-sweet-hot combination with shrimp. But I’m not going to rummage around my fridge for the horseradish I opened in June. I’m going to go all out on a brand new jar, so it’ll be bright and pungent. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and I’ll have Eric asking for my recipe.

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Christmas Bisque

This time of year, I’m obsessed with soups. And not just because it’s cold outside. Have you ever noticed how soup works a kind of magic at big holiday feasts? Soup quiets the crowd in a good way. Serve a small bowl to start and suddenly you’ve got a dinner involving courses. Which makes your whole menu seem more special.

Lobster bisque is a classic, elegant, French soup (probably originally from the Bay of Biscay, known for its crustaceans). Like so many restaurant dishes that seem fancy, bisque is actually a clever use of leftovers––in this case lobster shells.

Don’t stop here just because you don’t happen to have a bunch of lobster carcasses lying around. Ask your fishmonger––that would be us, I hope––for some lobster bodies. We nearly always have plenty at our markets, left over from a morning of prepping lunchtime lobster rolls and packaging up the chilled lobster tails we sell online.

Right here on this recipe, I see a note to myself: “the better the stock, the better the bisque.” I guess I wrote that before Bella and Lili came along and changed our afternoons forever.

What I’ve learned since then is that there’s no sense denying your guests lobster bisque just because you’ve fallen behind in your stock making. The truth is, chicken stock or vegetable broth work for this soup. And so does Kitchen Basics seafood stock.

Elegance does take some effort, though, even if you’ve cheated by using stock from a box. You need an emulsion blender for this recipe, and the guts to stick it into a pot full of shells. At the restaurant, we have an emulsion blender that will take your ankle off, but I use an ordinary one at home and I promise it survives the ordeal.

You want your bisque to have a creamy texture, and I know some cooks who get there by adding a butter-and-flour roux to thicken it. At the restaurant, we blend in rice: that’s the traditional thickener for bisques. But I don’t like my soups too thick. The cream will thicken as it boils, and that plus the ground up lobster (strained through a sturdy fine mesh sieve or a chinoise) is all I use to perfect the texture when I make lobster bisque at home.

Lobster Bisque

Serves 8 as a first course

2 whole lobsters (you’ll add the meat to add to the soup at the end and use the bodies and shells to flavor the base)
2 cups diced celery, leaves included
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced white onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 cups dry sherry (set aside the half cup for finishing the soup)
2 quarts lobster stock (fish, chicken, or vegetable stock works, and so does a good packaged seafood stock like the one from Kitchen Basics)
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs of thyme
1 cup tomato paste
2 quarts heavy cream
sea salt and white pepper
(2 cups diced white mushrooms are an optional last-minute addition that I really like)

Steam the lobsters very briefly: bring about two inches of water to a rolling boil in a big pot; plunge the lobsters in head first; put the cover on the pot and blanch the lobsters for just one minute; remove them and drop them into a big bowl of ice water; drain, then remove the claw and tail meat and set it aside for finishing the soup. The bodies and shells will go in sooner.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot. Add the diced celery, carrot and onion (you can call this the mirepoix if making bisque makes you feel French), and gently cook the vegetables until the onions turn clear. Drop in the lobster bodies and shells.

Add the white wine to the pot and bring it to a fast simmer to reduce it by one half. Add one cup of the sherry to the pot and again reduce the mixture by one half. Now add the lobster stock, bay leaves, thyme (no need to take it off the stems), and tomato paste. Simmer for a half hour, this time reducing the mixture by about one third.

Add the cream and the remaining 1/2 cup of sherry to the soup and simmer it gently for another half hour. The cream will thicken as it boils, and the lobster shells will soften up a bit.

I know it looks impossible, but now’s the time to take your immersion blender to this whole reduction. A home blender will not make a paste of the shells the way a restaurant blender will, but take your time and really bust the shells up well––you want to get all the flavor you can into the mixture.

Working over a clean pot or bowl, pass the bisque through a fine mesh sieve or a chinoise. Press on the shells and push all their flavorful juices through. Season the bisque with sea salt and white pepper.

(Now’s where I sometimes scoop out a cup or two of the soup and put it in the fridge or freezer. It’s just so good stirred with chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, peas, and more lobster, and served over pasta.)

Once the soup is seasoned, add bite-size chunks of the rare lobster meat you set aside earlier. Add the diced mushrooms, too, if you like the combination of lobster and mushrooms the way I do.

Warm the soup for a few minutes to heat it through before serving.

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The Lobster and the Whale

They’re bright and dramatic. Rich and sweet. Great with bubbly. But just in case you need another reason to serve lobster during this season of so much feasting: the end of the year marks the end of the season for our local near-shore lobstermen. It’s time to eat up.

Our winter break from backshore lobsters isn’t actually about the local lobster population, though it may be a good thing for them. Lobstering is tough in an icy nor’easter, so there’s that. But the downtime is designed to protect the northern right whales that swim along the Massachusetts coast in the winter months. That’s when females have their calves in warmer waters south of here. Then, come spring, the rights come through again, eating their way north to their summer feeding grounds.

It wasn’t lobstering but whaling that nearly ended the existence of right whales. Slow-swimming, buoyant, and friendly, these magnificent mammals were the “right” ones to hunt for oil in centuries past. They’ve been protected since the 1930s, but scientists think there may be only about 300 to 400 right whales left. Total.

That’s why it’s so important that our lobstermen do their part to protect them.

The waters directly around us are what the Division of Marine Fisheries calls “a critical habitat” for right whales. Our state’s lobstermen were the first to go to sinking groundlines––a new kind of line that connects lobster pots along the ocean floor. Older-style ropes floated up between the pots, entangling whales. They’ve modified their gear in other ways, too, with weak links that allow ropes to break away easily. During the deep winter, ships are re-routed and asked to travel more slowly to avoid the whales; ship strikes are a major problem.

We can keep you in lobsters from deeper waters through the winter, but it’s not until May, when the whales have moved on, that our local independent fishermen who work from smaller boats in near-shore waters can set their gear again.

Lobster is great for summertime feeds. But I’m for lobster now in honor of our seasonal local lobstermen, and our whales.

Warm Lobster Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

Our end-of-season lobster rush coincides with the arrival of citrus fruits. Lobster, orange, and celery are a classic combination, and the sauteed celery forms a nice warm base for the lobster, so I like this salad even though I’m not a big celery fan. Sometimes I make it with arugula or other salad greens. Just dress them and put the warm lobster on top. Either way, this salad is extra easy to put together if you buy the lobsters already steamed––those of you who are nearby: we can do that for you at Mac’s. If you’re ordering from away, we’ll send instructions on how to steam them.

Serves 4

4 steamed lobsters (one per person if they’re one and a half pounders, fewer if they’re larger)
4 navel oranges
1 bunch celery
1/3 cup fruity olive oil, plus a couple of tablespoons for sauteeing
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, tarragon vinegar, or fresh lemon juice
a few sprigs of fresh mint, for about 1/4 cup of minced leaves
a big pinch of salt

Pick the lobster meat from the shells, slice the tails into thick rounds, and set the meat aside while you prepare the rest of the salad. If the lobster is still warm while you’re picking it, great. If it’s cold, plan to reheat it gently in a skillet with a bit of butter just before you assemble the salad.

I like to drop the shells and bodies into a big pot to make lobster broth––it’s great in soups and risottos––later on.

Slice the peels and white pith from the oranges, then cut them into rounds. Lay a few rounds on each plate. Squeeze the ends of the oranges over a bowl, they’ll give you the juice you want for the dressing. Whisk the vinegar or lemon juice and the salt into the orange juice; stir in the mint, and set the dressing aside.

Slice the celery into pieces about 1/4-inch thick. You want about one cup per person. I like to use the ribs that include the delicate inner leaves and throw a few of the tougher outer ribs into my stockpot with the lobster bodies. Saute the celery in two tablespoons of olive oil until it’s crisp-tender.

Warm the lobster in a skillet with a little butter, if need be. Dress the lobster lightly with the orange-mint vinaigrette.

Put the warm celery on the plates next to the sliced oranges. Pile the lobster salad on top the celery, then drizzle a little extra dressing on top before serving.

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