Thursday, 4 September 2014

What’s in a Maine lobster boat’s name? Every one tells a story.

Down East Magazine has published a wonderful photo feature on Maine lobstermen and the names of their boats.  The photos of the fishermen - some hail from my home town of Cutler - are evocative and the text speaks to the stories behind the names on their fishing vessels.

The piece reminded me of one of the sections in my book which covered the  traditions and trends around lobster boat naming in Downeast Maine.  I have always loved gazing at a harbor full of fishing vessels and studying the names.  The Vanessa Jane. Money Pit. Freedom. Each name tells a story.  A wife or daughter.  A financial commitment.  Liberation from corporate America.

When I was in the research phase of writing my book, I was able to obtain some wonderful data* from the Department of Marine Resources, including the names of all licensed lobster fishing boats in Maine.  I learned that roughly 60 percent of Downeast lobster boats have a female name.  Further research, via surveys, showed that most often a lobsterman names his boat after his wife.

Beyond female names, I noticed several other interesting lobster boat naming themes. Many names reference the significant financial undertaking of owning a fishing vessel.  Under Pressure, All In and In the Red are reminders that today's lobster boats cost more than the average home in Maine.  Debt Ication, Second Mortgage and A Loan Again hearken to the important yet precarious relationship most fishermen have with the bank.

Other names touch on the self-reliant spirit of Downeasters. Born Free, Independence and Who's the Boss are nods to the rugged individualists who inhabit the easternmost point of America. And then there are the nautical puns - from the Nauti Gal to Chasin' Tail.

Predictable pun or no, every lobster boat name tells a story about its owner.  And even though the majority of Maine fishing vessels have female names, I still feel incredibly special to have a lobster boat named after me.  It has been about 30 years now that Christina Marie has been painted across the bow and stern of my father's boat and it never gets old - to me at least.  As Down East digital editor Laura Serino touched on in her video, it makes you feel lucky to know that you hold such a special place in a fisherman's heart.

Please share with me any fun or funny lobster boat names of which you know.  I would love to hear them and see pictures of them.  It might even inspire me to write another post on the subject.

*Note: My DMR Data was from 2011.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Lobster for Labor Day - Five Fantastic Recipes

Labor Day is upon us.  What better way to celebrate these fleeting days of summer than with some lobster.  Sunny Maine days are made for clam bakes on the beach, seafood BBQs and lobster boils.  Here are five easy recipes for your lobster leftovers that go beyond a basic lobster roll.  Enjoy!

1. The Lobster Club - The juxtaposition of the salty, crispy bacon against the sweet lobster meat and the savory cheese is heavenly. As an added bonus, lobster is leaner than the traditional turkey or chicken club sandwich fillings.

Lobster Club Sandwich

2. Lobster Grilled Cheese Sandwich - Fire up your George Foreman Grill for this magnificent merger of humble grilled cheese and luxurious Maine lobster.

Lobster Grilled Cheese Sandwich

3. Lobster Fettuccine Alfredo - Some pasta and Alfredo sauce are all you need to transform a handful of left over lobster meat into a satisfying dinner.  Toss in some jumbo shrimp for an extra injection of texture and protein.

lobster shrimp fettuccine alfredo


4. Lobster Pasta with Mascarpone and Peas - The creamy, smooth texture and subtle flavor of the mascarpone cheese in this dish enhances the sweet, succulent taste of lobster. Fresh garden peas enhance the essence of summer.

Lobster Pasta Recipe

5. Lobster Newburg - This recipe, handed down from my grandmother to my mother and then to me, is as simple as it is delicious. No cognac or sherry. No eggs or cream. Just a basic white sauce, enhanced with some nutmeg and Cayenne pepper, ladled over toasted saltine crackers.
Enjoy! 

And if you have any lobster recipes that you are happy for me to share on this blog, please email me at christinalemieux(at symbol) gmail.com

Lobster Pasta with Mascarpone and Peas - Yes Please!

plate of lobster pasta
Lobster and Cavatelli pasta, enrobed in mascarpone cheese.
Several summers ago I was on a mission to find quick and easy lobster recipes to add to my repertoire. I sometimes find it hard to stray beyond the basics because steamed lobster, lobster rolls and lobster Newburg taste so mind-blowingly good. But a month long vacation in Cutler, with access to as much lobster as I could shake a stick of Cabot butter at, prompted me to take my lobster cooking to a new level.

I made a lip-smacking lobster fettuccine Alfredo, a towering lobster club sandwich, golden grilled cheese stuffed with morsels of lobster meat and a zesty lobster Caesar salad. By the end of my month in Maine, I was running out of ideas for new crustacean creations. Thankfully, my best friend and favorite cooking partner came for a visit and suggested a lobster pasta recipe from Epicurious magazine.

The lobster recipe had only 12 ingredients and could be prepared in under 20 minutes if one was working with lobster leftovers (cooked and shelled meat), which we were. The elements of the dish also ticked a lot of boxes for me. The recipe called for mascarpone cheese, which tastes amazing with lobster. Similar to ricotta, which I use in my lobster ravioli, mascarpone has a creamy, smooth texture and a subtle flavor that enhances the sweet, succulent taste of lobster. The recipe also called for peas, which I love serving with my lobster Newburg, and Cavatelli pasta, which has a fun shape, similar to that of a hot dog bun. The other ingredients - shallots, garlic, parsley, thyme, chives, olive oil and salt - are kitchen staples for many cooks and not hard to source if you’re in a remote part of Maine like Cutler.

To make the recipe, we gathered fresh peas from my father’s vegetable garden and cut the cooked lobster meat into bite-sized chunks. We boiled and drained the pasta and peas then heated the oil in a large sauté pan, adding the shallots and garlic. After about a minute of cooking, the shallots and garlic turned translucent and we added the chicken stock, peas, parsley, thyme, chives, pasta, Mascarpone and lobster to the mix. We could quickly see that the existing sauce was not nearly enough to properly coat the pasta in the way we envisioned it would so, in another pan, we pulled together a second batch of sauce consisting of reduced white wine, chicken stock, the rest of the container of mascarpone, a few tablespoons of flour and some salt. Even with this slight detour the whole sauteing process took less than 10 minutes. Once the additional batch of sauce was added to the original dish the composition was perfect. Then it was on to eating – my favorite step of any recipe!

If you make this dish, I encourage you to get creative with the sauce.  Taste as you cook and adjust along the way until you get the flavor and consistency of sauce you desire. And enjoy.

Lobster Pasta with Mascarpone and Peas Recipe

Ingredients

2 pounds cooked, picked lobster meat, cut into bite sized chunks
1 pound cavatelli pasta (fresh if you can find it)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup of chicken stock (alternatively you can make your own lobster stock)
1/2 cup of white wine
8 ounces fresh peas (if you must use frozen peas, use the small, flavorful petit pois)
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 cup Mascarpone (add even more if you want a creamier texture)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons of flour

Instructions

Cook the lobsters (if necessary). Boil and drain the pasta and the peas.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan, adding the shallots and garlic. After about a minute of cooking, when the shallots and garlic turn translucent, add the white wine and reduce.

Add the chicken stock (or lobster stock), peas, parsley, thyme, chives, pasta, Mascarpone, and lobster. Simmer until lobster is heated through. Spoon in a few tablespoons of flour to thicken and a bit of salt.

Spoon onto your plates and serve.

Lobster pasta mascarpone peas
Lobster pasta.