How to Cook A Live Lobster … Nobu Style
Lobster is a five-star food. It’s third-date territory.
How we adore them … these Lamborghinis of langoustines.
Sorry. We’ll stop. We don’t need to sell you on the awesomeness of lobster.
However, we are betting 90-percent of you have never tackled purchasing a live lobster and cooking it at home. We at The Magazine realized we hadn’t either.
So, we sent our Editorial Director Jenny Adams on a 21-hour plane flight to Hong Kong … to the Michelin-starred Nobu at the InterContinental Hotel. There, she acquired some firsthand facts on cooking the kingpin of seafood from tank to plate.
The InterContinental Hong Kong has a whopping three Michelin-star properties on-site, and while they could have kept all their secrets to themselves, they were kind enough to indulge us with their lobster recipe and with a first-hand experience in taking one from a tank to a plate.
It turns out, Nobu’s famous grilled lobster is, ironically, not that challenging. It takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish. Without further adieu, we present:
How to Cook a Live Lobster
Courtesy of Jenny Adams, Nobu Executive Chef Sean Mell,
and one very sharp knife
1 lb. live lobster
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic, sliced fine
1 Tbsp. fresh yuzu juice (purchase at any Japanese grocery)
1 dash truffle oil
1 teaspoon fresh chives, finely chopped
Fresh, bright frisée lettuce for plating
Small black truffle, fine shaved
Nobu dry miso seasoning (purchase it here)
Salt to taste
Lemon slices for garnish
Step 1 Buying a Lobster:
One pound feeds one person on average. If you are making a surf & turf, a ½ lb. will suffice.
“You want a lobster that reacts when someone picks it up. If it’s listless, it’s not fresh,” explains Chef Mell. “The lobster can actually live just fine in your fridge in a Pyrex dish for a few days if you put a wet towel over it.”
Adams countered with important questions:
“Will the lobster suffer living under a towel?”
“Will it get out of the Pyrex dish and open the door to the Sub-Zero, and crawl into my bed while I sleep?”
“But what if I get one without rubber bands on its claws?”
A lobster can take off an index finger, so their claws are banded on the boat immediately. If you see a lobster without rubber bands on its claws, flee that seafood shop and never return. Again, it cannot open the door of your fridge from the inside.
Step 2: Killing the Lobster
If you want the full experience (and super fresh meat), you’re going to have to kill a lobster.
Take a deep breath, say a heartfelt thank you to the life you are about to extinguish, and then plunge in. Literally.
“You want to penetrate it straight down through the center of the head,” Chef Mell offers. “The shell is not hard to break if your knife is good and sharp. It dies instantly. Once you’ve stabbed clean through, pull the knife down through the front of the head.”
NOTE: Because of the central nervous system shutting down, a dead lobster will continue to twitch afterwards … for a whole 20 to 30 minutes even. (Adams jumped every time this happened.)
It’s normal. You’re not operating some horrible lobster torture chamber in your kitchen.
Step 3: Cleaning the Lobster
Cut through the body all the way to the tail and remove both claws.
Inside, you’ll find a green paste. This is the tomalley … a.k.a., lobster liver. Tomalley is packed with intense, super-seafood flavor. If you want, reserve this to add to a butter sauce or pan-sear and toss it back in with the meat. For a milder flavor, throw it out. Remove the spinal cord and anything that isn’t obviously lobster meat. You can run the lobster under the sink water to ensure you have only meat left.
Step 4: Cooking the Lobster
Place claws into the boiling water for 4 minutes. Remove and submerge in an ice bath. Set aside.
Brush your entire lobster - meat and shell - with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, and place it meat-side-down on the grill for 3 minutes. Flip and grill 3 minutes on the shell side. Remove the lobster from the grill and set aside.
Crack open the claws using sharp kitchen scissors, extract the meat, and chop it up. Remove the body meat from the lobster, careful not to damage the shell, and chop it. Mix it all meat together and arrange inside the lobster shell. Fry finely sliced garlic in olive oil in a skillet for a few minutes until crispy and browned. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.
Step 5: Dressing and Plating the Lobster
When a prepared lobster comes through the dining room at Nobu, you had better believe heads are swiveling. Orders suddenly increase. They can plate 50 on a busy night in Hong Kong, and that’s largely thanks to a stunning, colorful presentation.
Place your lobster on a pile of bright green frisée salad.
In a cup, whisk extra virgin olive oil, fresh yuzu juice, truffle oil, a pinch of salt and Nobu’s dry miso seasoning to your tastes.
Drizzle the dressing over the lobster meat. Top it with chopped chives, fried garlic and a few shavings of black truffles.
“We garnish our dish with lemon slices and bright pink hajikami,” finishes Chef Mell. “You can buy hajikami in any Japanese store. It’s a naturally hot pink vegetable, and we put it in vinegar, sugar, and salt for an hour to lightly pickle it.”
And that’s it. It’s that simple.
If you want to hang out in the InterContinental kitchens with Chef Mell and his team of culinary super stars, you can request a private lesson for yourself or a small group you’re traveling with. Simply email email@example.com to discuss upping your skills at pastry, sashimi, dim sum or traditional Cantonese dishes.