The lobster is a large salt water shellfish belonging to the crab family. The common lobster is found in European coastal waters in the north Atlantic and Mediterranean and an American variety is found along the Atlantic coast of North America.

The true lobster is distinguishable from the spiny lobster or CRAWFISH because its first three pairs of legs end in pincers. The first pair is very large and heavy.

A fully grown European lobster can weigh up to 10 pounds and occasionally 15 pounds. American lobsters at their largest can reach double that size. But for eating purposes a lobster should not weigh more than 2-2 to 3 pounds, as over that weight the flesh tends to be coarse.

Male and female lobsters are called cock and hen and there is some difference of opinion as to which is the superior. The cock has larger claws but smaller tail. The flesh from the claws is more tender but that from the tail has more flavour.

The hen has roe, or coral, which is a blackish-green when raw and a bright red when cooked. Coral is used as a garnish or to flavour and colour a sauce. The creamy greyish-green substance in the lobster is the liver or tomalley. The only inedible parts of the lobster are the stomach (a small sac near the head) and the intestinal tract.

Live lobster is a rich bluish-black colour cither tinged with green or purple. When cooked the lobster turns a bright red.

If you are buying live lobsters, see that they are active. A dead or dying lobster should never be cooked.

Allow half a large lobster (approx-imately 2 to 3 pounds) or 1 small lobster per serving.

The most usual way of cooking lobster is to boil it. There are two ways of doing this. The first, and reputedly more humane, method is to place the lobster in a large saucepan. Cover it with cold salted water and bring it to the boil very slowly over moderately low heat. When the water comes to the boil, increase the heat to moderately high and boil the lobster for 20 minutes.

The second method is to plunge the lobster head-first into boiling water and then cook it for 20 minutes. Cool the lobster in the cooking liquid.

Alternatively, the lobster may be killed before cooking. Tie the claws together and lay the lobster on a chopping board.

With a towel wrapped around one hand for protection, grasp the lobster firmly. With a large heavy sharp knife, cut through the lobster behind the head to sever the spinal cord.

To prepare a boiled lobster for the table, first twist off the large claws. Crack them with a nutcracker or a light hammer through the centre and at the joint. Remove the smaller claws which are used for garnishing. Using a large pointed knife, split the lobster from head to tail down the middle. Remove the sac, intestine and gills. Retain the liver. To serve lobster, arrange it with the head upright and the split tail and claws around it. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.

Lobster may also be grilled . First kill the lobster, then slit it in two lengthwise. Remove the sac and the intestine. Brush the lobster halves with butter or oil, and season with salt and pepper. Preheat the grill to high. Place the lobster in the grill pan, shell side down, and grill for 12 to 15 minutes or until it is cooked right through. Serve the lobster halves in their shells, garnished with parsley and lemon wedges.

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