Three tips to a better lobster dish

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While food prices are on the rise virtually across the board in the United States, warmer-than-usual weather has led to an influx of lobsters that has driven prices for the crustaceans to steep lows.

Lobster’s low price is a bit of a fluke: Last May, warm weather off the coast of Maine caused lobsters to start their summertime ritual of molting, mating and coming to shore to feed two months early, according to Bill Adler, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobsterman’s Association.

The lobster traps were filled before Canadian processors were ready for them, resulting in a glut of supply that has driven prices in Maine to about half of what they usually are at this time of year. The asking price is well below lobstermen’s $4-per-pound break even point, Adler said.

With all of that affordable lobster, Nation’s Restaurant News asked a group of chefs for advice on preparing and selling lobster.

How to cool a lobster tail

Kevin Sbraga, winner of Top Chef season seven and chef-owner of Sbraga restaurant in Philadelphia, warns against cooling down lobster tails too quickly.

He serves a buttermilk-battered “country fried lobster” in his restaurant, for which he blanches the lobster and then cools it on ice.

“When you completely shock it in ice, it gets waterlogged, and all the proteins coagulate and congeal and you get that white gooey stuff on it,” he said.

Although Sbraga said that goo is good for adding a lobstery finish to sauces, he doesn’t want it on his lobster tail.

Instead, after blanching a one-pound lobster for about a minute and a half, he places it on ice to let it cool more gradually.

Then he dips it in seasoned flour, then in buttermilk, then back in the flour and deep-fries it for three minutes.

“It’s very popular. And honestly, it’s the most tender lobster you’ll ever have. I’m not sure why, but it’s amazing,” he said.

He sells it for an $18 surcharge to his $49 tasting menu.

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