This evening was delicious. I’m not even only referencing my dinner–the weather was lovely: warm, with a faint breeze that carried a few refreshing raindrops down to my friend’s rooftop… I spent all day cleaning out my dresser and uploading old travel pictures (because I am a procrastinator and that seemed much more interesting than actually accomplishing everything else I set out to do) and was reminiscing in nostalgia. My day flew by in minutes, but that was peachy since I’d been looking forward to this dinner since mid-week. My friend Kyle and I take turns cooking for each other and tonight was his turn to cook for me. I actually can’t remember the last time I cooked for him…but who’s counting? And he had lobster on the menu, so I wasn’t about to bring up the minor detail of whose turn it really was!
I went over to his tiny apartment in the East Village and after our familiar chit chat, we immediately climbed one flight of stairs to the rooftop and got down to business. The cookery kind. He has an ultra fancy, super chic, incredibly versatile….oh wait, he doesn’t own a grill, so instead we grabbed a portable butane stove, a grill pan, and set up shop, with crate boxes substituting for lawn chairs and tables. Kyle had already pre-marinated the lobster in some robo couped lemongrass, fish sauce and loads of black pepper. He also tucked some oyster mushrooms into the mix for a meaty yet light accompaniment. The smell of the grilled seafood and lemongrass was sweet and earthy. We played a little Damian Marley, swigged a bit of Hoegaarden and scraped the bits of charred lemongrass into our mouths as we rotated out the lobster claws for the bodies. We finished grilling right as the last sip was supped from the bottle and rain started dancing on the roof. We turned off Damian and headed back inside, warm lobster scent trailing through the stairwell.
The inspiration for this dish came form one of Kyle’s servers, Apple from Thailand, who cooks family meal once a week. She usually makes som tam (green papaya salad) in two versions: spicy and spicier. I would mud wrestle someone to get in on that family meal! She also makes grilled chicken with the same lemongrass marinade, and thus the directional vision for Kyle’s lobster. I personally adore Thai flavors and the combination of spicy, salty, acidic and sweet leave the taste buds pleading for just one more bite. The flavors tease. Our little dish to accompany the lobster almost stole the limelight away from the charred crustaceans. The intensity of bold flavors uplifted the rice noodles into something spectacular. Kyle threw together a rice vermicelli chilled salad with mangos, avocadoes, shiso, mint, jalapeno, vinegar, lime juice and a dash of fish sauce. The result was electric. It hit all the notes from spicy to sweet, and the shiso and mint livened up the noodles with a green zing, while the avocado created a creamy and luxurious component to the sauce.
It was a simple meal, yet I would have emptied my pockets for it in a restaurant. But hold the phone. Kyle informed me that lobsters are very affordable right now, priced around $5.50/lb. for 1.5 lb lobsters. Normally they run around $7.50/lb. Lobster prices are the cheapest they’ve been in 25 years!! I usually feel like lobster is such a splurge item, but with these cheap prices, I like to think I’ll be eating a whole lot of lobster in my summertime future! And I want to share the lobster wealth, so go out and purchase a couple of lobsters, fire up your grill (or portable burner) and sink your teeth into some glorious tails and claws while the price is right.
For the lobster, you’ll need:
2 1.5 lb lobsters
5 stalks lemongrass, chopped then pulsed in robo coup
enough fish sauce to moisten the lemongrass, about 1/2 cup
lots of black pepper, to taste
Split the lobsters straight down the middle. Using a heavy chef’s knife, put the point right between the eyes to kill the little bugger dead. Then cut all the way through to the tail. Massage its bod with the lemongrass mixture, getting it into all the crevices. Split the claws with scissors (but keep in tact) and stuff those as well. If you want to add oyster mushrooms to the marinade, do it. You’ll be in fungi heaven after you sample one of these lemongrass infused ‘shrooms straight from the grill.
Get the grill/burner smoking hot and grill meat side up first, covering the burner with anything non-flammable (ie. pan or sheet tray). After 5 or 6 minutes, turn the tummy to the grill and finish cooking 3-5 minutes, or until cooked to desired doneness.
The salad is super incredibly easy and you can adjust all the flavors to your personal taste. I like things really hot, so I like the spicier option always. But feel free to omit as you like.
2 small packages (right size) of rice vermicelli or mung bean vermicelli
1 avocado, diced
1 mango, diced
mint half cup, julienned
shiso, half cup, julienned
1-2 limes, juiced
jalapeno, half, cut into thin rounds
1 scallion, sliced on the bias
fish sauce (I like the Squid Brand fish sauce) 1.5 tbsp
rice wine vinegar 1 tbsp
Boil water and lightly season with salt. Pour over vermicelli noodles and let soak for about 5 minutes. Strain and refrigerate. Once cooled, toss with remainder of ingredients and adjust accordingly.
What dish could be better to grill up on a Memorial Weekend? Salute your gramps and all those who gave for our country…then smile and sigh as you eat a scrumptious dinner that’s luxe in taste and easy on the wallet. Commemoration indeed.