A few weeks ago we were having dinner with our friends, Buschy, Annie, and Chrissy, at an Italian restaurant in the North End of Boston. Chrissy is both an Ital and a Mainer, which meant she had some awesome food knowledge to share at dinner. When she mentioned that her mom makes a lobster marinara sauce by cooking the whole lobsters in the sauce, I knew I would have to give it a try at some point.
This past weekend we visited the extended Ryan family in Little Compton, Rhode Island and stayed in a house across the street from the Sakonnet Lobster company. I woke up on Sunday morning already planning on attempting the lobster marinara, but once I saw it was raining, I decided to turn it into an all-day event. Here’s how it all went.
I knew I had the following ingredients in the house:
- Tomatoes and basil from Tim Ryan’s garden
- Corn, red pepper, red onion, garlic and more tomatoes from Wilburs farmstand
- Potato rolls leftover from Leonard’s 30th birthday party (only two weeks old)
So I headed out at 9AM to make the following stops:
- Fresh spinach fettuccine, yellow onion, and olive oil from Wilburs
- Two pounds of sea scallops from The Last Stand (another little stand that I got littlenecks from the day before)
- Seven lobsters from Sakonnet lobster company
I came home excited and ready to fill the house with cooking stink.
My plan was homemade lobster rolls for lunch, use the shells for lobster stock, then make the lobster marinara for dinner using the stock (with some scallops on the side). One important note: the only items in the house that could be considered spices were salt and pepper grinders. And some sugar, which is kind of a spice. First order of business was steaming five of the lobsters and shelling them.
At this point in the process Tim and my mother both decided to stop by the kitchen to offer supportive words like, “smells like sh*t in here” and, “whoa those smell strong”. That can be expected when you start cooking shellfish in a poorly ventilated kitchen while people are still waking up. Once the lobsters were ready, I threw them into an ice bath.
While I shelled and cleaned the lobster meat I boiled two ears of corn to mix in with the lobster salad.
While the corn was cooking, the shells and basically anything that wasn’t meat went into a stock pot. I crushed them down to make room, covered with water, threw in some quartered red onion and celery and brought it to a boil for the lobster stock.
Back to the lobster rolls. The corn was cut off the cob.
It went into a bowl with the lobster, minced red onion, salt, pepper, a tablespoon+ of mayo, olive oil and a teaspoon of bacon grease from Tim’s breakfast.
Stirred this all together and let it rest for about an hour in the fridge to let the flavors come together. Finished product looked like this:
After lunch, a long nap, and 4 total hours of the lobster stock boiling down and stinking up our rental house, I got back to working on the lobster marinara.
The stock took a couple trips through the strainer and was reserved for later use. It had a greenish-brown tint and I was surprised by how unpleasant looking it was despite having a nice seafood flavor. Just meant I had to keep it covered and not show it to anyone before I added it to the food. With that done, it was time to start the tomato sauce.
The tomatoes took turns going through boiling water for a minute and then into an ice bath.
I was amazed that the peeling was as easy as everyone said it would be. I was nervous it would be similar to the time I tried making roasted red peppers and was successful in only burning my fingers and pissing myself off.
Midway through the cutting and scooping of each tomato I started to understand why using canned tomatoes is the preferred method for making your own tomato sauce.
Before crushing the tomatoes I chopped an onion, a red pepper, and six garlic cloves and threw them into the bottom of a sauce pot with the olive oil. The tomatoes were then crushed using hands and a potato masher which generally made a mess of my clothes and the kitchen. To the crushed tomatoes I added a good amount of fresh basil, salt, pepper, and sugar.
The contents of the bowl went into the pot with the onions/garlic/peppers and a few ladels of the lobster stock. After simmering for 20-30 minutes, I added a big splash of white wine at the urging of Chrissy (via email).
As mentioned above, I was pretending to be Italian. I know, at first, it appeared I overdid it with the sugar. However, as I tasted the sauce, it turned out to be a good amount; the tomatoes were fresh and none of the stuff that gets added to a can of tomatoes was in there. So, I added the lobsters.
After cooking for 10-12 minutes I pulled the lobsters out and let them cool briefly before cracking them over the pot to make sure all the liquid and “gross” stuff went back into the simmering sauce. I burned my hands, proving I am still one of the stupider people you have ever met.
The remainder of the lobster stock was used to boil the spinach fettuccine and give it some lobster flavor in the process.
While all of this was going on, Tim Ryan was tasting everything and was also in charge of cooking the scallops and garlic bread.
A minute before the spinach pasta was dumped into the pot of sauce the lobster meat went back in.
Pasta went in, was tossed around, and dumped into a bowl for serving.
Served with garlic bread and the seared scallops.
The pasta had a strong lobster flavor but not quite enough lobster meat. Also, the sauce was very acidic when hot. Not sure what I would change, in hindsight, aside from adding more lobster meat to the sauce or using less pasta. It was far better as leftovers in the days that followed when the acidity of the tomatoes was less prominent and the lobster and pepper flavor was stronger.
The scallops were perfectly cooked and very sweet but Tim burned the garlic bread. He tried to blame me but he did it. Oh well, he’s dropped enough food knowledge on me over the years to allow me to forgive him. Mostly.
And that was it. No great epilogue, but really looking forward to heading back to Little Compton today for a long weekend of fishing and our newly made cornhole setup.