This is how my grandma cooked lobster, when we were lucky enough that my fisherman uncle Emilio would catch one or two. Lobster cooked slowly with tomato, vinegar, and onions is delicious on its own, but we served it over polenta, or to dress pasta. The vinegar in this recipe is an old technique used by Venetian sailors to preserve their food while at sea—it actually gives a nice balance to the sweetness of the lobster. Needless to say, it is one of my favorite ways to eat lobster.
- Six 1 1/4-pound Maine lobsters
- 1 cup all-purpose flour for dredging
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 ½ cups diced onion
- 1 cup diced scallions
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 3 cups hot water
- 4 cups crushed canned Italian plum tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 1 pound spaghetti
Cut the live lobsters into serving pieces for sauce according to the directions for the Lobster Fra Diavolo (p. XXX.) If you plan to serve the lobster with pasta, bring 4 quarts salted water to a boil.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, lightly coat the exposed meat of the lobster tails with flour, shaking off excess flour. The oil is hot enough when a corner of a lobster tail dipped in the oil gives off a lively sizzle. Add lobster tails, meat side down, and cook, shaking the skillet occasionally, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove the tails from the oil and set them aside.
Heat 1/3 cup of the olive oil in a large, wide saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the lobster body pieces and cook, stirring, until they turn bright red, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook 5 minutes. Blend the vinegar with hot water, then pour into the pan and bring to a full boil. Add the tomatoes and salt, bring to a boil, and cook 3 minutes. Stir in peperoncino to taste.
Remove the lobster bodies with tongs, allowing all juices to drain back into sauce, keep warm, they may be served on a communal platter in the center of the table. The most delicate meat is in those bodies and should not be wasted.
Add the claws to the pan and cook 7 minutes. Add the reserved tails, lobster legs and the remaining olive oil. Simmer until the lobster tails are fully cooked, 3 to 5 minutes longer over high heat, skimming off all surface foam. Remove the tails and claws, and keep warm under aluminum foil. Bring the sauce to a boil and boil until slightly thickened. Arrange the lobster pieces on a warm platter and spoon the hot sauce over them.
To serve the brodetto with pasta, cook and drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add half the lobster sauce and toss to coat over low heat. Transfer the pasta to a platter and flank with the lobster pieces. Spoon the remaining sauce over the lobster.