In this golden age of the lobster roll, the succulent crustaceans arrive on our plates fully plucked and ready to be relished. But in reality, the spiny critters require considerable effort and expertise to break loose from their prison shell. Unless you grew up frequenting the shacks of the Maine coast or on a tropical island somewhere, the task of freeing the sweet meat from the hard shell can be an experience ending in tears, frustration and maybe a few minor flesh wounds.
To show us the real New England way, we asked Ben Conniff of Luke's Lobster to give us a step-by-step visual guide to getting the meat out of a steamed lobster's shell. As purveyors of one of the city's best lobster rolls (and now, grilled lobster tails), Conniff and his team are some of the most knowledgeable lobster claw crackers in the city.
After you've completed your Lobster 101 training, you can confront the big green monster in the room: the tomalley. "Within the body, you'll see some light green stuff; that's the tomalley and the red is the roe," Conniff explains. The roe aren't eggs, actually, as sustainability practices dictate that egg-bearing females must be thrown back. The bright red stuff are just organs and glands, like the tomalley. "Most people tend not to eat these things, but they are considered delicacies to some."
If you're still put-off by all the work involved just to eat dinner—rewarding though it may be—there's always a lobster roll or lobster salad. And then there's the happy medium: lobster tails. Swing by Battery Park (and the Williamsburg Whole Foods, when it opens) for a grilled lobster tail. You'll still have to pluck the fresh meat from the tail—but you can leave the hammers at home.