Japanese-Style Lobster Cooking in NYC

I’ve been writing a book on food and travel, which I have mentioned briefly in prior posts. It will be released in the fall, and I cannot wait to share it with you. It’s full of practical tips for travel and finding food as you do so, many food photos (of course!) and narrative threaded throughout. As a reward for what has been several months of self-imposted hermitage (I noted to a friend that I was a “filthy blogger living in a pile of words,” which is pretty much what it felt like these last weeks), I took a lobster sashimi cooking class in New York. We each made maki rolls topped with sashimi from the tail, lobster miso soup and lobster claw hand rolls with shiso leaf, avocado and cucumber.

cooking class in new york
Lobster white miso soup with scallions.

Unsurprisingly, it was delicious.

Step-by-Step: My Lobster Cooking Class in New York

We started with the live lobster. Of course, I had to name mine, despite the advice of my classmates who suggested I not name an animal I was about to kill. I named him Lester.

cooking class in new york
Sorry Lester…

Step one was cutting off the tail with a swift incision. The swiftness was to ensure the quickest death, though I quickly learned that while the lobster was technically dismembered, he still thought he was alive – both claws and tail kept moving, separately. Yes, this is as creepy as it sounds.

cooking class in new york
Removing the lobster tail.
Lobster cooking class
The 6 of us working on our lobster tail skills.

Step two was removing the tail meat itself, cutting away the cartilage and scooping out the raw lobster. The meat was blanched for a short few seconds, then immediately dunked into an ice bath. We dried the meat off in paper towels and set aside.

Lobster tail and head
Yes, I only included this photo because it looks as though the lobster is about to take the knife and get back at all of us…

The heads of the lobsters were cut into two and boiled in water for 20 minutes, to use as a base for our miso soup.

Lobster claws and head before
Lobster claws and head before….
Lobster claws and head after cooking for 20 minutes
Lobster claws and head after cooking for 20 minutes.

In the interim, we sliced avocado, set out our accoutrements for the maki – rolling bamboo mats, shiso leaf, thinly sliced cucumbers (Persian cucumbers preferred, said our instructor Misako) and nori.

Shiso leaf
I love the wavy edges of shiso leaf.
Sushi-making accoutrements
Sushi-making ingredients.

We rolled up mini-maki of shiso, avocado and cucumber, topped with our lobster sashimi.

Lobster maki
My very own Lester-lobster-maki.

Finished product:

Jodi Ettenberg
A great evening.

And one more of the miso soup:

Lobster miso soup
Finished soup!

After centring my energy on writing for so long, I was very happy to have found out about this course at the last-minute.

Some notes from the course.

  • According to Misako, lobsters get “quiet” when you  put them on ice, but you should be careful never to put them in or under tap water. Ice only to sedate them prior to using.
  • For buying sushi rice, she suggests a Japanese or Asian grocer where turnover is quicker, and recommends either Kagayaki Select or Tamaki Gold brands.
  • For sushi vinegar, instead of making her own she used Mitsukan-brand sushi vinegar, pre-mixed for us. If you have an issue with MSG, then making your own with 4 tbsp rice vinegar, 4 tbsp sugar and 2 tsp of salt is recommended.

More soon, but I wanted to post an update on the book’s progress since it figures so largely in my own head and schedule.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer!

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