|My take on an old Italian-American favorite: Lobster Brotha' Devil|
Lobster is not a food that featured heavily in my diet until we moved to Maine. It's expensive and kind of rare in, oh, you know, everywhere. In fact, I could count the number of times I'd had a whole lobster in the shell before I got to Portland on, well, one finger. :) I'd had lobster tails or lobster meat in pasta dishes maybe 5-10 times other than that, and therefore, having lobster has always had an absolutely mythical excitement surrounding it to me. I remember almost every single lobster meal I've had pretty clearly. And I am sure by now you know that I am a meal-remember that can hang with the best of them.
As a small homage to my past lobster experiences, several weeks ago I recreated one of my favorite Lobster dishes in the world - a dish that has special meaning to me because I've always eaten it at great restaurants and on memorable occasions: Lobster Fra Diavolo. The ensuing lobster murder (because I decided to cut it in half while alive rather than just boil it whole) was semi-traumatic, but not traumatic enough to stop me from eating lobster again (and again).
With its spicy tomato sauce, Lobster Fra Diavolo can be a highly messy affair if the lobster does not come a) already picked for you or b) sliced in half lengthwise, which isn't ideal given that it's an expensive dish generally served at expensive establishments, which means you're probably dressed up when eating it. As far as life experiences go, leaving a restaurant with a stained dress and garlic/lobster breath is a small price to pay as far as I'm concerned. :)
Now this is also an interesting dish because it's technically considered more Italian-American than Italian-Italian as a dish. The name "Fra Diavolo" means "brother devil," with the brother referring more to a monk or religious brother than the kid your mom also gave birth to. I am not certain whether there is a connection or not but, tenuous as it is, there was also a crazy Neapolitan guerrilla leader named Michele Pezza back in the early 19th century who was nicknamed Fra Diavolo because he was such a brat as a kid.
From his photos Mikey looks like kind of a DB; I'm not gonna lie. And I therefore am going to go ahead and un-claim any possible, tenuous connection he might have to the nomenclature of this favored dish of mine. Someone who looks like that just doesn't deserve the honor:
If you want to make Lobster Fra Diavolo, I highly recommend Deborah Mele's recipe on Italian Food Forever. My modifications: use spaghetti, omit the basil, add more garlic, and add a generous helping of chopped fresh italian parsley and fresh lemon juice as a final garnish. Don't forget an extra plate for the lobster shell bits. :)
And now the list of the day.
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My Top 5 Lobster Meals Ever.
So good the devil may actually care.
So good the devil may actually care.
5. The First: The first time I ever had lobster was in college at a no-name place in Cambridge, MA with Matt. We got two 1lb lobsters for $20 and I was traumatized by the sheer quantity of butter Matt consumed in one sitting. Ah, the college days.
4. The Last: The last time I ever ate at Steak-n-Ale was on my 1st anniversary with Matt in South Bend, IN. I foolishly ordered the surf-n-turf and it was...pretty bad. Mental note: they don't serve seafood often in the Midwest for a reason. Still, great time. :)
3. The In-Laws: A few months before we got married, in March or April 2006, our parents met for the first time and had lunch together at Patsy's in the Upper West Side. I boldly ordered Lobster Fra Diavolo. It came out in all its glory on a huge platter, pre-cracked claws and lobster body. To this day I maintain that everyone had entree envy.
2. The Roll: A year ago or so I wrote about the best lobster roll I've ever had. It was at the Lobster Landing in Connecticut and since then I've had a lot more lobster rolls here in Maine but none have ever compared. I am not a fan of mayonnaise on seafood, which is the Maine-style of Lobster roll. I want the hot meat, hot roll and hot butter poured all over it.
1. The Utter Madness: The second best Lobster Fra Diavolo I've ever had was at Cafe Tacci in New York, a place that no longer exists in its original form. It was a small restaurant in NYC where professional opera singers would come to sing on a tiny wooden stage in their own time, while you ate and chatted. The food was great and the ambiance was nothing short of total madness with Bolero! being belted out, the table shaking, and the tiny restaurant reverberating under the weight of the hefty voices. Amazing.