A simple approach to cooking lobsters, even for a novice, this dish starts by boiling lobsters in aromatics then splitting them “Baja-style” and finishing in the oven with a compound fennel butter. Fennel tastes a little like anise, a little like celery, and a little like dill, with a hint of sweet citrus. Paired with butter, it becomes something you’ll want to use on all kinds of foods! Pair the lobsters with a garlicky Basmati or Mexican rice, warm tortillas, and your favorite salsa, or whatever sides you prefer.
Recipe by Lindsay Evans Smith (LindsayEats) for Catalina Offshore Products. Serves 2-4 people, depending on if each person gets a whole lobster or a half!
For the Fennel Butter
- 12 Tbsp softened butter (room temp)
- Fennel fronds of one bulb, roughly chopped (more to taste)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Zest of half a lemon
For the Lobster:
- 2 whole California spiny lobsters*
- 2 fennel bulbs, quartered
- 2 lemons, quartered
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1 head garlic, peeled
- Handful black peppercorns
- 1 tsp salt
- Prepare fennel butter by mixing fronds into softened butter with the minced garlic and lemon zest. Place butter in plastic wrap and roll it to from a log. Place log in freezer while you cook the lobster. Once chilled, you can easily slice it into rounds.
- Fill a large stockpot with water, add the quartered fennel bulbs, lemons, onions, peeled garlic, peppercorns, and salt and bring to a boil.
- Once water is boiling, carefully submerge lobsters into the water and cover with a lid. Cook for about 5 minutes until lobsters turn bright red.
- Using tongs, remove lobsters from the pot and transfer to a bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking. Drain.
- To split each lobster, place a lobster on a cutting board with the tail closest to you. Hold down the body with one hand, and place a chef’s knife at the center of the lobster where the tail meets the body and cut in half lengthwise. Rotate lobster so that the head is closest to you; repeat, cutting through body and head.
- Inside the shell, you will notice a greenish substance. This is known as the tomalley—the lobster’s liver and pancreas—which is edible. However, if it makes you squeamish, remove it with a spoon or by rinsing it away under water. If the lobster is female, you might also see black or red roe (eggs). Black roe is not safe to eat, so discard that, but you can eat red roe.
- Line a sheet pan with tin foil and lay the lobster halves on it, cut side up. Brush the meat with a bit of olive oil.
- Remove fennel butter from freezer and plastic wrap, and slice into rounds. Place 2-3 slices of butter on each lobster half.
- Place lobster under broiler for 3-5 minutes, until butter is melted and lobster is slightly browned.
- Remove lobster from oven, spritz with lemon and serve on a platter accompanied by rice, tortillas, and salsa or your preferred sides.
* If purchasing live lobsters from a fish market and aren’t comfortable cooking them whole, ask the fishmonger to split and clean them for you. When you get home, you can cook them according to Steps 7-9 above. Just be sure to broil until the meat is opaque and the internal temperature is 135°F to 140°F since you’ll have skipped the poaching step.