The lobster is a crustacean with an elongated body that thrives in the depths of the sea. Since lobsters generally crawl around at night among the rocks on the seabed, they can be easily caught in sunken cage-like traps.
Found mainly in the Atlantic, the lobster has all but disappeared from European coasts and is sold in Europe at exorbitant prices. It was so abundant in North America during the colonial period that it was regarded with disdain, but as its popularity increased it became the target of an overly aggressive fishery – so aggressive that many countries have been forced to regulate their lobster fisheries in order to protect the species.
The lobster has 5 pairs of claws, the front pair of which is much more highly developed than the others and is equipped with extremely powerful pincers. The larger of these 2 pincers is used to crush food, while the smaller one is used to cut it into pieces. The lobster has a rather well developed abdomen (or tail) that is comprised of seven sections, the last of which is a powerful fan-shaped tail. The pointed head of the lobster is equipped with bulging eyes and is surmounted by a protruding spiny appendage known as the rostrum. Two of the 6 antennae attached to the rostrum are much longer than the others.
The female lobster is distinguished from the male by the appearance of small fins located at the point where the thorax joins the abdomen; the female’s fins, which are used to hold eggs, are thin and webbed, while the male’s are long, stiff and prickly.
The lobster sheds its shell as it grows, replacing it 12 times over a 5-year period. Mature lobsters weigh approximately 1 lb (0,45 kg) and are usually about 1 ft (0,30) long. The North American lobster is a slightly different shape and color from the species found off European coasts. The European lobster is in fact slimmer and longer and has a blue tint, whereas the American lobster’s shell is brownish.
The edible portions of the lobster are the flesh inside its abdomen (or tail) and claws (including the small ones, which are chewable), as well as the coral and the greenish liver inside the thorax. Lean, firm, delicate and very flavorful, the white and pinkish flesh of the lobster comprises only about 30 % of its total weight.
The flesh of the female lobster is often considered superior, especially during the egg-laying season, and is thus more sought after than that of males.
Lobster can be eaten hot or cold but must always be cooked. It is often served with garlic butter, lemon, or mayonnaise, and is sometimes even eaten plain. Prepared in many different ways, lobster is cooked in bisques, soufflés, sauces and au gratin. Classic recipes include lobster Thermidor and lobster Newburg. Cold lobster is used in salads, sandwiches and aspics. The shell can be used to flavor bisques, stews and sauces.
Lobster is rich in potassium, zinc and niacin. The composition of the flesh varies from season to season and from one part of the body to another; the tail contains more nutrients than the claws.