Though lobster was once one of the cheapest meats around, now the sweet protein is reserved for special occasion meals. Preparing a lobster dinner for four doesn't need to be an elaborate effort to yield delectable results. The right preparations and side dishes highlight your lobster's natural flavor, leaving your family impressed with your culinary prowess, even if your time in the kitchen was swift and simple.
Choosing Your Lobster
Try the seafood department of your local grocery store for fresh lobsters. Lobsters are sold by the pound, and a 1-pound lobster will give you 2/3 cup of meat, plenty for small children but skimpy for adults. For adults, opt for 1 1/2- to 2-pound lobsters that yield a bit more meat but aren't tough or too expensive. Lobsters that look lethargic in their tank may have been there for a while, and the longer they sit in a tank the more their muscle -- and meat -- breaks down. Stick to lobsters that still have some fight in them to ensure that you're getting the freshest ones and the tastiest meat.
Before cooking, stick the lobsters in the freezer for 10 minutes to numb them and slow their movements. Boiling is the simplest cooking method. You'll need a pot that's large enough to accommodate four lobsters covered with salted water. Add white wine, lemon or vegetables to the water and reserve it to use later as a stock. Lobsters need 10 minutes of boiling time for the first pound of weight, and three minutes for each additional pound. To steam lobsters, keep them on the steaming rack for 14 minutes for the first pound and three minutes for each additional pound. For smoky flavor, parboil your lobsters for five minutes, then grill over medium heat on their backs. Splitting the tail during grilling lets you add melted butter, lemon or seasoning to the tail meat.
Tips for Kids
Lobsters are labor-intensive, and small children may have trouble getting the meat out of the lobster shell. One option is to remove the meat from the claws and tail prior to serving so all the work is done for the little ones. Save yourself time and money by purchasing cooked, prepared lobster meat at the grocery store -- it just needs to be heated in the microwave, or it can be served cold with some mayonnaise and seasoning or creamy ranch dressing for a kid-friendly lobster salad. If you want to keep everyone's plate the same, consider preparing baked lobster tails, which are cracked and seasoned with butter and breadcrumbs, instead of whole lobsters.
Sides and Pairings
Because lobster is the main event of the meal, stick to sides that won't steal the flavor show. Traditional options, like coleslaw and potato salad, are casual sides for summer dinners on the back porch. Lobster meat is not heavy, so a hearty starch like a baked potato or even a side of fresh-baked sweet potato fries complements the lighter main. For a tasty twist on traditional fare, serve up lobster with a citrus and jicama salad that is refreshing and sophisticated. Dipping sauces can be as simple as melted butter or a slice of lemon, or you can think outside the box with Thai-inspired peanut sauces or spicy mango chutney.