Each year native Floridians look forward to the annual opening of the Florida spiny lobster harvest season. The season kick-off is August 6th and you can be sure that the fishermen will be out harvesting this culinary delicacy as soon as it does. The good news is that consumer prices are predicted to be very affordable at the retail level for 2009.
Spiny lobsters, also known as rock lobsters, are crustaceans related to crabs, shrimp, crayfish and the Spanish lobster. The commercial fishery for spiny lobster occurs off South Florida and primarily in the Florida Keys. The majority of the spiny lobster landed in the U.S come from from Florida. According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries, spiny lobster population levels are estimated to be high and no overfishing is occurring.
However, to assure sustainability, Florida’s spiny lobster industry supports a trap reduction program put forth by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This program will help reduce the number of traps that can be used in the commercial spiny lobster fishery. Current Florida regulations for the
spiny lobster fishery include: a commercial trap reduction program; a harvest season that only goes from August 6th to March 31st; a minimum carapace length of three inches; gear prohibitions; and prohibition of harvesting egg-bearing lobsters.
A cooked spiny lobster produces a melt-in-your-mouth white meat that is mild with a slightly sweet flavor. It is low in calories and high in protein. Spiny lobsters are
usually sold frozen, not live like Maine lobsters. Unlike their cold-water cousins, they don't have claws - only the tail is eaten. Lobster lovers sometimes debate the merits of both varieties, but many Floridians prefer the spiny lobster because it is lower in cholesterol and they appreciate that it is harvested locally.
When you purchase Florida’s spiny lobsters you should plan on about one pound per serving. Follow these tips to make the most of your culinary experience.
* Cook lobster tail meat until opaque and plump.
* Boiled lobster: Place in boiling salted water and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes. For tails only, simmer for 5 to 10 minutes depending on size.
* Grilled lobster: Brush tail meat with olive oil and place on grill, meat side down, for 5-6 minutes per side.
* To remove tail meat from a raw, whole lobster: Break tail section away from the body. Cut through the underside of the tail shell with kitchen shears. Pull shell apart from top to fan tip and remove meat. Remove the sand vein with a shallow cut along the top of the meat.
If you want to go a little more gourmet, try this “Crab-Stuffed Florida Lobster” recipe created by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer services’ Bureau of Seafood and Aquaculture. This recipe offers a double bonus because it contains Florida spiny lobster AND Florida blue crab. Go Native!
2 whole Florida lobsters, split lengthwise
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon Florida celery, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup Florida crab meat, flaked
1 tablespoon butter, melted
3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
Rinse lobster body cavity thoroughly; set aside. In a small skillet, sauté the celery and shallot in butter until soft. Stir in the flour, dry mustard, cayenne and milk. Simmer until thickened. Add crab meat and spoon mixture into the lobster body. Brush lobster meat with melted butter. Sprinkle bread crumbs and paprika over crab stuffing and lobster meat. Bake on oven-proof pan at 400° F for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through and lightly browned.
Yield: 2 servings
Nutritional Value Per Serving: Calories 465, Calories From Fat 151, Total Fat 17g, Saturated Fat 85g, Trans Fatty Acid 0, Cholesterol 236mg, Total Carbohydrate 15g, Protein 59g, Omega 3 Fatty Acid 1.06g.
For other Florida seafood recipes, visit the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Bureau of Seafood and Aquaculture Marketing’s website at www.FL-Seafood.com.