Food With Legs

We had to take the dog in for surgery last week. We knew it was coming and planned it for the week before Christmas because we knew it would be a quiet time. With all of our shopping and baking and wrapping done ahead of time, we had nothing to do but sit around, watch movies and pamper a recovering pet.

Except things don’t always work out as planned and our pooch came home with a painkiller patch on his belly – that didn’t work. By the night of the 23rd, when the anaesthetic had worn off, he was miserable and was whining and yowling in pain – straight through the night. We got zero sleep and didn’t know what to do. On the morning of Christmas Eve, I rushed over to the vet’s office for new painkillers; apparently there’s a small percentage of dogs that just don’t take to that medication – I had one of them. Needing groceries, I also stopped at the local Metro and grabbed three lobster.

Lobster are typically cheap around the holidays, and Greg and I have a tradition of eating lobster on Christmas Eve. I got the last three in the tank, telling the girl behind the counter that I only wanted them if they were alive and active. She assured me they were and boxed them up.

The new drugs took a while to kick in, and removing the useless medication patch took almost an hour – more yowling, whining and general misery for my poor pup. At this point we were so exhausted that we really weren’t in the mood for lobster at all. And since the dog was refusing to take his meds by all the normal methods (he was even refusing peanut butter), I needed a good trick to get the new painkillers down his gob so he would feel better.

So we ordered pizza so I could hide his pills in the crust.

What to do with the lobster, though? I pulled the box out of the fridge and discovered that only one of the three lobsters was alive. Not cool. They would still be edible (they were alive before the gal pulled them out of the tank at the store), but not for long. So with pizza coming, I steamed the lobsters anyway, just because the meat would be in better condition cooked.

We went out for lunch on Christmas Day, the dog thankfully well on his way to recovery now that he wasn’t in excruciating pain, and didn’t end up eating the lobster until lunch on Boxing Day. The meat was fine, but it’s longer that I like to keep cooked fish so I had to use it all.

We typically eat lobster in the down east style – that is, cover the table with newspaper, melt some butter and have at it. Maybe we have some corn on the cob or potato salad or bread, but usually not. That stuff all just gets in the way. If we’re just eating the lobster plain, then three canners (1 – 1.5lb each) is perfect. One each is not enough and two per person is too much. But in a risotto, three lobsters between two people is a LOT of lobster. When I make this dish again, two will be more than enough, and it would not be unreasonable to cook four servings of rice to two lobsters. Although with fewer legs per serving, the presentation won’t be quite as cool.

Because while it’s dead simple to get the tail and claw meat out of cold lobsters, the legs are not so easy. And some of the sweetest meat is in those little legs. So while I made the risotto in the normal way, adding the meat about halfway through to flavour the rice, I tossed all of the legs in at the end, not knowing what else to do with them. Next time I’ll do the steaming and the risotto together and will use the shells to make a lobster stock, which I could have done this time, had I not been so exhausted on Christmas Eve that I didn’t think of it until after the fact.

I got my Christmas lobster after all, and it was possibly even better than the messy newspaper and butter style of enjoying it. Certainly worth doing again. And the dog? He was feeling so much better by Boxing Day that he sat beside me while we ate, hoping and praying that someone would drop some of that damned lobster on the floor.