Give your favorite birthday guy a good meal, not another tie

Entertaining

A lobster feast is perfect for good times and good company

Entertaining

July 14, 2002|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I laughed out loud when I read a column by Dave Barry who wrote that he (like most men) hoped never to receive another tie or shirt for his birthday. My wise husband long ago made it clear that he needed no such material goods to celebrate these occasions and, instead, requested a meal of his favorite dishes to share with family and friends. This year, he has been planning his birthday fete for several weeks and already has the guest list intact. He has pressed for lobsters, corn-on-the-cob and coleslaw to be part of the main course, and a favorite cake for dessert.

His big day falls in the heart of summer, when lobsters are in season and priced reasonably, so I decided to work on a flavored butter to serve with this shellfish. I started by adding orange juice and sesame oil to melted butter, but after many variations settled on a combination of orange and lemon juice and a hint of hot sesame oil. The refreshing citrus flavors and the little touch of heat combined beautifully with the sweet butter to make a delectable dipping sauce for tender chunks of boiled lobster.

For appetizers, more fish - a platter of cooked, cold shrimp in the shell accompanied by a spicy Creole sauce - will be on the menu. Along with the lobsters, corn and creamy coleslaw will be sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chopped basil and a basket of warm, crusty bread. The cake will be coconut scented and served with summer berries.

Although this time I will use the citrus butter (which can be made a day ahead and reheated) with whole lobsters, I also love it as a garnish for grilled lobster tails and am looking forward to serving it with brochettes of scallops and of shrimp. It's good any time of the year, so I won't wait until another birthday to use it again.

Boiled Lobsters With Citrus Butter

Makes 6 servings

2/3 cup fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

2 teaspoons hot sesame oil

salt

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

6 lobsters, each 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds

1 bunch watercress, for garnish, optional

Place orange and lemon juices in small nonreactive pan and set over medium-high heat. Cook until liquids are reduced to 1/2 cup, 3 to 5 minutes. Add orange zest, hot sesame oil, scant 1/4 teaspoon salt and butter and whisk until butter is melted. Taste and season with more salt if desired. (Butter can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring, in medium saucepan over low heat.)

To cook lobsters, bring at least 9 quarts water to boil in large lobster pot or extra-large stock pot set over high heat. (If you do not have a large pot, use 2 pots and fill each with 5 to 6 quarts water and cook 3 lobsters in each one.) Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt per quart to the pot. When water returns to a boil, add lobsters and reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer about 12 minutes. Test for doneness by removing 1 lobster from the pot and twisting one of its thin legs. If leg pulls off easily and quickly, lobsters are done.

Place lobsters on platter and garnish with several clusters of watercress. Pour warm citrus butter into 6 small bowls. Serve with lobster for dipping.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services.

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