07.21.09

The Lobster Market Crash of 2009

Grab your bibs. Lobsters are plentiful this summer and surprisingly cheap at $5 a pound. Here are five ways to prepare and indulge in a luxurious meal.

There’s good news and bad news about lobster this season.

The price of lobster is very low. Very, very low. Lobster is selling for as little as $5/pound at retail, and they are plentiful (hence the cheap price). Organic chicken breasts cost more per pound.

But lobster fishermen all over New England are losing their shirts. There are a few reasons that add up to this perfect storm. Even as more and more lobsters have been harvested in Maine, and other northern coastal states, over recent years the supply of lobsters has still increased—mostly because lobstermen have been quite focused on fishing sustainably for some time and eggs from female lobsters have been returned to the sea. And lobsters are a prolific breed.

You can enjoy lobster at unprecedented low prices and in so doing at least put your drop in the lobster demand bucket.

Even pre-recession, responsible lobster fishing had led to a greater amount of lobsters than the U.S. market was demanding. So up until recently, much of the lobster was exported. Prices were climbing steadily because lots of people around the world wanted lobster, and lots of people could afford the price tag.

Enter the recession. Both domestically and abroad, demand plummeted. In this economy (oh, lusting for the time we don't have to begin every sentence with the phrase, "In this economy"), people are just not indulging in luxury goods, or—more precisely—contemplating goods they have always perceived as luxury, even if the prices are no longer prohibitive. And there are way fewer big honking business deals to be celebrated with a 3-pound lobster and a magnum of Champagne. As with everything, things trickle down.

And all of this was compounded by the bad luck of Canadian seafood-processing plants being shut down, also because of the economy. That's where the excess lobster had been going, to be frozen and shipped out to points near and far. American restaurants weren't selling as much lobster, so that market decreased, and other counties weren't importing as much seafood, so the frozen lobsters that had previously been headed overseas are piling up at home.

OK, so, now let's bring this back around to glass half full arena. The moral of the story is that you can enjoy lobster at unprecedented low prices and in so doing at least put your drop in the lobster demand bucket. So, bib up, and have at it. Someone's got to eat all those lobsters; it might as well be you.

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Island Lobster Rolls
by Linda Greenlaw and Martha Greenlaw

This is it, the quintessential summer sandwich. Lobster rolls are often filled with this, that, and the other. When you make your own, you can make sure that nothing overshadows the lobster, which of course, is the point. The buns are given a quick sauté in butter, which is what sets all the best lobster rolls apart from their peers.

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Lobster Risotto
by Mario Batali

If decadence is what you're after, then this will do just fine. The creaminess of risotto dotted with chunks of sweet, chewy lobster meat.

 

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Lobster Fontina Panini
by Tiffany Collins

Lobster Newberg meets the sandwich. If you don't know what exactly Lobster Newberg is (and if you're under the age of 50, it's likely you don't), it's an American seafood dish introduced at Delmonico's Restaurant in New York City in the late 19th century, made from lobster, butter, cream, booze, eggs and Cayenne pepper. Fontina is the gild on the lily.

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Steamed Lobster with Garlic-Ginger-Basil Sauce
by Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Here, the classic steamed lobster is completely transformed. And it's very sexy.

 

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Lobster Tails with Cracked Black Pepper and Cinnamon
by Raghavan Iyer

Fresh or frozen lobster tails are perfectly acceptable. These are served against the backdrop of creamy coconut milk studded with ginger slivers, coarsely cracked black peppercorns, and sweet-smelling cinnamon. The beauty of this curry sauces that it never competes with the delicate flavor of the lobster meat.

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Katie Workman is editor in chief and chief marketing officer of Cookstr.com, a Web site devoted to great, tested recipes from chefs and cookbook authors. She writes about food for various blogs and websites. Katie is on the board of City Harvest, and actively involved in Share Our Strength. She lives in New York City with her husband her two boys, ages 6 and 9.