Do lobsters have feelings? You try not to think about it when your chef asks you to hack a live lobster in half. With your chef knife in hand and the squirmy guy on your cutting board suddenly those claws look less intimidating and those beady little eyes start to look something like this.
Despite my trembling hands and conflicting feelings over the guy (so yummy yet so very much alive) I was successful, although not without a few laughs at my expense from our chef. I hesitated at first, but frankly it’s like ripping off a band aid. You have to do it quick or it will hurt more, and I’m guessing that’s the same for the lobster.
Most shellfish needs to be alive when you cook them. That goes for all sorts of clams, mussels, barnacles, etc. For the most part snails come in a jar in the US, although you can cook them alive. I will be scarred forever after an anecdote our chef told us about a few snail runaways, escaping their pot and sliding their way up the wall. I don’t think I could handle coming into the kitchen and seeing dinner slithering away from the table.
So the moment of truth came. It was time to cook the snails. After we doused them in butter, garlic, and parsley we had to eat them. I slopped one on a piece of bread and I was ready to take the first bite. You really don’t taste like anything except the butter and garlic and the texture is very similar to other shellfish like a mussel, chewy and a bit rubbery. The surprise was that they weren’t half bad! If you can get over your preconceptions or the thought of dinner escaping out of a pot, they taste pretty decent.
We seared the scallops and then plated them with a warmed parsley coulis. Coulis is a fancy word for a strained sauce. For a parsley coulis you blanch parsley and them puree it with your stock. The mussels are prepared in typical Mediterranean fare, with wine, parsley, black pepper, and some fat (in this case butter).