Sheltered Islander: Butter Fingers – How to Enhance Your Lobster Dinner

We have several fine restaurants on Shelter Island that serve delicious seafood. Personally, I’ll eat anything that comes out of the water, specially crab, lobster, scallops and clams, in that order. The sad thing about being a crustacean lover is that you never seem to get enough of them on your plate. Over the years, I have developed several techniques for obtaining extra shellfish that I will tell you now. I don’t have any tips for sharing shellfish, since that is anathema to any true lover of these biblically forbidden delicacies.

First let’s talk lobster. You always want to order two, but you never let yourself because you’ll look like a pig. But there’s still many ways to get more lobster on your plate without spending extra money.

Lobster is usually presented on a bed of rice or vegetables. One of the first methods to getting a little extra lobster is to employ the old tried-and-true lima bean hideaway technique. After you’ve gotten your lobster tail out of its shell, cut it into bite-size pieces. Now slide the three biggest pieces under the rice, just like unwanted lima beans. Next, scan the table for the biggest lobster and make sad puppy-dog eyes at the owner of that lobster and half-jokingly lament how they got a bigger lobster than you. Thanks to the pressure of social politeness, they will feel obligated, secretly angry but obligated nonetheless, to offer you some of their lobster.

Next, you can comment that your melted butter tasted funny and ask if you can taste your neighbor’s butter. When they say yes, spear a piece of their lobster for the taste test. This method only gets you one extra piece, so since most people keep an eye on their biggest piece, be sure to grab the second largest piece on their plate. After all, you don’t want them to think they’ve been tricked into losing lobster.

The third and easiest way to get extra lobster, is to wait for the people to go to the restroom or go outside for a cigarette. While they’re gone you continue gaily conversing while you pilfer a bite of this lobster and a nibble of this one over here. Be careful not to nibble too much or they will know that they have been hit by the stealth-mooch technique. The only time stealth-mooching does not work is if the person is like myself and carries their lobster from the table with them.

Getting extra crabs is largely contingent on whether you have a portion of a few crabs or you are sharing a large bucket. If you are stuck with just a few crabs per plate, you might be able to get some of the chest meat if others are having trouble getting it out themselves. Volunteer to help, crush the chest in your hands, and while you pick out crab meat for them to put on their plate, you can palm a good part of the crab chest and sneak it to your napkin. Once you’ve eaten your crab chest, push the shells into the shell pile and sneak up the extra crab from your napkin and enjoy. One evening I got parts of three crab chests using this old family method.

If the group orders one of those big crab buckets, there is no limit to the creative pilfering you can engage. Like, “Whoops! I’ll get those two crabs that dropped off the table.” Or, “No, the chests don’t really have that much meat. I’ll take yours if you don’t want them.” And my favorite, “Your mouth is looking a bit red and swollen. Could you be allergic to crab?”

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