serves: 4 main course salads
Throughout history, Sardinia has been a territorial prize for the great powers of the Mediterranean Basin, and every period of dominion has left its mark on the island. One of the most distinctive influences-both cultural and culinary-was the 400-year rule of imperial Spain, from the early 1300s to the early 1700s. Today, in Alghero, on the west coast of Sardinia, residents still speak a form of the Catalan language. And the spiny lobster that abounds in the waters off Alghero is prepared alla Catalana-cooked, chopped into large pieces, and tossed into a salad.
In Sardinia, it is expected that you will grab a chunk of lobster from the salad with your fingers and dig into the shells with gusto. Here at home, I do the same thing with our great Atlantic lobsters, which are certainly as good as if not better than their Mediterranean cousins. I prepare them alla Catalana and serve them Sardinian-style, with lots of moist napkins and bowls for the shells, encouraging everybody to dig in.
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 6 tablespoons for the lobster pot
2 live lobsters, 1 1/4 pounds each
4 ripe fresh tomatoes, or 1 pound sweet, ripe cherry tomatoes
3 stalks celery, with a nice amount of leaves
⅓ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled and chopped
¼ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Fill the pot with 6 quarts water, add 6 tablespoons salt, and bring to a rolling boil. When the water is at a rolling boil, drop in the lobsters and start timing: cook them, uncovered, for 10 minutes total, after the water returns to the boiling point (and then keep it boiling). At the end of 10 minutes (or a couple of minutes longer if the lobsters are larger than 1 1/4 pounds), lift the lobsters from the pot, rinse with cold water, drain, and let them cool.
Core the tomatoes, and cut them into wedges, about 1 inch thick; if you have cherry tomatoes, cut them in half. Chop the celery stalks crosswise into 1-inch pieces, and chop the leaves roughly. Toss
tomatoes and celery together in a large bowl with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.
When the lobsters are cool enough to handle, twist and pull off the claws and knuckle segments where the knuckles attach to the front of the body. Lay the clawless lobsters flat on a cutting board, and split them in half lengthwise, from head to tail, with the heavy chef 's knife. Separate the meaty tail piece from the carcass (or body) of the four split halves.
Now cut the lobster into pieces of whatever size you like; put the pieces in a large mixing bowl as you work. Separate the knuckles from the claws, and crack open the shells of both knuckles and hard claw pincers with the thick edge of the knife blade, or kitchen shears, exposing the meat. Chop the knuckles into pieces at the joints.
Cut the tail pieces crosswise into chunks, or leave them whole, which I prefer. Cut the carcass pieces crosswise in two, with the legs still attached (though you can cut the legs off). I like to leave the tomalley and roe in the body pieces, as a special treat while eating the salad. Alternatively, remove tomalley and roe and whisk them into the dressing (or remove them and discard, if not to your liking).
To make the dressing: Whisk together the lemon juice, chopped eggs, peperoncino, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pour in the olive oil in a slow stream, whisking steadily to incorporate it into a smooth dressing.
To serve: Add the tomatoes and celery to the bowl of lobster pieces. Pour in the dressing, and tumble everything together until evenly coated. Scatter the parsley on top, tumbling to distribute. Arrange the salad on a large platter, or compose individual servings on salad plates.