It's almost been a year since my maiden voyage into the world of the almighty Low Country Boil and I'm saddened to say I 've not had it since. That's not to say I haven't thought about it, and even pined for it, yet this is the unfortunate truth. Partly to blame is this mad mad city of ours where access to this mode of cooking seems hard to come by - until now!
Along my usual daily patrol of the food blogging universe, I came across an exciting tidbit of information. As it turns out, Ditch Plains, nearby West Village NY-style fish shack (and sister resto to Tribeca's Landmarc), has started offering a traditional Lobster Bake on Sunday's after 4 PM, deemed Surfer Sundays. For $30, you get a 1 1/2 lb lobster, corn, andouille sausage, and a potato, cooked as one entity obliviously reveling in its own juices.
I realize that technically this doesn't qualify as a Low Country Shrimp boil, but like your second-cousin Ruby from Boone County, WV, it's closer in relation than you may think. Come to think of it, isn't the bake the Yankee cousin to the boil? It would appear that way.
Be it a boil or a bake, the premise is the same - carefully use low, constant heat to cook quintessential summer goods to arrive at a delicious, butter-soaked, bib-warranting meal.
And so being the eager eaters that we are, we made our way to Ditch Plains on the inaugural Surfer Sunday at 4 PM to get our "bake" on.
In less time than that I had anticipated, our meal had begun, each of us ordering our own pot with the expectation, or really the fear, that one for the two of us would not be enough. First came the accoutrement, specifically the timelessly luxurious drawn butter and the more grounded house-made old-bay aoli.
Shortly thereafter, arrived our beloved Lobster Bakes. Two identical portraits of crustaceous beauty lay before us. The blood-red lobsters staring up at us as if to say "why me?", flanked on all sides by a girthy, fresh, canary yellow ear of corn, a similarly portly link of andouille sauage, and two baseball-sized potatoes, one above and the other below. Surely a sight to be seen, but more important, a presentation to be eaten.
Fully bibbed and claw cracker in hand, we wasted no time digging in. The lobster was cooked perfectly, and thanks to some help from the chef for pre-cracking the knuckles and claws, relatively easy to eat. Soft, succulent, sweet lobster meat is unlike anything else and when it's cooked the way it's supposed to be, resides in a culinary league of its own. Generous, check that, outright vicious dunks into the golden well of drawn butter were abound and plentiful, and even a bit messy. Good thing we had the bib.
The success in the bake here is that everything was left untouched. Corn as simple as it is sweet (at this time of year?), salty smokey sausage that snaps open, and potatoes sogged in the buttery, lemony residual pot juice. The old bay aoli was particularly addictive, offering up a nice tangy zing that was reminiscent of Tartar sauce. I've never liked tartar sauce and I usually use discretion with aolis, but this one was addicting and great for slathering on everything that was in front of me (including the fork by its lonesome).
This was a true ode to a classic - no extras, no twists, no interpretations. It's a bake, and a damn good one.
Though I'm no sure this guy shared my sentiments. At $30, the price is at the very least fair, and really in my opinoin a pretty good bargain. The quantity of food is just right, and you'll leave feeling not only full, but overtaken by a general sense of satisfaction.
A belly of butter and lobster will do that to you.
Surfer Sundays: Every Sunday after 4PM