There’s something about this dish that has a delightfully 1950s vibe to it; something that makes me want to put on a ruffled apron with a pair of high heels, pop a benzedrine, and wait patiently for my husband to get home to discipline the children. What is that something? It’s cream cheese. Specifically, cream cheese mixed with seafood and served hot.
I know, I know. It’s hardly haute cuisine. The first time I ordered it, at the sea-level dining room of Cook’s Lobster House on Bailey Island, it was mainly out of morbid curiosity. The term “lobster dip” on its own isn’t terrifically appealing; it doesn’t, however, sound like something that could exactly be bad. Their version is served in a bread bowl, and like most things at Cook’s, is excellent exactly one-half of the times you order it. That first batch was a winner, a combination of succulent Maine lobster, swimming in a thick cream sauce that bubbled and dripped over the edges of the crusty bread, which we tore apart and hungrily devoured.
It wasn’t until my second exposure to this dish, served to me by a dear friend I’ve had for nearly 30 years, a friend well-versed in Maine classic cooking, that the pieces began to fall into place. “Cream cheese,” he explained, absentmindedly flipping a beer cap onto the kitchen counter with a heavily tattooed hand, “It’s a huge pan of lobster and cream cheese.”
I’m ordinarily not crazy about lobster used as an ingredient, preferring to enjoy it naked and on its own. In this case, though, a 13×9 glass baking dish of the stuff, along with an entire sliced baguette, vanished in minutes, leaving the four of us standing around his Midcoast kitchen, scraping the inside of the tray with any last scraps of bread we could find.
We’ve tweaked the recipe ever so slightly, adding a tiny bit of crunch and warm background heat, while still allowing the flavor of the lobster to be the focus. The hot sauce adds a touch of light pink color and spice, but you can, by all means, leave it out. It’s a great way to stretch the meat from just a few lobsters into enough food to serve with a loaf of bread at your next swingin’ party. And if you can transfer it into a Jadeite loaf pan and get it in the range before those benzos kick in, all the better.
Maine Lobster Dip
Makes about 4 1/2 cups. As an appetizer, serves 4-6.
- (2) 1.5 pound live Maine lobsters
- 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon horseradish
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot sauce
- Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large stock pot, bring an inch of salted tap water to a boil. Add lobster and steam, covered, until shells are deep red, about 10 minutes. If pot boils over, leave lid off a crack to allow some steam to escape. Let cool, then crack shells and pick lobster meat, including tails, claws, and knuckles. Tear or chop lobster meat into small pieces, and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, shallots, garlic, horseradish, Worcestershire, cayenne, Sriracha, salt, and pepper. Add lobster meat, and mix well to combine. Transfer to a glass baking dish, and put in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours.
To cook, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook, uncovered, about 25 minutes, or until lobster dip is hot and bubbly. Serve with bread, crackers, vegetables, or right off your finger.