I made a day trip down to the Keys this Saturday to enjoy the weather and trek around the Marathon area (before it turned into the two-day shit storm we've been experiencing). When I was down there, I made a stop at one of my favorite places in Marathon: Keys Fisheries. In addition to selling spiny lobsters, whole fish, and plenty of other sea critters, the tiny market with attached casual restaurant serves simply-prepared seafood hauled right from the waters nearby. My fiancee and I ate a fantastic lunch there that included a fresh, Cajun-fried hog snapper sandwich; some chunky conch salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion; and one of the place's famous lobster Reubens made on thick slices of rye. It doesn't get any more Florida than that.
Whenever I visit Keys Fisheries I also bring along a cooler with some
ice and purchase a few spiny lobsters to take home. So that Saturday
night, some friends and I had an extravagant meal of lobster tails
grilled with garlic and olive oil, some fresh ceviche I made from a
whole yellowtail snapper, and homemade coconut rice with black beans.
It was a fantastic meal -- the lobster meat, sweet and clean, was as
fresh as spiny lobster gets. It makes me glad to live in Florida, where
I can get the critters right off the docks before they're frozen and
shipped all over the country. With the carapaces I made some rich
lobster stock that I hope to use to make bisque or chowder later down
the road. And I had a whole tail's worth of lobster meat left over for
the next day.
I decided to make use of it by making something spicy, cheesy, and
savory; something that played off the lobster Reuben I'd had the day before. Like a sandwich, but not. Then I had it: a lobster quesadilla.
I'd never made one before, but I had some
great ingredients lying around the house to give it a try.
I started by removing the tail meat from the shell and chopping it up
into half-inch chunks -- half-inch because I wanted to spread the meat
around evenly, but I also wanted to be able to taste the lobster in
each bite. Since the lobster was already grilled with garlic and olive
oil, I thought I'd use the same two ingredients as a base. I heated a
non-stick skillet over medium heat and added some left over garlic oil
to it. I let that render for about 10 seconds, then tossed in the
lobster meat to saute.
I had also decided to add a little heat. So I tossed in a teaspoon of
minced Scotch bonnet pepper that I had left over from the ceviche the
day before, and let the flavors soak in to the meat along with the
garlic and oil. To add a pungent, earthy component to that sweet island
heat, I sprinkled on some ancho and arbol chili powder. Finally, I
finished the mixture with a squirt of fresh lime juice to give it some
I removed the lobster mixture and spread it evenly on a large flour
tortilla. Then I shredded some fresh cheese over the top. I used a
combination of a half-cup of store-bought cheddar with about a quarter
of a cup of Old Amsterdam Aged Gouda
I'd purchased the week before. I figured the regular cheddar would
mellow out the really strong, sweet gouda nicely. To finish off the
quesadilla, I spread a few tablespoons of sour cream along the top
tortilla and closed it up.
I popped the quesadilla in the saute pan along with a little bit of
olive oil to coat. A couple of minutes on each side and it was crispy,
hot, and melted. I couldn't wait to try it.
Oh. My. God. The quesadilla was dreamy -- full of delicate lobster
meat, with the strong but not overpowering flavor of the gouda. Behind
that was some slow blooming heat thanks to the pepper. The cooling tang
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of sour cream finished it off nicely along with a salad of avocado,
tomato, mango, and hearts of palm I had made the day before.
In short, if you've got some lobster sitting around looking for a way
to be eaten, give this quesadilla a go.