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Recipe: Lobster and Gouda Quesadilla

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

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.   

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John Linn