Marinades effectively season just about any food, but about 30 minutes separates flavoring from cooking when you marinate lobster. The longer lobster meat sits in an acidic marinade, the more its protein denatures, just as when you make ceviche. Keep your marinating time to 30 minutes or less, and you'll reap the benefits of a marinade without sacrificing quality. Frozen lobster tails are the best candidates for a marinade: The texture, although usually superb, is always slightly compromised from freezing, unlike freshly caught lobster, which needs little to no flavoring to maintain its delicacy.
You can marinade lobster tail in or out of its shell. However, if you plan to grill the lobster, leave it in its shell for the bit of protection the shell provides. The grill will invest its smokiness, and the meat won't stick to the cooking grid. If you intend to saute the tail, shuck it first so the meat can develop a quality sear.
To shuck a lobster tail, lay it shell-side-up on the cutting board. Split the shell from the wide end with kitchen shears until you reach the tail fin. Gently pry the shell away from the tail meat, releasing it on both sides. Twist off the fin.
Create a lobster marinade by mixing 1 part vegetable oil, 1 part food acid, 2 parts aromatic ingredients and sugar and kosher salt to taste.
Use olive oil if you like its taste; otherwise, any vegetable oil performs the same function: To adhere the marinade to the lobster meat while extracting the compounds that give the aromatic ingredients their flavor.
Aromatic ingredients include garlic, shallots, herbs and spices -- any ingredient, light or pungent, that effectively contributes to the flavor and aroma of a preparation. Aromatics that complement lobster include dill, fennel, citrus zest and parsley.
You can use any acidic ingredient as the food acid; flavored vinegar, lemon juice and white wine work well with lobster.
Mix the marinade and season it to taste with kosher salt and sugar. Heat the marinade in a saucepan over medium heat until its fragrance wafts from the stove. Take the marinade off the stove and let it reach room temperature. Place the lobster tails in a food-grade container and pour the marinade over them. Cover the container and marinate the lobster for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
French-style marinades typically contain olive oil, white wine and liberal amounts of aromatics. They also contain mirepoix as the aromatic base.
Combine equal parts dry white wine, champagne vinegar and olive oil to start a French-style marinade. Add a bay leaf, shaved fennel, black peppercorns, thyme and other aromatic herbs to taste; parsley and tarragon are commonly used. Add 2 parts onions and 1 part each chopped carrots and onions and salt and sugar to taste. Bring the marinade to a boil; then take it off the stove. Add the lobster tails after the marinade reaches room temperature and marinate the lobster tails for 30 minutes.
Caribbean-style marinades are aggressively seasoned and balanced with a proportionate amount of sugar, almost like a curry, but sweeter.
Mix equal parts dark rum, coconut oil, white vinegar and lime juice to make a Caribbean-style lobster marinade. Add a host of pungent spices; these marinades often have about 1/2 teaspoon each of the following ground spices per cup: cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg. Next, add minced aromatic vegetables, such as ginger, garlic and onions, followed by a generous dose of minced chili peppers. Habaneros are common, but for lobster, go with something a bit more mild, such as jalapenos or 1 Thai chili pepprs per cup of marinade. Finish by seasoning with salt and sugar. Marinate the lobster for 30 minutes.
Asian-style marinades are all about umami, so have the soy sauce at hand.
Mix 2 parts each peanut oil, shaoxing wine, white vinegar, lime juice and 1 part each soy sauce and fish sauce for an Asian-style lobster marinade. Next, add chopped aromatics: lemongrass, a Thai chili, ginger, a few cracked black peppercorns and a handful of torn coriander. Season the marinade to taste with sugar and salt and marinate the lobster for 30 minutes.