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8 & $20: Grilled Lobsters with a Juicy Portuguese White

A charred corn and tomato salad rounds out an indulgent summer meal
Photo by: Christine Dalton
A plush Portuguese white wine has the creamy texture and acidity to match rich grilled lobster.

Christine Dalton
Posted: August 23, 2016

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.

As soon as the first days of summer hit, an alert goes off in my brain signaling that it’s time to eat lobster. While I’ve certainly enjoyed lobster in the winter months, there’s something different about eating my favorite crustacean after a long day at the beach. Lobster rolls evoke memories of childhood vacations to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, and lobster bakes recall summertime gatherings with neighbors and friends. Every time Memorial Day rolls around, I begin a three-month-long quest to eat as much of the decadent delicacy as I can.

I have to admit, however, that I rarely tackle either lobster rolls or bakes at home, though I’ve boiled lobsters a few times over the years. Recently, while on vacation with my family, I spotted some tasty-looking live lobsters at a local seafood market. With my seasonal craving still in full force, I decided to purchase a couple and see what I could do.

Because the temperature was hovering around 90 degrees that day, I opted to throw the lobsters on the grill rather than boil them in an already boiling kitchen.

The safest way to eat a lobster is to keep it alive until the very last moment. Consequently, the first step of this recipe is not for the squeamish. Using a large knife, I halved the lobsters lengthwise, starting just behind the eyes and then flipping them and cutting down the center.

I then removed the claws and placed them on a clean, hot grill, along with the lobster halves, flesh side down. After about two minutes, I flipped the pieces so that the halves' shell sides were facing down. With such beautiful, fresh meat, there’s little need to add extra flavoring. I whipped up a homemade basil butter with basil plucked straight from the garden, a bit of garlic and apple cider vinegar. I brushed the lobster flesh with a generous helping of butter and allowed the meat to poach in the butter and its own juices. The claws got an extra two minutes on the grill to fully steam in their shells.

For a side, I used the traditional lobster bake as inspiration. I threw a few ears of corn on the already medium-hot grill to get them nicely charred. I removed the kernels and combined them with some fresh summer tomatoes, thinly sliced basil, a touch of vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.

With fresh seafood and 90-degree heat, I immediately ruled out red wine and, facing rosé fatigue, chose three perfectly chilled whites. I looked for wines with some backbone and sumptuousness to stand up to the lobster, but also enough acidity to highlight the fresh tomatoes and basil.

I first tried a juicy white Rhône blend, made primarily from Grenache Blanc. The wine had the heft to complement the luscious lobster, but fell flat with the fresh corn and tomato salad.

Next, I turned to a classic lobster pairing, a lightly oaked Chardonnay. This version, from South Africa, had the creamy texture I’d been seeking, but lacked the buttery flavors I desired. Instead, it exhibited notes of vanilla that clashed with the dish’s clean, crisp flavors.

Finally, I opened a white from Portugal’s Duoro region. The wine had plush flavors of almond and stone fruit balanced with a tart finish. A subtle spiciness and juicy acidity made it the perfect accompaniment to my seafood-centric meal.

Grilled Lobster With Tomato and Corn Salad


Pair with a juicy Portuguese white such as Ramos Pinto Douro White Duas Quintas 2014 (87 points, $12)


Prep time: 40 minutes
Active cooking time: 20 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes
Approximate food costs: $70

  • 4 ears corn
  • 4 medium to large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced, plus 1 teaspoon minced, basil
  • 1 teaspoon, plus 1/4 cup, apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 4 large live lobsters
  • Canola oil
  • Lemon wedges for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium high. Grill husked corn, turning every few minutes until all sides are equally charred, approximately 10 minutes. Allow ears to cool, then carefully remove kernels with a sharp knife.

2. Toss corn kernels with chopped tomatoes, 1 tablespoon thinly sliced basil, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate while lobster is cooking to allow flavors to marry.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together softened butter, garlic, 1 teaspoon minced basil, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Brush grill grates with canola oil and increase grill heat to high. Carefully place lobster halves flesh side down and claws on the grill. Cook for 2 minutes and flip pieces. Use a spoon to drizzle the basil butter over the exposed lobster meat. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the lobster tail meat is opaque, and remove the halves. Allow the claws to cook for 1 to 2 more minutes and remove from the grill. Serve with lemon wedges and corn and tomato salad. Serves 4.

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