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Keeping Lobsters Alive

 We are planning to have lobster for Christmas dinner. However, with grocery stores closed Christmas day we would have to purchase them the day before. Can we keep the live lobsters for a day or so? Any suggestions? Or can we precook them and warm them later?

 We usually have lobster on Christmas eve, and, living in Maine, drive down to Watson's General Store in Cundy's Harbor, walk out on the dock and pick the lobsters we want. In the store, where we pay (a great deal less than you will in Texas), a very believable Santa gives any accompanying children a bag of treats, and everyone is happy, both on our way home and at the dinner table.

You can keep lobsters alive for a day or so in the refrigerator. We store them in a paper bag, covered with seaweed. They can also be stored alive in an open container, covered with seaweed, or a seawater-soaked towel or newspaper (can you take a bottle or towel to the grocery store and ask the person at the fish counter to give you some seawater? ). Don't store them in a closed container. And whatever you do, don't put them in fresh water — they'll expire very quickly.

If the lobsters are quite lively when you buy them, you should be able to keep them alive in the refrigerator for as long as 48 hours. If their claws hang limply and their tails do not curl under when you pick them up, they may not have the stamina to survive nearly as long.

You can certainly cook the lobsters in advance. If you do, stop cooking a couple of minutes before the lobsters are done. You can store cooked lobsters in the shell or remove the meat from the shells and refrigerate. When you're ready to serve, either toss the whole lobsters into a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes or warm the meat in a pan of melted butter. In either case, be sure not to overcook them, as the meat can become tough.

For our holiday meal, we take the meat out of the shell before serving anyway (lazy man's lobster), as it makes for a much neater meal.

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