Goodbye hot dogs, hello lobster

When I was a kid, our 4th of July recipes were pretty straightforward-mostly burgers and hot dogs. But now that my parents have moved to coastal Maine, the typical 4th of July fare has gone out the window. Goodbye hot dogs, hello lobster. Lucky for lobster lovers like me, lobster is pretty inexpensive this year, and even if you don't live on the coast, you can still find it at well-stocked grocery stores.

Here is my complete 4th of July menu with tips on how to shell a lobster:

Stovetop Clambake (see recipe below): Lobsters, clams, mussels, potatoes and corn star in our stovetop clambake. Serve with flavor-packed sauces, like cocktail sauce or tartar sauce, and there won't be a need for the bowls of melted butter that so often turn otherwise virtuous seafood into a nutritional disaster.

Backyard Coleslaw: Instead of a heavy creamy dressing, this refreshing coleslaw is dressed with a light caraway-flavored vinaigrette. The pretty crinkled leaves of Savoy cabbage have a nutty flavor, making this slaw especially flavorful.

Snap Pea Salad with Radish & Lime: This colorful combination of sugar snap peas, wax beans and radishes is dressed with a tangy lime vinaigrette for a refreshing side dish.

Strawberry Coolers: A batch of this good-for-you refresher turns a lazy summer afternoon into a party, with appeal for thirsty kids of all ages.

Whole-Wheat Blueberry Bars: These delicious blueberry treats feature moist fruit filling with a crunchy topping made with the same dough as the crust.

Stovetop Clambake
Active time: 20 minutes | Total: 45 minutes | Equipment: Large stockpot, collapsible metal steamer basket

1 pound small red-skinned potatoes
2 whole live lobsters (about 1 1/2 pounds each)
12 cherrystone, steamer or littleneck clams, scrubbed
1/2 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded if necessary (see Tip)
4 ears corn, husked and cut into thirds

1. Place a steamer basket in a large stockpot, add 1 inch of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Place potatoes in the basket, cover the pot and steam for 4 minutes. Reduce the heat slightly, if necessary, to prevent boiling over.
2. Place lobsters on top of the potatoes; cover and steam for 4 minutes. Place clams and mussels on top of the lobsters and potatoes; cover and continue steaming for 4 minutes more. Place corn on top of the shellfish; cover and continue steaming until the clams have opened and the potatoes are tender, 4 to 8 minutes more.
3. Arrange the corn, mussels, clams and potatoes on serving platters. Remove lobster claws and tails by twisting them from the body. Cut the tails lengthwise (see How to Shell a Lobster, below). Discard the bodies. Add the split tails and claws to the platters. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 274 calories; 3 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 56 mg cholesterol; 40 g carbohydrate; 24 g protein; 3 g fiber; 271 mg sodium; 564 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Selenium (57% daily value), Vitamin C (50% dv), Iron (35% dv), Potassium (16% dv).

Tip: To clean mussels, scrub with a stiff brush under cold running water. Scrape off any barnacles using the shell of another mussel. Pull off the fuzzy "beard" from each one (some mussels may not have a beard).

How to Shell a Lobster:

  1. Grasp claw at the knuckle, near the body. With a firm twist, remove the claw from the body. Repeat with the second claw.
  2. To remove claw meat, crack through the claw shell using a pair of kitchen shears or a lobster cracker.
  3. Holding the body in one hand and firmly grasping the tail in the other, twist and gently pull the tail from the body. (Discard the body.)
  4. Cut the tail in half lengthwise with kitchen shears, starting from the underside. Serve halves in the shell or remove the meat.

Cocktail Sauce
Active time: 5 minutes | Total: 5 minutes | To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Fresh dill and celery seed give this cocktail sauce a unique twist.

1/3 cup bottled chili sauce, such as Heinz
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon celery seed

Combine chili sauce, ketchup, lemon zest, lemon juice, dill, Worcestershire and celery seed in a small bowl.

Makes 2/3 cup.
Per tablespoon: 14 calories; 0 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 4 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 0 g fiber; 277 mg sodium; 20 mg potassium.

Tartar Sauce
Active time: 5 minutes | Total: 5 minutes | To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Our sophisticated take on tartar sauce combines low-fat mayonnaise with chopped gherkins, pimientos and shallots.

1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 sweet gherkin pickles, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped jarred pimiento peppers
2 teaspoons minced shallot

Combine mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, pimientos and shallot in a small bowl.

Makes 2/3 cup.
Per tablespoon: 10 calories; 0 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 2 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 0 g fiber; 80 mg sodium; 6 mg potassium.

By Hilary Meyer

EatingWell assistant editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.

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