Tag Archive for: Against the Claw

From the Keyboard to the Kitchen

by Shari Randall
I have to admit that my favorite cooking utensils are the take-out menu and the phone. I do occasionally enjoy baking and I can follow a recipe like nobody’s business. That’s why I’ve been surprised to discover that some folks have categorized my mystery series as a “culinary cozy.” 
Cue laughter from my husband and kids.
I write a series set at the Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack in mythical Mystic Bay, Connecticut. The Mermaid is owned by Gina “Aunt Gully” Fontana, a woman who has finally achieved her dream of owning a lobster shack. Lobsters are her life and foodies travel miles to eat one of her award winning lobster rolls, which are served topped with Lobster Love sauce. This sauce is basically lobster bisque. Yes, Aunt Gully pours lobster plus butter and heavy cream on lobster.
In the name of research, I’ve visited many lobster shacks and enjoyed the delicious treats they prepare.
But I’ve never cooked a lobster myself. This past weekend I decided to change that and tackle not just cooking a lobster, but also creating the delicious Lobster Love sauce that lures lobster lovers to the Lazy Mermaid lobster shack.
Could writing a character who is an excellent cook help me in the kitchen? I decided to channel Aunt Gully’s expertise and cook a lobster.
(Full disclosure: All this cooking took a village, including my husband and fabulous sister-in-law, who is an even better cook than Aunt Gully.)
It started with steaming some lobsters, which we had to eat with clams casino, corn on the cob, and a lovely a bean salad my husband made because sometimes you have to make sacrifices for your art. 
If you’ve read the books, you know that Aunt Gully sings to her lobsters as they make the ultimate sacrifice, so I hummed her signature tune (“Get Happy” from Summer Stock) as I put the lobsters in the pot. 
Of course, the key to lobster bisque is the lobster flavor – and butter and heavy cream. Lots of butter and heavy cream.
How to get the lobster flavor? For my bisque recipe, we used the leftover lobster carcasses.
Preparing the carcasses is as much fun as it sounds – removing the “yucky stuff” (the intestinal tract and the sac behind the head), breaking up the shells, and sauteeing them in butter. This created a low-tide odor in the house that took two days to dissipate. Take my advice and always cook your lobsters outside on your grill.
From this…

To bisque!
We combined the carcasses with garlic, onion, carrots, tomatoes, herbs, and stock, simmered the resulting mixture, removed the shells, ran the mixture through a food processor, strained it, simmered it some more, added a lot of butter and cream, tasted the soup, added salt and pepper, and there it was. Aunt Gully’s Lobster Love sauce.
It took hours to prepare, but the end result was worth it. I not only gained a beautiful bowl of bisque, I gained a whole new appreciation for Aunt Gully.
Have you ever tried to channel one of your characters?  What are some of the things you’ve done in the name of research for your writing?
Shari Randall’s latest Lobster Shack Mystery, AGAINST THE CLAW, will be published by St. Martin’s Press on July 31.

Getting the Setting Right

by Shari Randall

Shari here, taking a bit of a break from writing Book Three in my Lobster Shack Mystery series. I just mailed in copy edits on Book Two, Against the Claw, which will be published on July 31. My kids love the fact that it comes out on Harry Potter’s birthday!
When I started writing the first book in my series, I thought about the ingredients I wanted to add to the story. What do I like in a mystery? I definitely wanted a play-fair puzzle with lots of possible culprits. I like a fast pace, in the snappy style of Murder, She Wrote. I love a fish out of water story, so I landed Allegra Larkin, my ballerina protagonist, in a lobster shack. Most especially, I wanted the setting to make the reader feel like they were taking a New England vacation.
Actually, of all the ingredients, the setting worried me the most. Even though I live in the area where my series is set – the Connecticut shoreline and I am just minutes from some great lobster shacks – I was concerned about doing justice to the feel, details, and history that make this such a great place to visit.
My fictional Lazy Mermaid lobster shack is a combination of several shacks that I visited when I did my Lobster Shack Tour last summer. From Connecticut to the Cape to Maine there are lots of lobster shacks. What do they have in common?  The sunburned diners at splintery picnic tables, the dive-bombing gulls, blue sky and blue water, the briny sweet taste of lobster, the long lines and jammed parking lots.
What does my fictional Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack have that they don’t? For a start: 
A cook who serenades the lobster with Broadway show tunes.
Walls decorated with not just the typical fishing nets and wooden lobster traps, but also shelf after shelf of a mermaid collection called “mermaidabilia.”
A shack set in a little village where the buildings are unchanged from the time they were built in the mid 1800s.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a note from a reader who told me that my book made her feel like she was a little girl again, right back in the seaside cottage her family rented on the Connecticut shore not far from New Haven. It was her family’s tradition to visit a lobster shack and get lobster rolls once every summer. She was sure that the shack in my book was the one that her family had visited all those years ago. She even sent me a picture of her family at the shack.
Well, I was thrilled that I’d captured the feeling of this reader’s childhood New England vacations, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her that my lobster shack was fictional.
But the lovely fan letter has given me some hope that I’m getting the setting right. I hope if you’re in the mood for a New England vacation, you’ll visit the Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack in my fictional Mystic Bay, Connecticut. Let me know if you have a good time, okay?
Shari Randall is the author of Curses, Boiled Again, Book One of the new Lobster Shack Mystery series from St. Martin’s Press. Book Two, Against the Claw, will be published July 31, 2018. You can see what’s new with her at https://us.macmillan.com/author/sharirandall/.