Donna & Finley – Cudjoe Key, FL

It was Easter Sunday in the Florida Keys. Finley & Donna live on Cudjoe Key. This small island has two theories swirling around the origins of its name. Possibly named for the Joewood tree, a native species which is also known as cudjoewood. Writer John Viele of Summerland Key believes that Cudjoe, a very common West African name, was the name of a runaway or freed black who lived on the island at some point prior to an 1849 Census Survey.

Walking into Finley & Donna’s house, is like entering a tropical and peaceful paradise. There are 50 year old Bottle Brush trees and Royal Palms swaying in the breeze. And everyone at some point took full advantage of the hammock in the shade.

Finley is a salty fisherman with connections for any seafood (conch, island lobster, black grouper, key west pinks) you could possibly want from all over the island. Donna is a kindred earth mother who calms folks down at the dental practice where she works. Together they’d organized a real easter egg hunt and old-fashioned lobster grill down (think: ho down but with meats and seafood) for their daughter Elissa and her son Preston who also live on the island. My entire family was present as well.

We taught them how to play MASH and assured them that sangria, red wine and Budweiser pair perfectly with twice baked potatoes, salad, fish dip and lobster.

Families that allow you to seamlessly incorporate into their fold are the absolute best kind of family. We ate, drank, laughed and were generally very merry until food coma and the late afternoon sun set in. And then it was ALL we could do to drag ourselves out to watch the sunset. Sunset watching in the Florida Keys is a sport and art form unto itself.

Grilled Lemongrass Lobster
Wash 6 fresh lobster tails and allow to drain in a cool place.
Grasping a pair of scissors, cut into the shell towards the tail in the center of the lobster tail.
Scoop homemade lemongrass sauce into the lobster and arrange on a platter.

Lemongrass Sauce
4 TBLSP melted butter
1/2 C bread crumbs
2 TBLSP Lemon Juice
1 TBSLP grated/zested lemon grass puree

Combine in a bowl. Using a pastry brush, brush the tails with the sauce mixture, really coating the insides of the tails. If there is remaining sauce mixture use your fingers to stuff the mixture into the split shells.

Meanwhile heat an outdoor grille to what Finley calls “Super Hot” and is probably at 300 – 325 degrees. This is South Florida, so a hot grille feels “Super Hot” with the heat of the day.

Place lobster tails, open side, down and flash sear for less than a minute to a minute depending on temperature. Flip the tails over, onto their shells. Allow them to grille in their own juices for 5-6 minutes. The shells will not turn pink/red if you are using Florida Lobsters.

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