The New England Lobster Roll — A summer-time staple


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Summer just isn’t summer in New England with out a good ‘ole lobster roll. I never had any desire to even try a lobster roll, until last summer. Yes, call me crazy… but to me, lobster was best appreciated and consumed when steamed and dredge in drawn butter. Sure, I had my share fair of lobster raviolis, lobster risotto and other warm lobster dishes… but to eat lobster COLD, mixed with not-much-more-than mayonnaise and served in a cheap-ass, split-top, hot dog bun? Nonsense!

Then we went to Martha’s Vineyard… and my whole world changed. How could I go to the Vineyard and not at least try a traditional lobster roll? Who was I to say that lobster should be served one way or another? So I hit the local fish market, ordered a lobster roll and took a 360 degree turn for the better. I had lobster rolls almost every day… at local restuarants, at the West Tisbury fair, back in the fish market, you name it…. I was hooked (pun intended).

When we came home, I even longed for lobster rolls from McDonald’s and D’Angelo’s… what would have made me turn up my nose in disgust was now driving me to seek out fast food versions of the food I had shunned for so many years.

This summer, I became aware that our local grocery store, Roche Brother’s (which I normally HATE)… is serving pre-made lobster rolls in the cold fish case. I’ve already gone through quite a few. Though, I HATE soggy bread and the REAL lobster roll is supposed to be on a toasted bun, smeared with butter… so I doctor up their versions until they look like this:

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So what all is involved in the transformation? Not much… I just use a pair of tongs to remove the lobster meat first and then the shredded lettuce from the roll. Then, I toast the roll until it’s nicely browned and if I’m feeling like splurging, I smear a little low-fat butter on it. Then I carefully, and neatly, place the lettuce back — distributing it evenly — and then do the same thing with the lobster… ending with a few grinds from the sea salt shaker.

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Let’s just say this lobster roll didn’t look THIS good when I started… but it didn’t take much to turn it around and make it look just as appetizing as it tastes.

So why not make my own? I’m lazy… AND I hate cooking lobsters. I can’t handle it… it upsets me. And yes, before the jesters out there start heckling me about being a hypocrite — not wanting to kill the lobster, but happy to eat it — I don’t kill my own fricken chickens either. Do you???

I’m sure there are just as many recipes out there for lobster rolls as there are for macaroni salad… but this one — offered by Sara Moulton — seems like a pretty close rendition to an old-fashioned, New England, lobster roll (and is very similar to Jasper White’s version).

Purists may argue that lobster rolls should contain nothing other than mayo and celery, but this sounds pretty tasty to me!

World-Famous Maine Lobster Roll

1/2 pound fully cooked lobster meat or 1 (2 1/2 pound) live lobster
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
1/4 cup bottled mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon fresh tarragon
2 small scallions, thinly sliced
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 to 3 New England-style hot dog buns
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Pickles and potato chips as accompaniment

Prepare the lobster salad.

If using live lobsters, steam or boil them. Let cool at room temperature. Use a cleaver to crack and remove the meat from the claws, knuckles and tails. Remove the cartilage from the claws and the intestines from the tails of the cooked meat. Cut the meat into 1/2-inch dice. You may pick all the meat from the carcass and add it to the meat or freeze the carcass for soup or broth.

Place the cucumber in a colander for at least 5 minutes to drain the excess liquid. Combine the lobster, cucumber mayonnaise, and tarragon. Add the scallions. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat a large heavy skillet (12 to 14-inches) over medium-low heat (a black cast-iron pan is perfect). Lightly butter both sides of each bun. Place them in the pan and cook for about 2 minutes until golden brown. Turn the buns over and toast the other side. Or toast the buns under a broiler instead. When the buns are ready, stuff them with the chilled lobster salad. Place each roll on a small paper or china plate; garnish with pickles and potato chips. Serve at once.

 And for the purists:

Lobster Roll (courtesy of Billy’s Chowder House in Wells, ME)

8 ounces cooked lobster meat, torn into bite-size pieces
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
2 hot dog rolls
1/2 head of butter lettuce, thinly sliced

Combine lobster meat and mayonnaise in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Butter outside surfaces of hot dog rolls. Heat medium skillet over medium-high heat. Place rolls, 1 buttered side down, in skillet; cook until browned slightly, about 2 minutes per side. Open rolls. Fill with lettuce, then lobster mixture, and serve.

However you serve it up, summer is just not summer unless you gobble down a few of these beauties.

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