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Never Too Late
I was introduced to various lobster roll recipes late in my life when my sister-in-law settled in a little community in Phippsburg, Maine. We, of course, being tourists, insisted on trying the ones that were on various Best Ever lists. They were all pretty unremarkable. In fact, the one that had long wait lines, with cars parked haphazardly along the sides of a two-lane road, was truly disappointing. We then tried an unlisted example from a small harbour cafe (the harbour itself was pretty much owned by Japanese seafood corporations., That probably had something to do with the excellence of the lobster roll, at well over $20.00 per portion.
Virginia and I persisted in trying different recipes, relying on the lobsters at $3.00 to $5.00/lb, which we could get from our beloved neighbor and lobsterman (the one who never learned how to swim). Virginia always steamed her lobsters on seaweed rather than boiling them. Another neighbor taught us to clip off the ends of the claws, which drains the liquid that accumulates within the shell. That made cracking and extracting lobster meat much less messy. Still, recreating this treat at home seemed impossible.
Now that I have discovered one pound containers of beautiful and fresh claw and knuckle lobster meat from MAS Seafood, a small dream has been realized. I can get lobster tails too, but have come to prefer the former. I am back to making lobster dishes from Jasper White’s book Lobster At Home. Victoria and I have earmarked several, including his Spaghetti with Lobster, Tomato and Capers or Pan Fried Lobster Dumplings with Dipping Sauce. We, along with other Holy Grail searchers in the food universe, have bowed down to Jasper White’s lobster roll recipe. And even he prefers the knuckle and claw meat for his version.
Top loading buns (Pepperidge Farm so far wins the grocery store contest) are readily available in my neighborhood of make believe. Even so, Lobster At Home has a recipe for New England Style Hot Dog Buns, which I have targeted as a fall experiment. In my dotage, I feel it is incumbent upon me to further the lobster roll project to its proper end. And it should be noted that the top-loading bun was created before the ubiquitous side-loading bun that hot dogs made famous. The top loading bun was created by a bakery for the Massachusetts-based Howard Johnson chain in the 1940s – and it was designed for their fried clam sandwiches. It made toasting the exterior sides easier, and the incision on top made stuffing the roll easier in production.
Having made Jasper White’s mayonnaise in the above book, I still prefer the Mayonnaise by David Tanis I never use the full amount of oil; I think it depends on the size of the yolks. Simply add chopped fresh tarragon leaves to this mayonnaise version – don’t try dried tarragon. We did and it was dreadful. I butter the sides of the top-loading buns (and occasionally the interiors) and saute them in a frypan first. Then pile in Jasper White’s prepared lobster salad. The inclusion of cucumber over celery is genius.
- 1 lb (454gr) fully cooked lobster meat
- 1 medium cucumber (5-6 inches or 12-14cm) peeled, seeded and finely diced
- 2 small scallions (white and most of the green parts) thinly sliced
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup (119ml)homemade mayonnaise with some fresh chopped tarragon leaves added to taste
- Once you dice the cucumbers, allow them to drain in a sieve for at least 5 minutes.
- Shred or cut the lobster meat into 1/2 inch pieces where needed.
- Combine the lobster, cucumber and mayonnaise and fold gently together.
- Add the scallions no more than 30 minutes before putting together the rolls.
- Adjust to your taste with salt and pepper and chill for 30 minutes before assembling rolls.
- Butter the outside (and inside as well, if you like) with softened unsalted butter.
- Heat a cast iron or carbon steel skillet over medium low heat and saute thebuns on the exterior sides.
- If you have buttered the inside, open the top part of the bun and allow the heat to melt the butter into the interior and crisp it lightly.
- Stuff the buns with the lobster salad and serve immediately.
- I don't serve chips with this, but rather pickled vegetables or mixed green salad.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.