~ Lobster Rolls: The Official Summertime Sandwich ~
For a bib-wearing lobster-lover like me, past steaming-hot with drawn butter and lemon, when I am looking to quell a craving for my favorite crustacean, I indulge in a lobster roll -- a sandwich with big chunks of tender, sweet-white-meat and tiny bits of celery or scallions, lightly-coated with creamy mayonnaise and piled into a buttery, toasted 'hot dog' roll. It's heaven. On bread.
Yes, from bisque to thermidore, you will find a lengthy list of recipes paying homage to the preparation of this beloved cold-water creature, but, none result in the comfort and complete satisfaction that comes over me while eating a humble lobster roll on a Summer day with an ice cold beer at hand, at a lobster shack on the New England coast or on my back porch.
There's no absolute right way to make a lobster roll...
The Maine ingredient is cold-water lobster meat, the best you can get your hands on -- for full effect, that means cooking a whole live lobster. That said, high-quality flash-frozen tails make life simpler and more user-friendly for many a home cook. At coastal, roadside New England "lobster shacks", also called "lobster pounds" (indoor and outdoor eateries where significant amounts of live lobsters are housed, cooked on-site and sold for consumption), live lobsters are usually boiled in seasoned water, hand-picked to harvest the meat, and, each sandwich contains a generous quarter-pound of chunked sweet claw, tender knuckle and tasty tail. In New England, they serve the sandwich two ways: warm lobster meat tossed judiciously with melted butter, or, cold lobster meat tossed in some mayonnaise -- just enough to coat and never enough to drench.
Whether you opt for the butter or the mayonnaise version, in New England, your lobster roll is going to be served on a frankfurter-esque roll that has been baked differently from the standard hot dog roll. Its crustless, flat sides allow it to be buttered and lightly-toasted on a flattop grill. Its flat bottom keeps it from tipping over on the plate, and, because it is top loading, all of the filling stays squarely in place. That said, outside of New England, these rolls can be difficult to locate, but, they're not difficult to make.
My recipe for ~ New England Top-Split Brioche Hot Dog Rolls ~ can be found in Category 5.
2, 12-ounce, flash-frozen tails, fully-thawed & at room temp
2 cups white wine
1 lemon & 2 bay leaves
~ Step 1. Place water and wine in a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight deep sides. Cut a lemon in half, squeeze as much juice from it as you can into the water mixture, then add the lemon rinds too. Add bay leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add tails. When water returns to slow boil, reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover the pan, and, cook for exactly 10 minutes.
Tip from Mel: I like to place one 6" wooden skewer through the length of the meat in each Lobster tail. You do not have to do this, but, it keeps the tails from curling up a lot while cooking. This definitely makes them easier to cut in the end, and, even though I have no scientific evidence to back this up, I have completely convinced myself that they cook more evenly too.
~Step 2. Using a pair of tongs, remove the lobster tails from the simmering liquid and place them in a colander. Using a sharp paring knife, cut into the soft underside and check to be sure they are cooked-through to the center, meaning: the center should be as opaque as the outside. If they are, rinse them under cold running water to halt the cooking process. In the strange event they're not, return them to the pan of simmering liquid and cook for another 45-60 seconds.
~Step 3. To remove meat from tails, using a pair of kitchen shears, cut through the soft undersides of the tails, along both sides of the tail, then, using your fingertips, remove the soft underside. Next, place your thumb under the shell and between the meat on the thickest side and lift the shell off. Lastly, remove the wooden skewer. Slice the tail meat into 1/2"-thick medallions and slice each medallion into 3-4 chunks. You will have 1-pound of chunked, sweet, white and perfectly-cooked room-temperature lobster meat.
~Step 4. In a medium bowl, stir together: 10 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 4 tablespoons minced celery, 4 tablespoons minced green onion, 1/8 teaspoon sea salt and 1/8 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper. Fold in: 1 pound lobster meat, cooked as directed above. Serve immediately on toasted top-split rolls.
Note: It can be refrigerated, but, I adore it served at room temperature immediately after mixing.
~ Step 5. To toast rolls, melt 1 1/2 teaspoons salted butter in an 8" nonstick skillet over low heat. Increase heat to medium and toast until golden brown on the two flat crustless sides only, turning only once, about 1 minute per side. Serve ASAP.
Remove toasted roll from skillet, wipe skillet clean and repeat with three more rolls. Note: Yes, you can toast more than one roll in a larger skillet using more butter accordingly -- it works great when serving 4 people at once. For Joe and I, I toast each roll as we eat the sandwiches.
Serve w/pickles & potato chips & pick it up & enjoy ASAP!
Special Equipment List: 2, 6" wooden skewers; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight deep sides & lid; tongs; colander; kitchen shears; cutting board; chef's knife
Cook's Note: "Hold the mayo." When I'm in the mood for a warm lobster roll with the meat tossed in butter, I cook the tails differently. Click into Category 21 to get my recipe for ~ Elegant & Exquisite Butter-Poached Lobster Tails ~.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)