March 2, 2014

Lobster Rolls

When my friend Theresa came over last month to cook Coq au Riesling with me, we decided to make New England lobster rolls next time. I'd never eaten a real lobster roll, but we agreed that we had to make everything from scratch for it to be authentic--including cooking live lobsters, making mayonnaise for the salad, and baking fresh buns.

Lobster rolls are traditionally served on flat-sided buns that are buttered and toasted. According to the Boston Globe, "Variously called top-sliced, top-loading, or frankfurter roll, the style was developed sometime in the mid- to late ’40s, explains Michael Cornelis, vice president of American Pan, which makes baking pans for the industry. Howard Johnson’s approached J. J. Nissen bakery of Maine to develop a special bun for its fried clam strip sandwich. The restaurant chain wanted top sliced rolls that would stand upright and be easier to prepare, serve, and eat. […] 'Before the New England-style roll,' says Cornelis, 'there was no way to mechanically slice a bun part of the way through. If you wanted a roll pre-sliced, commercial bakers would slice them all the way through. Well, that’s not as happy a hot dog bun.'"

I borrowed Ruth's hot dog bun pan and followed the recipe on the King Arthur Flour website. In the end, they turned out just fine--albeit a little dense. Next time, I would buy good-quality buns (hubba) instead.

The lobster salad, however, was damn delicious. 

So, what do you think Theresa and I should cook next month?

Maine Lobster Rolls
recipe slightly adapted from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home

To cook the lobsters:
Two 1 1/2-2 pound live lobsters
4 large carrots, roughly chopped
1 large onion, peeled & roughly chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed & roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
3 thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 garlic clove, smashed & peeled
2 cups dry white wine
1 cup white wine vinegar
2 lemons, halved
4 quarts water
  • Add all the ingredients--except the lobsters--to a large stockpot. Bring to a boil. Add the lobsters headfirst & cover the pot to return to a boil. Boil for one minute. Remove the pan from the heat and let the lobsters steep for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer the lobsters to a sheet pan to cook, then remove all the meat from the shells.
To make the lobster salad:
Cooked lobster meat, roughly chopped
1-2 tablespoons of homemade mayonaisse
1 tablespoon minced red onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped, peeled celery
1 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt & pepper
  • Mix all ingredients together gently, so as not to break up the lobster meat too much. You want large, luxurious, juicy chunks. Use immediately or chill until ready to serve.
  • Slice the buns open at the top, half-way through. Brush with melted butter. Brown in a frying pan over medium heat. 
  • Fill with lobster salad. Ohh and ahh.

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