Friday, February 15, 2013

Lobstah Rolls!

I grew up in southeastern Connecticut, and in the summer we would spend a week or two in the Thimble Islands. My folks knew some people who had homes there and for years had been going there to relax, socialize, booze, engage in shenanigans and play their version of Wimbledon known appropriately as Thimbledon. Every night everyone would get together for dinner at one of the main houses. Food was always fresh, from the sweet corn to the steamers. Occasionally lobster would be served and it was a real treat.

Lobster is not for lazy people. Though it is not like eating pig intestines or raw camel hump, it is in many ways still adventurous eating. I loved being able to use the claw crackers to get to the tender claw meat, then dipping the claw in the butter and throwing it down the hatch. Lobster is one of those foods that, for me, is all about the process. If you are patient and have some skill you are rewarded with a full and fulfilling meal. But I get that some people find the process to be dull and perhaps repulsive. The Mrs finds it to be the latter. 

These days I don't get lobster all too often. I spent nearly 10 years in California and spiney lobster is not Maine lobster no more than shrimp is the same as crawfish (San Diegans: stop fooling yourselves). However, every year on my birthday, my Mom and Aunt send me a LobsterGram. It is easily my most favorite tradition in our family. And while I have enjoyed the lobsters traditionally: boil, crack, dip and eat. In more recent years, I have gravitated to the lobster roll. I love sandwiches.

The lobster roll is everything cracked lobster is with a little punch. It's a ton of delicious lobster meat, mixed with a little dressing and stuffed in a traditional New England hot dog bun (similar to the standard hot dog bun, but the sides are trimmed). Lobster rolls are done differently at a lot of places, no major differences mind you, just little nuances making it their own.

Below is my recipe, so hurry up and go get your Maine lobster...I'll wait...

...okay, that was long enough.

The Lobster Roll

Ingredients (makes 4 STUFFED lobster rolls):

2 Maine Lobsters (about 1-1 1/2 lbs each) steamed and meat pulled
Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
2 ribs of celery roughly chopped
dash or two of dill
2 tblspn of mayonnaise
2 tblspn of melted butter
4 Traditional New England hot dog buns (or potato bread hot dog buns with sides just cut off)
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Get a large pot (I use an 8 quart, and do one lobster at a time) and fill with salted water about a quarter of the way. Turn stove to medium high and cover.

2. Prep lobster. Now there are one of two ways to do this: the disgusting, albeit humane way, and the easy though supposedly you make the lobsters suffer. Since I go the prior route, that's what I will go over. The other option is to toss them into the boiling water, and no I have never heard them scream.

To prep your lobster, you need to humanely kill it. The best way to do this quickly and painlessly is to find where there heads meets the body (there is a somewhat obvious "x" marks the spot in the makeup of the shell), push a knife through and pull it downward through the front of the head. This supposedly severs the main nerve and killing the lobster instantly. Though it does not kill the body as you will definitely see some movement from the tail and claws. This is also not a clean or easy way to dispatch of the lobster. I prep with my chopping block wrapped with paper towels. I also make sure my knife is sharp, as in really sharp; that lobster shell is no joke. The first time I did this, I don't think I did the lobster any great service, and I have now started apologizing to every lobster I eat just before doing this deed.

Now, drop your lobster into your pot, cover and cook for about 7-8 minutes (you can also boil or bake, but here were are steaming the lobster). The lobster is ready when you can relatively easily pop out one of the antennae.

3. Let your lobster cool for a few minutes unless you enjoy burning your hands, in which case, enjoy. Or if you are a normal human being and enjoy having fingerprints, now is the time to prep your dressing and your buns (if you don't have access to traditional New England buns).

For the dressing:

Mix the mayo, juice of half a lemon, dill and celery in a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste (I use about a 1/2 tsp of both).

For the buns:

I use Martin's potato bread hot dog buns, but any potato bread or standard hot dog bun will do. Remove  just a small portion of the outside of the roll with a knife, leaving a "crust" around the bun. Brush the outsides of the buns with half of the melted butter and stick into the oven at 450 for 3-4 minutes or until there is a light browning on the bread.

4. Now that the Lobster had had time to cool, time to get to cracking! There is no real wrong way to do this, just don't rush and be sure to scoop every piece of meat out. I start by tearing the body from the tail. I then tear off the fins from the tail and, using a fork inserted where the fins were, push the tail meat out. The tail is similar to that of shrimp and you will need to cut a small slit down the back to remove any of our lobsters last meal. Roughly chop the tail into 6 pieces.

Move on to the claws. I like to start from the claws and work backwards. First, pull the "thumb" of the claw from the "mitt" (not technical names, but what I've always called them) and remove the meat from there. Be sure to empty any moisture from the mitt now to make the next step cleaner. Either using a lobster cracker or the back of a chefs knife, crack the "mitt" and remove the meat from there. Now crack and remove the meat from the knuckle and the forearm.

5. Roughly chop the meat, leaving good size portions of the claws intact.

6. Place all your meat into a bowl, mix in remaining melted butter and throw in dressing. Now would be a good time to taste if you need any more salt or pepper.

7. If all is good, get your buns ready and stuff them FULL. Grab a bottle of a good beer and enjoy!

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