Yes You Can: Make Your Own Lobster Rolls

DROOL. So good I forgot to take a picture until I took a couple bites.

DROOL. So good I forgot to take a picture until I took a couple bites.

If you’ve never had the sweet-and-delicious, warm-and-buttery, cold-and-crunchy experience of biting into a succulent, decadent lobster roll, it may not be your fault. You could have grown up on the West Coast, like me, and the lobster roll is clearly a New England-type treat. However! If you do not attempt to make one of your own at least once after I’ve told you how, you clearly do not like nice things and I am judging you. Ahem. Just kidding.

I had my first lobster roll shortly after moving to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, and we fell deeply in love and have lived happily ever after ever since. I literally had one every day one summer for my shift meal when I waitressed at the (now defunct) Seasons Eatery and Pub.

So what is a lobster roll? At its best, a lobster roll is simply chunks of lobster, dressed with a little mayonnaise and accented with a little chopped celery, piled into a top-sliced hot dog bun that has had its sides buttered and toasted. Kiss it with salt, pepper, and lemon, and you’re on your way to heaven. Simple.

It’s actually my favorite way to eat lobster, even better than eating a whole steamed one dipped in butter (because bread, mayo, and toastiness), which is good, because it’s also a more economical way to eat lobster. Three two-pound lobsters, as is, will serve three people (or more if they share, but that’s awkward and can lead to “accidental” stabbing). But I took three two-pound lobsters this weekend, and made about 15 lobster rolls (yield from six pounds of live lobster: about two-and-a-half pounds of lobster salad).

Let’s get real: it’s still expensive to make lobster rolls. And it can be a pain to find live lobsters (and crack them). But I estimated that the per-roll price of the lobster I used (estimating 2.5-3 oz each) was about $5.30.

It’s also not for the faint of heart. To get fresh lobster, you have to purchase them live, and then kill them. Take a minute to absorb that. That’s because the meat will go bad if you keep it in the shell. The other way to get lobster meat is to buy shelled fresh meat (if you live on the East Coast), which is incredibly expensive, or bags of frozen lobster meat, which I imagine is expensive, and I’m not interested. Because if we’re doing this, we’re going whole-hog (whole lobster?). We . . . are . . . going . . . all . . . the . . . way!

Materials List

For Lobsters:
Large stockpot or canning pot
Steamer insert (I use one of those fold-y metal vegetable ones)
Seafood pick (or skewer or crochet needle, in a pinch)
Hammer
Kitchen towel that can get dirty
Oven mitts
Chef’s knife
Cutting board
Medium mixing bowl

For Buns:
KitchenAid mixer or large bowl and elbow grease
Pan for rising/baking

The Roll

So many delicious rolls!

So many delicious rolls!

With today’s increasingly globalized society, it’s cool to realize there are still regional foods. For example: the top-sliced hot dog bun. I had no idea these existed before I moved to the East Coast, and now I have no idea why they haven’t taken over the world. It’s a long bun, sliced straight down the middle, instead of sideways. Not only is this configuration neater to eat (you’re holding the filling together with bread on either side!) but it enables you to butter and toast the sides, which is awesome.

These days you can order pretty much anything from Amazon: voila! But since I only make lobster rolls once or twice a year, I make my own rolls using the Pioneer Woman’s Parker House Rolls recipe.

Technique:
After the dough has risen, I measure out 3 oz portions (I’m a little nuts), shape them into logs, place them in a buttered roasting pan or Pyrex dish, and let rise. Using the full recipe, I filled an 11″ x 17″ pan and a smaller Pyrex (about 7″ x 12″). I space them so the finished size is about 1.5″ wide and 6″ long, and they rose about 2″ high. I then baked them at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

When I use them, I actually separate the rolls by slicing them with a serrated knife–the flat sides are much easier to toast evenly. I also shave off the long sides of the rolls at the edge!

The Lobster

Lobsters!

Lobsters!

You Need:
Live lobsters, preferably the two-pound size (I find the shells of larger lobsters are really thick and difficult to deal with): I estimate about four to five lobster rolls per lobster
Best Foods or Hellman’s mayonnaise
Chopped celery to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon wedges

Check around to see where you can get live lobsters in your neighborhood. I go to ABC Seafood, an Asian fish market that always has a tank full of them. I’ve also spotted them at Costco and even my local supermarket (usually around major holidays like New Year’s or in the summer).

Keep your lobsters in the refrigerator–it will keep them sleepy and slow–and kill them within a day or two. Place your steamer insert in your pot, add water to the level of the steamer, cover, and bring to a boil. Put on an oven mitt and grab your first lobster by the body, above the tail (I tend to do them individually, because that’s fits best in my pot). While the claws should be fastened with rubber bands, you can still get pinched by that spiny tail–watch out! Place it in the pot, cover, and steam for 15 minutes. Feel a little guilty.

Remove the steamed lobster, again using your oven mitt, and set aside to cool (I keep mine in a clean sink). Repeat until all of your lobsters are cooked. Let cool (don’t burn yourself–hot water can get trapped in the shell).

To remove the meat: twist the tail off, rinse it, and flatten it on a cutting board. Using your chef’s knife, cut it lengthwise from the top, break it in half, and remove the meat. Chop it in 1/2″-3/4″ inch pieces, and place in a bowl. Note: if your lobster is a female, you will see a quantity of bright-red roe. This is a delicacy: scoop it out, chop it up, and add to your salad.

A bowlful of lobster.

A bowlful of lobster.

Next, remove the claws and “arms” by twisting them at the “shoulder.” This is the trickier part. The “arms” (referred to as knuckles) can usually be broken apart with your hands. (Use the tip of your knife to puncture the joints if needed. Use your seafood pick to draw out the meat. Chop, if needed, and add to your bowl.

The little legs also have a little meat if you want to suck it out. Cook’s treat!

For the claws, I’ve found the best and fastest way to do it (without hurting my hands) is to just use a hammer. First, break off the “thumbs” and use your pick to remove the meat. Then cover your claw with a kitchen towel (in case shards of shell shoot out) and hit it hard, in the center, until it cracks. Turn over the claw and repeat. Break off the shell, and remove the meat, using your hands and pick. Chop it all, and add to your bowl.

Add enough mayo to bind it together, but not so much that it overwhelms the meat–start slow! Then add celery to taste. Think about how you like your tuna salad. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Then taste it. Your lobster salad is awesome. Put it in the refrigerator to chill.

The finished lobster salad. Delightful!

The finished lobster salad. Delightful!

Putting Together the Lobster Roll

You’re going to want to work quickly and serve these as soon as they’re ready, so you can enjoy the contrast of the hot, buttery, toasted bun and the cool, creamy, briny lobster meat, so get all your materials together: buns, butter, lobster meat, lemon wedges, serrated blade, frying pan or electric grill, a spoon, and plates.

Heat your pan or electric grill over medium-high heat. Butter the sides of your rolls and use your serrated blade to slice them lengthwise, down the middle, about halfway down. Toast until nicely browned on both sides. Then stand it on your plate, gently (don’t break the roll!) open the roll, and add lobster meat by the spoonful (again, gently) until filled. Don’t go crazy–it’s like a burrito or sushi roll, you don’t want to overstuff it and have it fall apart.

Serve with a lemon wedge on the side. Then eat your lobster roll. You are very welcome. You can show your thanks by buying me lobsters.

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Lobster Rolls

Happy Monday! Links to Make Your Day Brighter

Lobster Rolls

Lobster rolls! Photo from Bon Appetit.

Hey everyone! How was your weekend? Mine felt like it raced by incredibly quickly. We spent time with Sid’s mother’s father’s side of the family, hosted couple of play dates with Sid’s friends, and finally finished clearing out our community garden plot and planted it up with tomatoes, zucchini, delicata squash, kale, and lettuce. I’ve got big plans for beets, carrots, green beans, and perhaps artichokes, but I think that will come next week. If you’re interested in gardening but don’t have the space, you can find a community garden here!

Links!

Our first bit of exciting news last weekend: the Twin Peaks revival is a go! With David Lynch directing the entire thing! And it will be more than nine episodes! Needless to say, our household was overjoyed–although we did have to caution Sid that he may not be able to watch the new series, since it’s on Showtime and might be scarier/more adult (sexier) than is appropriate for a 10-year old.

Feel like celebrating? I have some Twin Peaks party ideas, as well as recipes for Twin Peaks Cherry Pie and the Laura Palmer Cocktail. You can also check out this excellent piece of Twin Peaks art by Gabriel Hardman!

Next: I caught the (spoilers via the link) Mad Men series finale early this morning on iTunes, and I was really moved and really, really satisfied. Without giving away any spoilers, I was really happy about the endings for many of the characters, but especially Joan. As with any long-running series with a passionate following, a lot of people were not pleased with how things ended up–what did you think?

One site I just recently discovered–and wish I’d been reading all along–is Tom & Lorenzo, which has been doing amazing analyses of Mad Men by interpreting the colors and styles of their costumes. Janie Bryant is an amazing costume designer, and Matthew Weiner is famously obsessed with getting every little detail of the ’60s and ’70s right–which means if you’re paying attention, the clothes inform the story on a whole other level. It’s genius!

We’re headed off this Friday on our annual Memorial Day Weekend trip to lovely Dayville, Oregon to celebrate Scott’s birthday! What’s in Dayville? Not much–and that’s part of the fun. We discovered the–ahem–rustic but gorgeously landscaped Fish House Inn & RV Park four years ago. Over the years more and more friends have joined us to relax, break into haunted houses, grill delicious meats, and go to the nearby Spray Rodeo.

As part of our yearly tradition, I pick up some live lobsters and transform them into delectable lobster salad to bring with us for lobster rolls for Friday night’s dinner. As lobster rolls are traditionally made with top-sliced buns (which you can’t find on the West Coast), I usually make my own. My favorite recipe is the Pioneer Woman’s Parker House Rolls recipe. I shape the dough into 3 oz logs (yes, I weigh all the dough) and make my own hot dog buns! I’ll post my lobster roll recipe later this week.

That’s all for now!

10 Item Wardrobe Day 4

10 Days, 10-Item Wardrobe: The First Five Days

Yay, I finally got a 10-Item Wardrobe post off the ground! I’m sure you were waiting with bated breath. The reason for my delay was two-fold: one, a lot of the photos I took didn’t show the clothes terribly well, so I put together some extra images. Two, I had a little performance anxiety. After all, it’s not like I’m the most fashionable lady–who really cares what I’m wearing?

However, I reminded myself that the 10-Item Wardrobe isn’t about following the latest fashions, it’s about finding the things that suit you. Out of necessity, everything I chose had to be something I loved to wear–and each piece had to go together and be reliable, too. Because of this, I was able to get dressed in less than five minutes every day, which gave me extra time to enjoy my vacation (or . . . change a diaper).

Okay, to refresh: we went from warm and springy Oregon to cold and snowy Massachusetts for a week, after which we traveled to warmish and wet Seattle for Emerald City Comicon. That meant I had to pack flexible items that could be layered for warmth, and dressed up or down. The first five days were all in Massachusetts!

Day 1

10 Item Wardrobe Day 1

From the PDX airport to Massachusetts!

For Day 1, I needed ultimate flexibility, an outfit that would work for a five-hour plane ride and be suitable for snowy Massachusetts, so I chose lots of layers! Here I have my black T-shirt, topped by my chambray shirt and my trusty, favorite grey sweater. I paired these with blue jeans and my Ahnu sneakers (which I put on for the first time on Day 1, and wore every day for the rest of the trip–no blisters, no nothing)!

10 Item Wardrobe Day 1

Day 2

10 Item Wardrobe Day 2

Hanging out with family.

Day 2 was primarily spent at my husband’s parents’ house (after our morning trip to Dunkin’ Donuts, of course). My J Crew striped shirt and black jeans were comfy and still made me look presentable in front of Scott’s many stepsisters.

10 Item Wardrobe Day 2

Day 3

10 Item Wardrobe Day 3

Off to Martha’s Vineyard to visit friends (and my cat)!

Day 3 was another long day of travel, as we got up early (so early) to drive down to Woods Hole to grab a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, where I used to live. Again, I needed something that looked sharp (I was seeing at least one ex-boyfriend, for heaven’s sake!) but felt comfy. And was striped, apparently.

Anyway, I went with my orange striped T-shirt and my black jeans (because I could easily find them in the dark–again, oh it was early).

10 Item Wardrobe Day 3

Day 4

10 Item Wardrobe Day 4

Playing at the LEGO store with Sid!

After all our travels, Day 4 was a day for relaxing . . . and shopping! Scott’s mother took us to the mall to spoil the grandkids, which of course included a trip to the LEGO store for Sid. I dressed for the weather and my own interests with a black T-shirt, my awesome Spider-Man sweatshirt (so cozy!), and my grey jeans.

10 Item Wardrobe Day 4

Day 5

10 Item Wardrobe Day 5

On our morning trek to Dunkin’ Donuts. Sid, me, Sarah (in a new outfit from Nana Debbie) and Gunny!

Day 5 was a momentous day. A day I’d been looking forward to all year: lobster roll day! Scott’s mom makes incredible lobster rolls, and as a special treat, she made as many as we could eat. What else was there for me to wear but my lobster sweater and blue jeans?

10 Item Wardrobe Day 5So there’s the first five days! I’ll have the next five days up tomorrow. Oh, the suspense! What striped and/or comic-book related clothes will I possibly wear?!?

In all seriousness, looking over the first five days, I can see my style can be described in three words: classic, comfortable, and . . . striped! I’ll take it.

So what’s your style? Have you ever tried to put together a capsule wardrobe? Post your comments below!