A co-worker who recently spent two weeks on the East Coast raved about the lobster rolls served at Spindler’s in Provincetown, Mass.
It’s no wonder the lobster roll was good. The restaurant’s menu development was overseen by James Beard award-winning chef Barbara Lynch, who is the chef-owner of Boston-based Barbara Lynch Grupp, according to www.spindlersptown.com. Lynch was also named to 2017’s edition of the TIME 100, the magazine’s annual list of the world’s most powerful people.
According to Spindler’s online menu, the lobster roll is served with pommes frites, coleslaw and house-made pickles. My co-worker praised its generous size and big chunks of lobster meat.
If you don’t have plans to head to the East Coast this summer, you can easily make your own lobster rolls at home.
What is a lobster roll? It’s basically chunks of cooked lobster meat mixed with a good-quality mayonnaise and some seasoning and then loosely packed into a split-top hot dog roll. It’s important that you go easy on the mayonnaise. The meat shouldn’t be drenched in mayo. Sometimes the top of the roll is drizzled with melted butter and garnished with celery leaves. It’s the sum of all these parts that make lobster rolls so tasty.
Why is the roll important? You can use any roll. But authentic lobster rolls are made with a New England-style hot dog bun. Think of them as a hot dog bun with the sides cut off. The sides of the buns are brushed with butter and grilled in a pan or on a grill to lightly toast. You can sometimes find the rolls in stores, so ask around.
How do you prepare the lobster? If you’re cooking a whole lobster, it’s best to plan on cooking it the day you buy it. Refrigerate lobsters as soon as you get them home and do not remove them until you are ready to cook them.
One lobster doesn’t yield a lot of meat. A lobster is only about 25 percent meat.
Here’s how to boil lobster:
Fill a large deep stockpot with water, allowing about 3 quarts of water per 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of lobster.
Add a generous amount of sea or kosher salt to the water (at least 2 tablespoons per 3 quarts) and bring the water to a rolling boil.
Add the live lobsters, head first, one at a time, and start timing immediately. Do not cover. Stir the lobsters halfway through cooking.
Set a timer. A 1-1/4-pound lobster will take about 9-10 minutes. Add 2 minutes for each 1/4 pound.
Here’s how to steam lobster:
Add a couple of inches of salted water to a large pot.
Fit the pot with a steamer basket or vegetable steamer insert. Another option is to place a small metal colander upside down in the pot so the lobster can rest on it.
Bring the water to a boil. Add the live lobsters and cover the pot. If your pot is big enough to cook several lobsters, halfway through steaming, remove the lid, being mindful of the hot steam, shift the lobsters around so they cook evenly. Return to a boil and start timing.
A 1-1/4-pound lobster will take about 10 minutes. Add 2 minutes for each 1/4 pound.
How do you break down a cooked lobster? Take apart the claws, knuckles and tail from the body to get every morsel of meat.
Use a nutcracker to crack the claws and knuckles. For the tail, bend it to break it away from the body.
To prepare the lobster meat: Cut it into decent size chunks, not small pieces. You want see the chunks in the roll.
I prefer buying and grilling only lobster tails because it’s easier. To grill the tails, stick a skewer under the shell and through the meat on the top side. This prevents the tail from curling during grilling. Brush the flesh side with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the tails, flesh side down, on a grill preheated to medium for about 3 minutes. Turn them over and brush again with oil. Continue grilling another 5 to 6 minutes or until the meat is opaque and the shell is bright red.
Here’s one of my favorite lobster roll recipes. It’s a basic version, but you can tweak and season as you like. The recipe also includes an option for making your own mayonnaise.
Preparation time: 50 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
- Kosher salt
- 3 to 4 (1-1/4- to 1-1/2-pound) live lobsters
- 2 ribs celery, diced small
- 1/2 cup celery leaves from the inner ribs, chopped (reserve some whole leaves for garnish if you like)
- 1/2 cup good-quality mayonnaise or more if you like (homemade preferred, see recipe)
- Sea salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for drizzling
- 4 split-top hot dog rolls
- Bibb lettuce leaves
- 3/4 teaspoon celery seed
- Pickles for serving, optional
- Potato chips for serving, optional
Put lobsters in freezer while you bring the salted water to a boil. Prepare a pot of water with a steamer basket and add a couple of inches of salted water, or bring a large, deep stockpot of water to a boil and add a heaping 1/4 cup of kosher salt. Working in batches if need be, steam the lobsters 12 to 14 minutes or boil them 10 to 12 minutes or until bright red. Use tongs to remove from the pot and let cool completely. You can cook and refrigerate lobsters 1 day in advance.
Shell and roughly chop lobster meat.
In a large bowl, combine the lobster meat, celery, celery leaves and mayonnaise and season with salt to taste.
Melt butter in a skillet on medium-high heat. Place the rolls, cut side down, in the skillet to toast. Turn over and toast the other side. Remove the rolls and line with Bibb lettuce. Fill with the lobster salad, drizzle with more melted butter if desired and sprinkle with celery seed. Serve with pickles and chips.
Makes 4 servings.
Cook’s note: Here’s how to make your own mayonnaise. If you’re squeamish about using raw egg yolk, be sure to use pasteurized eggs.
Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature; doing so makes it easier for the mixture to emulsify. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg yolk, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in 1/2 to 3/4 cup canola oil until completely incorporated. Whisk in lemon zest. Taste and adjust, adding more lemon juice and salt if needed. The mayonnaise should have at least a hint of lemon.
Test Kitchen is Tribune News Service column by Susan Selasky, the food writer and Test Kitchen director for the Detroit Free Press, where she develops and tests recipes and answers readers’ questions about all things food. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SusanMariecooks