Recipe: Lobster Rolls (and Lobster Lessons)

I love Maine lobster – in butter, in bisque, but most especially in rolls. I’ve never thought twice about cooking one myself… but then again, I’ve never chased one around my living room before.
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I didn’t set out to cook a lobster. It was a recent revelation that you could buy ones pre-steamed, and that’s what I had in mind. But my fish store was jammed and they gave me a choice: take the live ones or come back in an hour. Too hungry to wait, I set down the street with two live crustaceans and some sage advice: pop them in the freezer quickly before steaming. Simple enough.

Now let me preface by saying I’m a complete lobster novice. Raised in California, I don’t own a shred of seersucker and have never even cracked a cooked lobster without adult supervision. And thus begins my post: things I have learned about lobster.

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First, photographing a live lobster is the quickest way to re-create the classic lobster scene from Annie Hall. I naively tried to sneak in a few shots while the water boiled, and at first the lobster obliged. Then he did a sudden flick-flick-flick jujitsu move with his tail, lunged for the camera and flung himself off the table onto my living room floor. Scared the living daylights out of me! Lobster 1: Liz 0.

Second: they don’t really freeze, they just kind of chill out a little. When I slipped off the claw bands, he grabbed the bag and held on for dear life. In a tug-of-war, lobsters win every time. Lobster 2: Liz 0.

The good news is, he emerged from his bath all bright red and steamy. I triumphantly twisted of his tail… and found myself covered in lobster goop. Didn’t see that one coming. Lobster 3: Liz 0.

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Determined, I pried some respectable chunks of lobster free, and piled them high in a toasted roll with celery, lemon, chives and (purists look away) crème fraiche, since I was out of mayo. I am happy to report that it was absolutely delicious, transporting me back to the Maine coast last summer where I first fell in love with lobster.

In the end, the roll was totally worth the trouble… though next time around, I’ll stick with pre-steamed, both for food and for photos!

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Lobster Roll
makes 1 roll

meat from 1 lobster
1/2 celery rib, minced
1 tablespoon crème fraiche (or mayo)
1 teaspoon chives, chopped
squeeze lemon juice
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
hot dog bun

In a small bowl, combine lobster meat with celery, crème fraiche, chives, lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and toast roll until golden brown. Stuff with lobster mixture, and enjoy.

(I am not going to attempt to tell you how to cook a live lobster, because clearly I’m not fit to give anyone advice on that front.)

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Related:The Celluloid Pantry: Lobster Wrangling and Annie Hall (1977)How to Kill a Lobster (Humanely)Sense of Place: The Flavors of New England

(Images: Liz Vidyarthi)

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