Whether you like lobster rolls Connecticut style, with warm drawn butter and lemon, or New England/Maine style tossed in a light dressing, the classic summer food is usually considered a treat and one that’s ordered in a restaurant.
But why not serve them to family/ guests at a summer get-together?
“If you’re going to buy frozen lobster meat, it’s easy,” said David Cingari, executive chef of his family’s Cingari family ShopRite stores.
Chefs in Greater Hartford agree that frozen Maine knuckle and claw meat is yummy and avoids the dreaded steaming of live lobsters, followed by the labor-intensive job of pulling out the meat.
“If you’re an absolute die-hard and you want fresh lobster meat you can buy it picked off the lobster,” Cingari said, noting that’s the most expensive option.
Even the frozen Maine lobster meat won’t be cheap – currently it’s running at close to $30 per pound but what a hit that special dinner will be.
The process of cooking the meat for either type of lobster roll is the same, the experts say. The meat is cooked by poaching the meat on low heat for three to four minutes. It’s important not to overcook the meat or it will be tough.
Entertaining with lobster rolls on the back deck is a nice idea, said Brian Paszko, chef/owner of Chef’s Table at Little Dipper Farm, Brooklyn, Conn.
“It’s not always about firing up the grill in a hot night,” he said.
But you can also use lobster rolls made in the kitchen to jazz up a traditional barbecue where hot dogs and hamburgers are served.
Rui Correia, chef/owner of A Taste of Portugal Streets in Hartford’s Parkville Market, said he’s served them at family barbecues and guests had an interesting way of getting two treats out of one.
He said they ate the lobster out of the bun, then handed him the bun to throw on the grill and then ate it with a piece of lettuce and some dressing on top.
“If you’re comfortable at the helm, go for it,” he said of serving lobster rolls at home. Correia said it makes all the difference to use “good quality fresh products.”
As for the recipes, they don’t vary much for the warm lobster roll with butter and lemon. One variation might be whether the host pours the butter on top and squeezes the lemon before serving or allows the guest to regulate that with a lemon and small cup of butter on the side.
But for the cold type that is mayo or dressing there are lots of possibilities from a delicate touch of minced celery to a flavor burst of seasoning.
Chef Jeff Lizotte, owner of Present Company in Simsbury said acid and fat are “what lobster loves.”
Lizotte said there’s a chef’s saying, “Seafood swims twice. Once in the ocean and the second time in butter.”
The standard sides for lobster rolls of either kind are French fries, potato chips, cole slaw, potato salad, or as Correia suggests, a pasta salad with fresh veggies.
The buns typically used for either type are split top hot dog buns that are baked or cooked on a griddle after being coated with butter inside and out.
One chef suggests using spray butter and other says melted butter painted on with a pastry brush works well. They all agree brioche buns compliment the lobster roll.
Chef’s all have different twists, and here are a few, including a recipe for homemade mayo:
Paszko said one of his first jobs was at a large Boston seafood restaurant where lobster rolls were wildly popular and guests rarely asked for the warm, buttery type.
He said the restaurant served a popular salad of the mayo-based lobster with fresh lettuce, and brioche croutons.
He said it was like a “deconstructed lobster roll” and is a “fun thing to do.”
Although one can use store-bought mayonnaise and add celery seed and diced cucumber to add a “vibrancy” to cold lobster rolls, he shared his recipe for an amazing scratch mayo with the Courant.
Here is the recipe:
- 3 whole eggs
- 3 cups of canola oil
- 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons of kosher salt
- 3 ounces of apple cider vinegar
1. Combine whole egg, Dijon mustard, kosher salt and apple cider vinegar in a medium size bowl.
2. Slowly whisk in the canola oil until well mixed and thickened as an emulsion.
Combine and mix the lobster meat and the mayonnaise together and store covered in a bowl overnight in the fridge.
The recipe is tuned to four pounds of chopped lobster meat and should serve 12 lobster rolls, he said.
“That overnight makes a big difference,” he said, noting his mayo also makes a great base for cole slaw.
Thirty minutes prior to the event, season with celery seed and half of a cup of peeled and diced cucumber.
“What I add is not traditional, but brings out the flavor,” he said.
Serve the lobster roll with one piece of Romaine Lettuce between the roll and the mixture.
“The recipe is kind of fun,” he said. ” It can be ready when guests come.”
Cingari said the age old lobster roll debate – warm or cold, “can be quite divisive.”
Cingari said his wife loves the warm ones, he likes the cold – and for him, the simpler the recipe the better.
“I’m an absolute purist. I don’t want to taste onion, herbs,” or anything else, Cingari said. “Any of that other stuff distracts from the taste of the lobster. ”
His simple recipe for the cold lobster roll is to toss the poached meat lightly in mayonaise with minced celery, lemon juice and a touch of salt.
Lizotte, who sells lobster rolls at Present Company’s mobile kitchen or food truck, makes a cold lobster roll with more season.
He suggests tossing the lobster meat aioli or mayonaise and adding fresh lemon juice and fresh herbs, including parsley, Terragon chopped up with minced celery and shallots.
Correia, recent former owner of Douro, a fine dining restaurant that was located in Greenwich, said generally people are “skeptical” about doing lobster rolls at home, but they can be done “fairly easily,” with some guidance.
Correia said he prefers the cold lobster rolls.
“I find them more refreshing,” he said.
In addition to French fries as a side dish, Correia said a pasta and vegetable salad will complement lobster nicely.
His simple recipe is fresh corn, onions, bell peppers, fresh lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, salt, fresh thyme. You can add a pasta of your choice.
He said there’s also a great cheese from Italy – ricotta salata – that will add a nice touch.