Saturday, August 23, 2008

DIY Lobster Roll

Homemade Lobster Roll
Yes, I actually made the lobster roll above!

My aunt is headed over, so I have to clean the house before I finish the weekly list. Below is a post I did for my friends at Bostonist. (I might've been more casual otherwise...)

It might be a perfect weekend to make some lobster rolls!


Homemade Lobster Roll
$6.32 per roll (w/ chips)

There's no reason to pay big money for a good lobster roll. With a little effort, the yumminess-to-dollar ratio can be high. Part of a lobster roll's beauty is that you simply eat it without getting your hands dirty. Just like other aspects of life, there can also be quite a bit of satisfaction in self-service.

Getting your lobster at a supermarket is fine, but who knows how long those tank-dwellers have been there? Take a look behind the store, and you might see a couple crustaceans on a cigarette break.

This is New England! There are plenty of places to get a fresh, lively lobba-lobba for your belly. Every Internet search engine sits waiting for someone to type "lobster market [your town]." You might pay a dollar or two more, but it will be worth it.

I picked up a 1.75-pounder at New Deal Fish Market in East Cambridge for $21.09 (at $12.99 per lb. -- vs. $11.99 at Shaw's). The service was great, and it's clear they care about good seafood. Our confidence level was high -- and well-rewarded.

The tail and claw pieces were cut into big chunks for bites of premium flavor, while the rest was given a rough chop that offered flavor dimension beyond simple uniformity of goodness. Only enough mayo was added to bind it together, and no celery pieces were added. A wee bit of celery leaves sat underneath for a hint of greens and added texture.

With total control over the meal, a generous yet neat amount of lobster salad was laid into a bed of lightly-toasted and slightly under-buttered (no one's perfect) hot dog buns (8-pack, $1.67). Like a bookworm-ish cousin, the bread's flavor added little to the party, but good-flavor times rolled on without giving it much thought. An 8.5oz bag of sea salt & vinegar Cape Cod potato chips ($2.50) matched superbly as a delightful side for a goog ol' lobster roll. The sweet, tender flavor joyfully lingered for the half-second until the next bite arrived.

A better lobster roll could be found, but very few can beat a homemade lobster made with love. Certainly no restaurant or shack can beat the price!

The prep and math behind the roll:

If harbor water isn't within a block of your heat source, be sure to salt your water. We like to add "aromatics" to the pot, but salt is the only necessity. Pantry items that went into the water included:

- a quartered onion
- a couple stalks of celery (cut into a few pieces)
- a clove or two of garlic
- some peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- a halved lemon (squeezed into pot and dropped in)
The greatness of lobster is best enjoyed with as little distraction as possible. A little flavor is added to the bath, so little else should end up in the roll.

Once the water is boiling, drop it in for 10 to 12 minutes depending on its size. After it's cool enough to handle, the fun part is next. Without making this a lengthy how-to: break off the tail and arms, let sections drain over the sink, and don't eat the stuff near the head. While some love the vibrantly green tomalley, it's not good lobster roll material. I crack open every nook and cranny where any meat can be found. The spindly legs have quite a bit of tasty meat, and every segment can be squeezed like a toothpaste tube.

It shouldn't be difficult to drop the scrumptious sea-bug into boiling water just as most people are comfortable killing any insect around the house. Once cooked, view it as abstractly as any other meat product. (Fried chicken, anyone?)

It can still be delicious if take the easy route. Shaw's will steam the lobster for you, and other markets might offer that service. Meat still needs to be removed, but you save time by shopping while the lobster is cooking. We strongly urge you not to buy the pre-steamed lobster -- there's probably a reason they cooked it, and it's not a good one. Smaller lobsters (1.5 lbs. or less) would be fine, but they start to get tough when bigger than 2 pounds.

Lobster: $21.09 +
hot dog buns: $1.67 +
potato chips: $2.50 = $25.28

Divided by 4 = $6.32 per roll.

If you want two rolls, it's $12.64 per person.

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