Saturday, September 01, 2012

Cheap Eats: DIY Lobster Roll

Yes, I made this lobster roll
When I stopped at Shaw's last night, I saw that chicken lobsters were on sale for $4.99 per pound. That sucks for the lobstermen, but it's not going to stop me from taking advantage of the deal (if any are left).

This is basically a repost that I did for Bostonist's lobster roll series in 2008 that has been altered slightly.

I did call New Deal Fish Market to check on their current lobster price, and it's the same as below. (FYI: They only had one left.) I assume the chips and hot dog buns are priced in the same range.

The New Deal guy did share a tip with me, and it's not just bad-talking his competition: Lobsters that sit in a tank with salted tap water are going to taste like the tank. If you find someone who sells them without keeping them in a tank, that's a place that really cares about good-tasting seafood.


Homemade Lobster Roll
at Somerville or wherever you cook
$4.17 to $6.32 per roll (chips included)

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, self-service can be quite satisfying.

This is New England! There are plenty of places to get a fresh, lively lobba-lobba for your belly. Hit your favorite search engine with "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. $4.99 at Shaw's).

With total control over the meal, a generous yet neat amount of lobster salad was laid into a bed of lightly-toasted 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. As far as I'm concerned these are the best potato chips in the world.

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!

My Preparation:

Some people just throw them in a pot, but I add aromatics. It's debatable how much flavor they add, but from what I've learned today, it might counter-balance the 'tank flavor' of your chain market crustacean.

If harbor water isn't within a block of your heat source, be sure to salt your water. These are items usually in my pantry are dropped into the water:

- 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
Boiling has been my typical method for 10 to 12 minutes depending on the size, but I'm leaning towards steaming for 8 to 10 minutes these days.

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.

Crack open every nook and cranny where meat can be found, and don't forget about the legs where each segment can be squeezed like a toothpaste tube. While some love the vibrantly green tomalley, it's not lobster roll material.

I like to keep the tail and claw pieces in relatively big chunks while giving the rest of the meat a rough chop to maximize the premium flavor.

The greatness of lobster is best enjoyed with as little distraction as possible. Some flavor took a bath with the main attraction, so little else should end up in the roll.

Only be enough mayo to coat everything should be added, and celery doesn't usually enter the mix. A wee bit of celery leaves sat underneath for a hint of greens and added texture.

I might add a touch of lemon, and I currently have some fresh thyme in the house that might get in...

The high-road cost:
Lobster: $21.09 +
hot dog buns: $1.67 +
potato chips: $2.50 = $25.28

Divided by 4 = $6.32 per roll.
The Shaw's special:
2 Lobsters (about 2.5 pounds): $12.50 +
hot dog buns: $1.67 +
potato chips: $2.50 = $16.67

Divided by 4 = $4.17 per roll.
If you're troubled about plunging a lobster to its death, Alton Brown explains (about 5 minutes in) that it should be as guiltless as squashing a bug.

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