Signature Lobster Roll

Signature Series: Lobster Roll

I once read that you can tell when a recipe for a Maine lobster roll has been written by someone From Away, because it will have lots of “things” in it that aren’t lobster. An authentic lobster roll recipe shouldn’t have dill. It shouldn’t have celery. It shouldn’t have scallions. It shouldn’t have little bits of chopped up chives sprinkled on top. Why? Because lobster doesn’t need a thing to make it taste any better. It’s nearly perfect the way it is, and when you eat a lobster roll, you should be tasting lobster. If anything, it should be tossed with just a dab of mayonnaise (no, not blobbed on top, and no, not spread on the inside of the bun) to bind everything together, and if it is, that mayonnaise should be Hellman’s Blue Ribbon.

To me, a lobster roll is a celebration of texture and temperature, as much as it is flavor. That’s why it’s so important to use “New England Style” hot dog rolls. Brushed with butter and then lightly grilled, the combination of the warm, fluffy roll with the lightly crispy outside, and the cool, chunky lobster is simply heavenly. And, because we recognize that New England split-top hot dog rolls are a bit of a regional item that might not be available to everyone, we are going to make our own (it’s easy, but you’ll need this special pan).

You’ll need about one pound-and-a-quarter lobster per roll, steamed for about five minutes in an inch or two of boiling water. You don’t want to boil them; they’ll become waterlogged and lose a lot of their flavor. If you’re squeamish about cooking them, most fish markets and supermarkets will do it for you. Let them chill in the fridge for a little while, until they are cool enough to handle. Break the shells open and tear the meat apart with your hands; cutting the lobster with a knife can impart a metallic taste. You want big chunks, but not so big that you can’t bite them in a single bite. Nobody likes pulling huge chunks of lobster out of a lobster roll with their teeth.

Finally, a word about the Connecticut shoreline version of this sandwich, served warm and tossed in drawn butter, instead of mayonnaise: Um, that’s not a lobster roll. I’m not sure what you people are doing down there.

Signature Series: Lobster Roll
Makes 1 lobster roll, with 9 buns left over; adapted from a recipe by King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

New England Style Split-Top Hot Dog Buns:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 2/3 cup instant mashed potato flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons soft butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup lukewarm water

For each Lobster Roll:

  • 1 one-and-a-quarter-pound lobster, steamed
  • 3/4 teaspoon Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • Shredded lettuce (optional)

Method:

For buns:

  1. In a standing mixer, mix and knead all ingredients until dough is shiny and elastic, about 5 minutes or more. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and allow it to rise for 2 hours, until doubled in size.
  2. Lightly grease New England hot dog bun pan. Punch down dough, and stretch out in pan, pushing the dough to the edges and corners as much as possible. Cover the pan with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove the plastic wrap, and push dough all the way into the corners of the pan, leveling the top surface as best you can. Re-cover the pan, and let buns rise for 45 to 60 minutes, until approximately 1/2 inch from top of pan. While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 375°F.
  4. Grease a baking sheet, and place it on top of the risen buns. Put the covered buns in the oven, and weigh the baking sheet down with something oven-safe (like a cast iron skillet), and bake the buns for 18 minutes. Remove the baking sheet and bake a few minutes longer, if necessary, to brown the tops of the rolls.
  5. Remove the buns from the oven and place the pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Turn the buns out of the pan onto a rack to finish cooling; make sure the top (rounded) side is up.

To assemble Lobster Rolls:

  1. When buns completely cool, slice each down the middle vertically, without cutting through the bottom; then separate into individual buns.
  2. Spread outsides of bun with butter, and toast in a skillet over medium heat until golden brown.
  3. Shred chilled lobster meat into bite-sized chunks, and toss in a medium bowl with the mayonnaise.
  4. Line a bun with potato chips or lettuce (if desired), and top with the lobster salad. Serve with more chips, and a dill pickle.

 

In our “Signature Series,” we endeavor to produce the best possible version of a given dish, often cooking as many components as possible (or reasonable!) from scratch. To read more from this series, click here.

Comments

  1. says

    I am drooling over this right now – the addition of chips makes it sound absolutely perfect. Iceberg lettuce is an abomination and barely qualifies as a vegetable anyway. Sadly, out here on the prairie, lobster is $15 for a 10 oz tail at the fishmonger, so I won’t be eating this any time in the future. I shall lick the screen instead.

  2. Alex says

    I still believe that the best lobster roll can be found at Red’s Eats, hands down. Split top bun, big chunks of lobster meat and drawn butter. It doesn’t get any better than that.

    • Malcolm says

      It’s definitely a different animal, than the Red’s version…more mayo, a little lettuce, etc. But she nails the temperature-contrast thing. Plus? No wait. Ever.

  3. says

    I’m going to defend celery, but only a little bit. That is, I’m only going to defend celery a little bit, and I’m only going to defend a little bit of celery.

    I agree that a lobster salad (or any other kind of protein salad: egg salad, shrimp salad, crab salad, whatever) shouldn’t taste of celery. Last week, I made enough lobster salad to overstuff, say, ten lobster rolls. I included maybe a palmful of celery, destringed and minced fine enough to distribute almost invisibly throughout the lobster salad. It didn’t pervade the salad with that distinctive celery flavor but did provide an air of light, fresh, vegetal flavor and — even more importantly — it gave a very slight crispness to every bite.

    I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a potato-chip-and-lobster roll (and I agree that in some nostalgic favorites, the potato chips are NOT OPTIONAL), but if someone offered me a potato-chip-and-lobster rolls sandwich and described it as “a classic Maine lobster roll,” I’d raise my eyebrows. And maybe my voice.

    • Malcolm says

      Thank you, Karen. They were a bit of a labor of love, but they turned out so nicely…and they are so great with hot dogs!

  4. says

    The fact that you made split top buns is perhaps the most intense thing I have ever heard of. Impressive.

    Also, I am a total lobster roll purist, but I have to say, I kind like when the mayo is smeared on the bun. It’s sort of a nice contrast (cold/firm -> creamy). I haven’t experienced the “blob it on top” technique, but that just sounds visually kinda gross. In my heart of hearts I am a “mix it in” person.

    Good work!

    Laura

    • Malcolm says

      As I’ve thought about it and revisited this post several times over the last couple of days, I think I would do things differently next time, and embrace the mayo-spread-on-bun technique. It seems like the best way to control your mayo application, and, as another reader noted, the meat is moist enough to hang together on its own.

  5. says

    Oh, I totally want that pan!!! I looked at the link yesterday, went back to buy it today and it’s $10 more than it was yesterday!! You realize it’s your fault for posting it, right? :)

  6. Val says

    Initially I wanted to fight you on the chips… but because you seem to recognize what Red’s sells as an abomination (Hard to eat huge chunks with Butter?!) I’ll accept chips as a fair variation of the classic.

  7. says

    Looks absolutely delicious! I had my first lobster roll last year while living in New York City. I am wishing I could run out and pick one up right now, but sadly I am back in Los Angeles and I have yet to find a decent one out here. Perhaps I will have to try your recipe!

    • Malcolm says

      Thanks, Jessica! It was delicious. But I’m not sure how it would work with those spiny, clawless “lobsters.” :)

  8. says

    Being from the West Coast of Canada, I can’t say I’ve ever had one..nor do I have a preference this way or that about mayo or lettuce or chips. What I do know though is this looks fan-freaking-tastic. I. want. one. NOW.

    Yum…lobster….

  9. says

    Yummm….. I always want to try lobster roll, but I don’t know where I can find them in Los Angeles. I guess I can make these rolls at home now! Thanks for sharing!

  10. denise says

    Eh, don’t bother. I’ve been on the left coast for 15 years, and whenever they try to do something with lobster, they screw it up by adding too much stuff. I’m flying home in four days and I’ll be eating my fill.

  11. McDork says

    There is something sold down here in Virginia now called “Maine Lobster Spread.” On a Martin’s Potato Roll — well, you’re not going to like this, but it’s about 85% as good as the real thing.

    Sorry.

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