The first time I ever heard the term “lobster roll”, it didn’t necessarily sound enticing: what came to my head was a vision of a cinnamon roll shaped confection filled with lobster. In fact, and happily, this was far from the reality. I quickly learned that the lobster roll is actually a sandwich, served in a soft, springy bun. Prepared simply, with minimal dressing to distract from the pure, fresh lobster taste, this is a very special sandwich which offers a true, authentic taste of the sea.
The lobster roll is especially prevalent in Maine and the Northeast United States and lower eastern Canada, but it is famous all the world round. Here, we’ll explore why–and how to make your own lobster rolls, at home.
What is a lobster roll? If you live in coastal Maine, you probably grew up with lobster rolls. However, for the rest of the population, lobster rolls might require a little bit of explanation.
Visually, a lobster roll looks kind of like a hot dog. But instead of a frankfurter nestled in the bun, it’s chunks of lobster meat–typically, from the knuckle, claw, and tail of the lobster.
What composes a “true” lobster roll will differ depending on who you ask, and the region. In Maine, arguably the epicenter of lobster rolls, many believe that the lobster roll should be as simple as possible. They serve theirs in a specific bun, which is like a hot dog bun with flattened sides which make for easy toasting or grilling. The lobster meat is often served cold rather than hot, and with little or no added flavoring other than butter.
Throughout the Northeast, however, variations exist. Some places serve lobster rolls hot; in others prepare the lobster almost in the style of chicken salad, with mayonnaise, chopped celery, and spices. Anecdotally, the latter is the version I have seen most frequently on menus throughout the northeast.
Often, the lobster roll is served humbly, with chips, fries, or cole slaw on the side, as a deli sandwich would be. However, especially in recent years, the lobster roll has enjoyed the same spotlight as burgers, and gourmet variations can be found in four star restaurants across the country.
Where can I find lobster rolls? As previously noted, the lobster roll has enjoyed a period of vogue in recent years, and chefs throughout the world have created unique interpretations and variations. However, while it’s not unheard-of to see a lobster roll on the menu anywhere in the world, they’re most famously associated with the Northeast united states and lower eastern Canada.
Often, lobster rolls are not fancy restaurant fare, but are sold out of humble beachside shacks which seem a study in contrast to the luscious lobster they serve. This list details some of the essential must try lobster rolls in Maine, but if you are spending an extended period of time along the shores of New England, it’s a guarantee that you’ll come across a lobster roll at some point.
Making lobster rolls: So, you don’t live near a seaside seafood shack in the Northeast United States. Does that mean you’ll never get to try a lobster roll? Not at all! Lobster rolls are easy to make in your own home, regardless of your geography. Even if you do live in coastal Maine, it’s fun to try your own hand at a famous regional specialty.
Before you cook: mise en place. Before you start cooking, you’ll need to assemble your materials. Lobster rolls are not difficult to make, nor do they require a ton of special equipment. However, the simplicity of the recipe does demand a level of attention to your supplies and ingredients.
This recipe is for a lobster roll that follows the chicken salad style method of preparation. The lobster is simply dressed, letting the natural sweetness of the meat shine.
Ingredients: Here’s what you’ll need before you get cooking.
Lobster. This is the key ingredient, and the heart and soul of a lobster roll, so buy the best lobster you possibly can. If it is possible to buy locally, do it. If you’re land-locked, be sure to buy your lobster from a reputable source.
For the freshest lobster, buy a live lobster and steam it yourself. However, if this thought makes you queasy, your local fish market will often be willing to steam the lobster for you and separate the meat from the shell. Regardless of who is cooking the lobster, be sure that it is cooked as close to the time you’ll be making your rolls as possible.
Rolls. The rolls used for lobster rolls are unique. They almost look like a combination of sliced white bread and a hot dog roll. While they are top-loading like a hot dog roll, the sides are flat. This is said to make them easier to toast evenly.
Other ingredients. The other ingredients included in this recipe are butter, mayonnaise, lemon, celery and onions. All of these items are easy to find in just about any grocery store. Once again, since this recipe has relatively few ingredients, be sure to buy good quality ingredients.
Lobster rolls: recipe. This simple recipe is accessible for chefs of all levels.
Makes two lobster rolls
- ½ pound lobster meat (including meat from the claws, knuckles, and tail, cut into small pieces, veins and cartilage removed)
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (or substitute yogurt)
- 1 lemon, cut into four wedges
- 1 medium stalk of celery, finely diced
- 1-2 tablespoons finely diced red onion (optional)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 split top rolls (see above)
- 2 – 4 tablespoons of softened butter
- Potato chips, french fries, or cole slaw for serving (optional)
- In a medium bowl that gives you enough room to stir and work, combine the lobster meat and mayonnaise, stirring only until the lobster is glistening and evenly coated. It shouldn’t be a cohesive mixture, but should remain fairly loose. Add the chopped celery, onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until evenly distributed. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour–this will help all of the flavors meld.
- Near the end of your chilling period, preheat a skillet or grilling pan large enough to accommodate your buns. Spread the butter on both sides of the inside of the roll. Place the opened-like-a-book, buttered side down, and toast until lightly browned (too brown and it will be distractingly crunchy). You can toast the second side briefly if you want, or leave it soft.
- Divide the lobster mixture between the two rolls. They should be generously filled, even overstuffed-looking. Your lobster rolls are ready! Enjoy immediately for the ideal contrast with the warm bun and chilled filling. Serve with the lemon wedges, which can be squeezed on top to taste, and potato chips, fries, or cole slaw on the side if desired.
Conclusion: Lobster rolls are a regional specialty that is famous all the world over. It’s a delicacy well worth creating in your kitchen for a taste of the sea any time you choose.
Have you ever tried an authentic lobster roll?