What's the secret of a perfect lobster roll? Freshly boiled lobster, homemade lemon mayonnaise and a well-toasted bun. Nothing more--or less.
Recipe for a perfect lobster roll:
Generosity and restraint, in equal parts. Assemble with a light hand and serve at once.
After a week of serious research into the lobster roll—I can’t tell you how many we ate—B and I agree on one thing. The ultimate roll is…
…generous with the lobster…
….which is dressed with a little homemade lemon mayo…
….and served on a well toasted bun.
It’s simple—and that’s the secret.
A few pointers:
1. The best rolls are literally bursting with succulent lobster—for one sandwich, as much meat as you can get from a 1-1/4 pound freshly boiled lobster. No shredding please. We’re talking big bite-size chunks of lobster.
2. Take a few minutes to whip up some homemade lemon mayonnaise. Hellman’s is good, but not in this sandwich. Its distinctive vinegary taste overpowers the delicate sea-sweet flavor of the lobster. No herbs, please—and don’t even think about a vinaigrette.
Exercise restraint. Don’t smother the lobster chunks in mayo. Your goal is a light film of mayonnaise, not a gloppy mess. The lobster itself should be the star of the show.
This recipe is for very same blender mayonnaise my mother used to make. It is the same mayonnaise, sadly, which year after year languished unsold at my school’s fall fundraiser. While fluffy angel food cakes and apple pies flew off the table, these little jars of mayonnaise—tinted pink with a sprinkle of paprika—sat around in lonely splendor until they had to be reclaimed at the end of the day.
At age 10 I was mortified, but now I say “Too bad for them,” because this mayo is so fabulous that I can hardly keep myself from eating it out of the jar. We used it on everything from turkey sandwiches to hamburgers, chicken salad and ripe summer tomatoes. The velvety smooth mayonnaise enhances the flavor of fresh lobster, bathing it in a luxurious, lemony glow.
3. The roll is tricky. Every lobster sandwich we ate was served on a hamburger bun, but what a motley array: One was so fluffy and sweet that it was almost like eating lobster salad with cotton candy. Another came with a semi-whole grain bun, toasted on the inside, doughy on the outside.
The best—at Waterman's—was a white bun, flattened and toasted on both sides. In my view this is the ideal bun, one which showcases the lobster rather than overwhelming it.
But hot dog buns are also popular. In Lobster Rolls and Blueberry Pie, Rebecca Charles, chef-owner of New York’s award-winning Pearl Oyster Bar, writes: “The quintessential Maine lobster roll is made with a top loading bun, which has a flat side that keeps everything from flopping over and spilling out.” Since New York is “a side loading town,” Charles has her top loading Pepperidge Farm rolls special delivered to the restaurant, and—though she’s a mayonnaise proponent, she also toasts the buns in a pan with melted butter.
In the end we didn’t use butter. Instead I toasted Pepperidge Farm Classic Hamburger Buns (no sesame seeds) all the way through and spread a little mayonnaise on them, top and bottom. Do not use French or Italian rolls—they are are too thick and bready. It also helps to flatten the buns with the palm of your hand before toasting. This slims them down and makes them easier to toast. A rough rule of thumb: nearly twice as much lobster as bun.
Whew! All that work for a sandwich you’ll probably eat in 6 minutes?
Perfection is worth it.
The Perfect Lobster Roll
Every lobster roll we ate in Maine was served with potato chips and a dill pickle slice. But do chunks of freshly boiled lobster, lightly filmed with homemade lemon mayonnaise, served on a well-toasted bun, really need an accompaniment? I think not.
To serve two
Ingredients for the lemon mayonnaise:
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup canola oil
Ingredients for the lobster:
2 live 1-1/4 pound lobsters
Lemon mayonnaise (see recipe)
Ingredients for the roll:
2 Pepperidge Farm Classic Hamburger Buns (no sesame seeds)
Lemon mayonnaise (see recipe)
Method for the Lemon Mayonnaise:
1. Combine the egg yolk, lemon juice and salt in the covered jar of a blender. Whirr at high speed to combine.
2. Turn the speed to medium and slowly add the canola oil in a thin stream. (To prevent splattering, keep the blender jar mostly covered while you are pouring in the oil.) If the blender clogs before you have finished adding the oil, turn off the machine, scrape down the sides and stir the contents with a rubber spatula. You can also add a little more lemon juice if necessary, but no more than a teaspoon.
3. Decant into a clean jar and set aside. The mayonnaise will be fairly bland at first, but after 5 or 10 minutes the citrus flavor will come to the fore.
Method for the lobster roll:
1. To boil the lobsters, follow the instructions in steps 1-3 of the recipe in The Week of Eating Lobster.
2. When they are cool enough to handle, crack the claws and joints with a mallet or small hammer and remove the meat. Using kitchen shears or scissors, slit the underside of the tail up the middle and remove the meat. You can also extract every morsel from the legs and the “fan” of the tail section with a lobster pick or the tip of a sharp paring knife. Don’t forget the chunk of meat where the tail section meets the body cavity.
3. Cut the lobster meat into large, bite-size chunks and let cool to room temperature. This will only take a few minutes.
4. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon mayonnaise to the lobster and taste. Add more, if you like, but do not smother the lobster. The mayonnaise should be added with a light hand. Set aside but do not refrigerate—unless you are making this ahead.
5. Split the hamburger buns and lay the tops and bottoms on the kitchen counter. Flatten each half by pressing down firmly with your hand or with the bottom of a clean, heavy saucepan.
6. Toast the buns all the way through. They should be moderately brown on all sides, but not dark and certainly not even the tiniest bit burned. (You may need to do a trial run to determine the right setting for your own toaster.)
7. To assemble, spread the inside of each bun, top and bottom, with 1 or 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise. Pile half the lobster on the bottom of each bun and cover with the top. Sit down and eat, luxuriously.