Mmmmm … lobster rolls (with a twist!)

Jul 26, 2022 by Chef Patricia Clark

Taking a New England coastal classic into new culinary territories

More yachts than ever are cruising the New England coastline this summer. The coastal stretch in the Northeast corner of the U.S. covers more than 6,000 miles, five states, and a wide variety of regional culinary specialties. However, there is one common dish that can be found from as far south as Connecticut to as far north as the Canadian border in Maine: the local lobster roll.

Lobster rolls take on mythical popularity during the summer months. Among locals and tourists alike, there are strong opinions over which states do it better: Connecticut’s warm, buttered rolls versus Maine’s mayo-slathered chilled salad preparations. And long-standing debates over size preferences. The larger lobsters — halves (1.5 pounds), deuces (2–2.5 pounds), and jumbos (3-plus pounds) — are more popular in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, while the smaller lobsters — canners (under 1 pound), chicks (about 1 pound), and quarters (1.25 pounds) — are more popular in New Hampshire and Maine.

I have had guests ask for lobster in various preparations as many as four times in a single week. When the taste for lobster is that popular, it is time to get creative with presentation and offer guests something unexpected.

My favorite variations incorporate whatever else is fresh and in season in the various ports along the coast. I am firmly in the smaller-sizes- taste-better group, and stick to chicks and quarters when ordering whole lobster. I also prefer shellfish, in general, from very cold waters, so the farther north the better when ordering works for me.

Here are three of my favorite ways to serve summer guests New England lobster.

THAI-STYLE
LOBSTER ROLL

This is a play on the flavors and presentation of Thai larb using poached, chilled lobster meat in larger pieces presented in a romaine or layered butter lettuce wrap. Serves 8.

INGREDIENTS

6 chick-sized or 4 quarter-sized lobsters, steamed and cooled, meat removed

16 cleaned, trimmed large romaine leaves, or 24 butter lettuce leaves

½ cup fresh lime juice 1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce

1 teaspoon lemongrass paste (or puree fresh chopped lemongrass with sesame oil)

¼ cup chopped cilantro

Garnish: shredded fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced jalapenos, and fresh lime wedges

METHOD

Slice the tail meat into thick slices and combine in a bowl with the knuckle meat, any leg meat, and all remaining ingredients.

Mix well and portion into the layered lettuce cups.

Garnish with the basil, jalapenos, and an intact piece of claw meat, with lime wedges on the side.

TACO TUESDAY
LOBSTER SALAD

This  great dish is a fun way to observe Taco Tuesday while incorporating local flavor. You can easily make your own tortillas, and if you can find blue masa, even better! Serves 8.

INGREDIENTS

6 chick-sized or 4 quarter-sized lobsters, steamed and cooled, meat removed

16 large or 32 “street size” small tortillas of choice (I prefer fresh corn, but flour also works.)

½ cup fresh lime juice

½ cup sour cream

1½ teaspoons smoked salt

1 teaspoon Tajin brand seasoning

4 ears of corn, shucked and steamed 4 avocadoes

Garnish: shaved radishes, cilantro leaves, more Tajin, lime wedges

METHOD

Chop all the lobster meat roughly and toss in the lime juice, sour cream, smoked salt, and Tajin seasoning.

Give the corn a quick sear in a hot pan or grill top for about 30 seconds on each side, then cut off the cob.

Slice the avocado.

Place 2 tortillas side by side on the plate (double layer each if using smaller size)

Add some prepared lobster, grilled corn niblets, and avocado slices, then sprinkle some Tajin on top.

Add the garnishes along the side curve of the plate.

ITALIAN
LOBSTER ROLL

Few things are as delicious as an heirloom tomato at the height of summer. This Italian version of the Lobster roll is a nod to those beautiful tomatoes, as well as the many Italian immigrants who settled along the New England coast. Serves 8.

INGREDIENTS

6 chick-sized or 4 quarter-sized lobsters, steamed and cooled, meat removed

8 large brioche buns, or if you are making your own, I encourage you to make focaccia dough buns

4 medium heirloom tomatoes

1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, rinsed, chopped

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley rinsed, patted dry, stems removed, rough chopped

2 tablespoons capers, chopped

1 medium shallot, peeled and finely chopped

2 tablespoons lemon juice 1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 medium garlic clove, peeled and chopped 1 teaspoon smoked salt

Garnish: fresh basil leaves, lemon olive oil

METHOD

Slice your tomatoes and lay flat. Top with a sprinkling of salt and set aside for a few minutes.

Combine the parsley, capers, shallot, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and smoked salt.

Stir in fennel.

Chop the lobster meat. Toast your buns.

Lay a few slices of the salted tomatoes into a side of the buns, spoon in the lobster meat, drizzle on the bright green sauce, top with a drizzle of lemon olive oil and a few basil leaves.

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About Chef Patricia Clark

Patricia Clark is a chef and guest writer for Triton News.

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