Lobster Rolls: Here, There and At Home

Korova’s long gone, but the memory of the lobster roll remains and it returned when we pulled up to the Lobster Landing in Clinton, CT one rainy day last week. 

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I can’t imagine anything more different from hip, cool, hi-concept Korova than the ramshackle lobster joint, with its beaten-up plastic chairs set out on a rough-hewn pier with a view across Long Island Sound.  But memory doesn’t always make distinctions like these.

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The Lobster Landing’s roll was one-quarter pound of lobster mixed with melted butter and a squirt of lemon juice and spooned into a standard-issue New England hot-dog bun, which was toasted on an outdoor grill.  It was as barebones as a lobster roll gets, but it was satisfying, perfect for lifting rainy-day blues and a bargain at 13 bucks.

I hadn’t had a lobster roll for years before I undid the aluminum foil around the Lobster Landing’s bun, and then, a couple of days later, I was tucking into a lobster roll again.  Was it something in the food flux? 

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Roll number two was served up picnic-style at BLT Fish in New York.  It came in a red plastic basket lined with wax paper and carrying lots of fried potatoes and a little paper cup filled with cole slaw.  But there was nothing picnic-on-the-beach about the roll – it was pure chic, as chic as the Korova roll had been. 

The large chunks of lobster meat were tossed with housemade mayonnaise, there were teensy bits of shallot, there were herbs and there was a terrific brioche-ish bun.  It was as close as I’d come to the Korova roll in a decade – and it came close to Korova in price, too:  $26, plus tip, minus a view.

Call me greedy, but a couple of lobster rolls just begat the desire for a couple more, so I went back to the Lobster Landing and this time I bought a kicking and screaming lobster.  Since Michael said he’d sit the roll out, I bought just one, a small soft-shelled lobster (it’s that time in the season) that weighed 1 1/2 pounds and cost $12 and seemed like a good deal compared to the $45/pound price tag on pulled-from-the-shell lobster meat.

Anyone who cooks lobster more often than I do – or who’s better in math – can see the end of this story coming.  I had brioche from an earlier baking session, I made my own mayonnaise, I snipped chives from the garden (I didn’t have tarragon yet), minced shallots (and rinsed and dried them, so they wouldn’t be bitter) and then I cooked the lobster and went about the job of picking out the meat. 

I pulled the claws and tail and ate the middle part, which is mostly cartilage, standing up near the sink, and when I looked at what I’d harvested, I grabbed the scale, just to confirm my suspicions.  Yup, all that work and I’d come up with 2.3 ounces (65 grams) of rollable lobster.  Tossed with mayo, it wouldn’t even have filled a corner of a bun.

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So, I mixed all my great ingredients together and added some tomato to bulk the salad up a bit. Then I made the decision to share my tiny treasure with Michael, and, lacking a thimble to use as a mold, packed the salad into a 1 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, so I could make it stand up and look taller, and served it with flourish.  Of course it was delicious, but there were exactly two forkfuls for each of us and, like so many good things in scarce supply, it left us wanting more. 

It also left me a bit smarter: Next time, I’m going to buy the lobster already picked, because strange at it sounds, it’s a better buy.

Dorie Greenspan

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