When perfectly prepared, it is a study of textures, temperatures and deliciousness, yet its appearance is understated…humble. Don’t be fooled by the cheap garnish of a bag of potato chips and pickle that are often serve as an accompaniment; if you were blind-folded, the experience of eating a lobster roll would be as exquisite as almost anything you could put in your mouth. This dish is a metaphor for New England culture: rich in content, unassuming in its presentation.
By Jasper White – Photographed by Jazz Martin
A true Lobster Roll is served on a buttered, griddled New England style hotdog bun. The cut, flat-sided bun is essential and standard, so the difference in most lobster rolls is the lobster salad; usually it is made with mayonnaise, celery and a small amount of onion. I make a special mayonnaise and use cucumber instead of celery and chive instead of onion. Some people omit the onion all together. One exception is the lobster roll made in Connecticut where the bun is stuffed with warm lobster meat and served with drawn butter. It’s not my favorite, but many people love it. It goes without saying that good, fresh lobster meat is essential; all of the places mentioned in this article use fresh meat. I prefer a larger ratio of knuckle meat, because it is so sweet – others like Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, Maine use a whole chicken lobster. It’s not a matter of better, it’s a matter of style – they are all terrific.
I find it most fascinating that the lobster roll, which once was exclusive to New England, has become a dish that is embraced and beloved all across our country. A few years ago the New York Times did a feature on the best lobster rolls in New York; who would have guessed that? This year in early June I am competing in NY at the first “Lobster Roll Rumble” where chefs from across the US will compete – the judges include culinary mavens such as Martha Stewart. Like BBQ, this dish has captured the imagination of foodies all over and has transcended its humble origins. All said and done, however, I’ll stick to eating my lobster rolls in New England.