This past week the Stop & Shop circular advertised lobsters for only $3.99/lb! I was already planning on having friends over for a dinner party so I decided to pick up 6 lobsters and have a lobster crackin' party outside on my patio. Sadly, when I got to the seafood section, I found out that the sale had ended on Labor Day, and the lobsters were now $5.99/lb. Boo.....
So I ended up just picking up 4 lobsters and decided to make lobster rolls instead. Traditionally, lobster rolls consist of lobster meat dressed with mayonnaise in a buttered top-split bun. If you don't live in New England, you've probably never seen a top-split hot dog bun. When I first moved to Boston, I thought they were kind of weird and reminded me of a slice of Wonder Bread folded in half. But that was before I realized that they provide a better meat to bread ratio than regular hot dog buns and also toast up nicer.
Last year I went to Portland, Maine for the first time and had the best lobster rolls in my life at the Eventide Oyster Co. Theirs is rather nontraditional in that they swap out the mayonnaise for a brown butter vinaigrette, and they serve it in a homemade steamed bun. It was soooooooo good, I had to try to recreate it!
First of all, the lobster meat. This was my first time cooking lobsters by myself, and it was not my finest moment. Lobsters already creep me out a bit because 1) they look like bugs and 2) they're still alive and moving around when you cook them. I know you can kill them by putting a knife through their head before cooking them, but I wasn't about to do that because see 1) and 2) above. And even after you kill them that way they still move around! Nope!
Instead I put them in the freezer for about 20 minutes before cooking them so that they were nice and relaxed. Even then I couldn't handle touching them so I used tongs to transfer them to the pot or just slid them in from the bag. I chose to steam them rather than boil them because it takes a lot less time to bring an inch of water to boil vs. a whole pot.
I followed this video to crack the lobster and extract the meat, making sure to crack the lobsters over the pot with the steaming water in order to catch all the juices. (I saved this liquid to make lobster bisque the next day.) You'll find the majority of the meat in the claws, knuckles, and tail. There's pockets of meat in the body, and you can squeeze out little tubes of meat from the legs, but that was a lot more work than I was interested in doing, so I just left the bodies for my friends to pick at if they wanted to (they wanted to).
Now let's talk about the buns. I'd recommend making them from the dough in my hua juan recipe, but if you're lucky enough to live near an Asian grocery story that sells steamed buns you can use those too. I was kind of lazy and just bought some from Super 88. I think they worked out okay, but using homemade bao buns would've been infinitely better.
For the brown butter vinaigrette I just browned a stick of butter and added the juice from one lemon and salt to taste. Quickly sauté with the lobster meat just to heat through, top with some chopped chives, and it's ready for the steamed buns.
Brown Butter Vinaigrette Lobster Buns (inspired by Eventide Oyster Co.)
makes 6 small buns
3 one-pound lobsters
1/2 cup unsalted butter
Juice from one lemon (about 1/4 cup)
Salt to taste
6 steamed buns
Fill a large pot with 1" of water and throw in enough salt to make it as salty as the sea. Bring to a boil. Add the lobsters (one at a time if your pot isn't big enough), cover, and steam for 10 minutes. Remove the lobsters to a rimmed baking sheet and allow to cool.
Once they are cool enough to touch, twist off the claws and tail and remove the meat. Coarsely chop and set aside.
Heat a medium pot on medium heat and melt the butter. Swirl the pot around occasionally and continue to heat until the milk solids at the bottom turn brown and the butter smells starts to smell nutty. Immediately remove from heat and continue to swirl the pot around so that the milk solids don't burn. Add the lemon juice and salt to taste. Toss in the chopped lobster meat and return the pot to heat just until the lobster meat is heated through.
If needed, reheat the steamed buns in the microwave. Fill the buns with the lobster salad and top with the chopped chives. Serve warm.
Previously: Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread
Next up: Ramen Lobster Rolls