As anyone who has been reading this website for a while probably knows, my family has several different lobster traditions that date back for as far as I can remember. When Alex joined the clan he didn't have particularly strong feeling about lobsters one way or another besides wanting to cook them better than anyone else. It wasn't that he hadn't eaten lobster before, he just didn't have the passion for consuming lobster that Aunt Marie and I brought to the table. It wasn't long before he learned to understand the importance of this singular crustacean.
In my mind summers are synonymous with the ocean, mostly eastern Long Island, Cape Cod, and the New England coastline. Given my druthers, as much as I enjoy where we are now, one day we'll have a home on the water, by which I mean by the ocean, either in Cape Cod, Rhode Island or southern Maine. Frankly I love being on the coast even more in the winter when the beaches are quiet and slightly untamed, the wind whistles, and dogs can run free in the surf. There's nothing like the light on the water, the ever-changing landscape, and the freedom of knowing that the entire world is just a few steps over the horizon. But I digress.
Summertime is largely about the ocean's bounty, littleneck clams on the half shell, steamers dug straight from the sand, thick New England clam chowder, and incredibly fresh lobsters simply steamed and eaten out of hand. I'm a bit of a purist and when good lobsters are to be had I don't even require butter for dipping. The hard work that goes into extracting each sweet, briny morsel makes the entire meal taste that much better. Alex has a different approach.
Like many cooks he prefers to do his prep work in advance and then enjoy his meal with minimal effort and maximum enjoyment. And like many chefs, he believes that gilding the lily can make it look and taste better than it does straight from the stem. So his preparation of choice is the lobster roll. A good lobster roll is a subject for endless debate. Everyone has their preferences and prejudices. For Alex, it should be bursting with extremely fresh lobster lightly dressed in a mayonnaise based sauce with a touch of heat and fresh herbs. He's a big believer in the griddled hot dog roll for the proper texture and crunch. In New England this invariably means top split buns with straight sides that are fried in butter on the two outside flat sides before being stuffed. People feel so strongly about their rolls that several mail order lobster purveyors offer lobster roll kits complete with buns for the true addict.
To be honest I've never been completely convinced by the classic bun. If the roll is properly filled it tends to fall apart and the griddled exterior leaves me with greasy fingers, amplifying an already messy situation. Not that I have any issue with eating with my fingers, food really does taste better that way, it's just that if I'm going to get messy I want to be able to lick the mess from my fingers and melted butter just doesn't ring those bells for me. Now that Amaya has arrived on the scene there is little time for a leisurely (or focused) meal of cracking and poking, so lobster rolls have become the "go to" for fresh lobster at home. She is quickly becoming an aficionado, partial to the claw meat, sweeter and easier to chew, but perfectly willing to inhale any and all lobster in her vicinity. It was clear that I needed a better bun.
We made this latest batch of lobster rolls with a slightly spicy mayo and Martin's Long Potato Rolls. I had my sandwich while Alex and Amaya were out. While it was delicious I knew it could be better. I couldn't get away with changing Alex's favorite lobster meal without significant improvement. Fortunately I knew exactly how I was going to make the ones for Alex and Amaya when they got home. I simply opened up the rolls, spread the inside with sweet butter, fried them to a crisp golden brown, sprinkled them with salt, stuffed them with lobster and rushed them to the table before the rolls had time to cool down. There was warm, crunchy bread and cool creamy salad, the sweetness of the potato bread brought out the sweetness of the lobster and the rolls were sturdy enough to stand up to lobster meat without being too rustic for their purpose. They were still messy and fun to eat, they were just a bit more manageable. And there were no greasy fingers. In fact these lobster rolls were pretty damned good. I'm sure lots of people have been griddling the inside of their rolls for years but it was a new innovation for us and it made a world of difference. Now we just have to get out hands on more lobsters to do it again.