Few sandwiches encapsulate New England like the classic lobster roll. While lobster rolls are readily available in the summer months throughout New England, they can unfortunately come with a high price tag. Even worse are restaurants that take advantage of this price tag, but still manage to sell a sub-par or skimpy product. That is why I have such high respect for restaurants that offer fantastic lobster rolls at an affordable price (like Matunuck Oyster Bar in South Kingstown, RI). My wife and I have made a pact to try and visit all of our favorite lobster roll haunts each summer and so far we’ve managed to keep on track.
This recipe allows you to make an affordable lobster roll at home that is just as good as any restaurant. The reason you can easily replicate a great lobster roll from your favorite restaurant is because the lobster does all the work! The goal of any lobster roll is to let the lobster shine, so using fresh lobster from a good source gets you 80% of the way towards greatness! Everything outside of the lobster is really just bells and whistles that give you a custom spin on a classic. The benefits are clear, but don’t be fooled. This is one of those recipes that is really a labor of love because cooking and shelling a lobster takes some work that may or not be worth it for some of you.
Recipes to complement this one:
Makes 2 large or 4 small lobster rolls at 745 calories total.
2 large rolls = 373 calories each.
4 small rolls = 186 calories each.
Note: In the below ingredients, I use the term “pinch,” which usually translates to about 1/8 teaspoon, but what I mean is really just use your fingers to pinch a small amount of each of the seasoning below. The goal is to merely highlight the lobster instead of adding a lot of other flavors.
- Two, 1-pound lobsters (about 115 each or 230 calories total)
- 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise (90 calories)
- 1 teaspoon diced celery
- Few drops of lemon juice (about 1/2 teaspoon)
- 2 tablespoons of salt for the water and 1 pinch of salt for the lobster
- Pinch of pepper
- Pinch of parika
- 1/4 tablespoon melted butter (25 calories)
- 2 large or 4 small New England Style hot dog buns/rolls (2 large or 4 small = about 400 calories)
- Optional: 2 chopped Romaine lettuce leaves (green parts only)
- Very large pot
- Very large bowl
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Kitchen shears or a lobster cracker
- Small dish
- Basting brush
- Large pan or skillet
- Tablespoon and teaspoon measurements
- Fill a large pot (like a stock pot) about 2/3 of the way full with water and bring it to a roiling boil. Once boiling add in two tablespoons of salt.
- While you get the water boiling, fill a large bowl about 2/3 full with water and ice. You’ll use this to cool down the lobsters quickly so that the meat doesn’t overcook and become rubbery.
- When the water is boiling, get ready to slide the lobsters into the boiling water. This part makes a lot of people squeamish, but the idea is to make the water really hot, so that the lobsters start to cook immediately. Arguably (and people really do argue), this shock to the system precludes the lobster feeling any pain (if they feel pain at all, which others argue about as well). Alternatively, you can use a knife to dispatch the lobster prior to boiling (there are YouTube videos that show you how). In my humble opinion however, I’ve seen this done and it’s not especially pleasant, plus you really need to know what you are doing. Regardless of how you decide to cook your lobster, I will spare you any photos of this stage. If your pot is not big enough for both lobsters, then just boil one at a time. Don’t try and cram both in there if they won’t fit. One tip I can give you is that if your lobsters come in a bag, just slide them from the bag right into the water. Try not to take them out beforehand. If you do take them out, make sure to use some non-slippery tongs to move them about so you avoid getting pinched. Leave the rubber bands on the claws as well. Some people take them off, but it’s not worth the hassle.
- Once in the water, bring the water back up to a boil and from that point the lobsters need about 8 minutes to cook (it’s roughly 8 minutes per pound for a lobster). With two one pound lobsters, 8 – 10 minutes should do it. The other rule of thumb is that once the shells are bright red, the lobsters are done.
- When the shells are bright red, carefully take the lobsters out of the water using tongs and place them immediately into a bath of ice and water. This cools the lobsters down so you can work with them, but more importantly it stops the lobsters from cooking any more and causing the meat to become rubbery.
- While the lobsters cool, dice up a quarter stalk of celery to get 1 teaspoon or up to 1 tablespoon of diced celery. You can add as much or as little as you want, but the celery is more for texture and less about real flavor. You just want enough celery to accent the lobster and not look too prominent.
- After at least 15 minutes in the ice and water bath, dump the water and you can start to remove the meat from one lobster at a time. Once again, I’ll spare you any photos of this stage, but it can get really messy from here on out. I recommend the following rough steps for how to remove lobster from the shell:
- You can now remove the rubber bands from the lobster claws.
- Twist the tail and the body/head in opposite directions to separate them.
- Use kitchen shears to cut along the softer underside of the lobster tail.
- From there, use your hands to carefully pull the shell apart in segments from the tail meat. You may need to use the shears as needed.
- With the tail removed, there is a portion of the tail near where it meets the body that may have some food remnants or even roe (firm orange stuff). Carefully peel back parts of the tail there to remove any food remnants and/or the roe. Some people like to eat the roe, but personally, I just throw it out when making lobster rolls. That is up to you.
- The tail will seem easy compared to the claws. Carefully twist the claw away from the body at the joint closest to the body. With both claws and arms separated, you can now discard the body and head. Some people like to eat the inside of the lobster’s head/body, which is filled with organs that look like a green paste called, “Tomalley.” Again, I don’t personally use this for lobster rolls so it can be discarded, but again, that is up to you if you want to try and do something with the tomalley.
- Use the shears, your hands, and/or a lobster cracker to carefully crack the claws starting with the large parts. I will carefully remove the lower, smaller, part of the claw by opening the claw as far as it will go and applying pressure. Do this carefully so as not to also tear the claw meat.
- Next start to break into the larger part of the claws. Try to remove as much of the shell around the meat so you don’t tear the claws. The claws really make a lobster roll look great!
- After the large parts of the claws, don’t forget about the small, but substantive meat in the upper parts of the claws in the two smaller joints. You may need to use the end of a fork or spoon handle to push the meat out.
- You can discard all of the shells, give the meat a light rinse and place it aside into the large bowl that formerly contained the ice water bath.
- With the lobster rinsed and thoroughly drained of excess water, it’s time to chop the lobster. Take the meat and cut it into varying sizes of 1/2 to 1 inch pieces. Leave some of the claws a bit chunkier to accent the roll later.
- Place the chopped meat back in the bowl and get ready to dress it.
- Add in the teaspoon of diced celery (or more if you prefer), the pinch of salt, the pinch of pepper, a few drops of lemon juice, and the 1 tablespoon of mayo. Some people add a lot more mayonnaise, but one tablespoon is plenty for this amount of lobster. This creates a light coating instead of a globby mess. Let the mixture sit, covered, in the fridge for 30 minutes or so or until you are ready to serve it.
- When you are ready to serve the lobster, melt 1/4 tablespoon of butter in a small dish in the microwave. Use a basting brush to brush butter into both sides of the New England Style rolls.
- Place a large pan on the stove over medium heat with the two buns inside the pan. If your pan isn’t large enough, then just toast one bun at a time. Alternatively, you can also try using a toaster oven. Toast the buns on each side until nice and browned, but not burned.
- Cut the Romaine lettuce leaves into thin slivers and line the bottom of the roll with a bit of lettuce. The lettuce adds crunch and keeps the buns from getting soggy.
- Next use a tablespoon to scoop lobster into the rolls until you have the desired amount. You should have enough lobster for two large rolls or four small rolls. Sprinkle a pinch of paprika over the top of the roll for some added color. Drizzle any remaining melted butter over the lobster before serving. You can also melt more butter to serve as a side for dipping. Garnish with a lemon wedge.