Weekend extra: Classic New England lobster roll

This weekend, we have a seafood double-header on sale – in addition to jumbo 8-10 count shrimp, there are large lobster tails.  We had 4-ounce North Atlantic tails on sale last weekend, and a few weeks ago over the New Year’s holiday we had live lobsters.  All that lobster in the freezing cold brings to mind visions of lobster rolls in the summertime.  Fortunately, we can bring a little sunshine into the current cold snap by making fresh lobster rolls at home.  Whereas cold-water lobster tails are the best ones to use for lobster roll – a staunch New Englander would never use anything else – you can certainly use warm-water tails such as those from Honduras.  I say: use whichever ones are on sale!

I’ve made lobster roll using Hellmann’s mayonnaise or Hellmann’s Light (it’s the only commercial brand I’m willing to use for any purpose), but there’s something special about using fresh, homemade mayonnaise in a recipe … especially one with only a few ingredients in which the mayo is a major constituent and will really stand out flavor-wise.  And since you’ll be adding lemon juice anyway for the bright note it adds, why not just use lemon mayonnaise?  If you want your mayo to have that pale lemon or pale golden color, however, you probably won’t be able to use straight extra-virgin olive oil because it will likely be too green in color – so you’ll have to mix it with a light yellow unsaturated oil like sunflower-seed oil.  Don’t use canola or rapeseed oil because that has a slightly fishy flavor due to its high level of omega-3 fatty acids.  Soybean oil, on the other hand – which is what most commercial brands use – will merely produce a creamy-colored mayonnaise.

About the buns:  unless you bake them yourself in a special hot dog bun pan or live in New England, you probably won’t be able to find unsplit hot dog rolls without going to a bakery.  Some higher-end groceries sell brioche-type hot dog and hamburger rolls, and those may or may not be pre-split.  In that case, I suggest you try Mother’s brioche-style potato roll hot dog buns.  They’re soft and buttery like brioche but stay soft and moist longer because of the potato content; but they are, however, pre-split.  Doesn’t matter – they taste fine.

lobster roll 3 ready to eat 600px

New England Lobster Roll for two                                                     makes 2 rolls

Lobster meat from 2 cooked 6-oz. North Atlantic lobster tails (about 8 oz. of meat*)
¼ cup minced celery
4 tbsp. fresh mayonnaise – either homemade lemon mayonnaise or Hellmann’s light mayo
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice or more, to taste
sea salt or fine Kosher salt, to taste
a pinch or two of Old Bay seasoning, to taste
¼ tsp. sweet Hungarian paprika
2 hot dog buns, either New England style rolls or Mother’s potato rolls for hot dogs
1 tbsp. sweet unsalted butter, melted

* Remember that you don’t get 4 ounces of lobster meat from a 4-ounce tail – the shell has weight, too; so if you want 4 ounces of lobster meat from the tail, you have to get a larger tail.

  1. In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery, salt, Old Bay and paprika; mix well with a fork.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  1. Coarsely chop the lobster meat into roughly ¾-inch sized pieces. Add lobster meat to mayo mix and toss until everything is well coated.
  1. If you’re using New England-style buns, they won’t be split yet – so you’ll have to split them.  Create a pocket in the bun:  cut through the top of the bun so that the slit goes through three-quarters of the bun in length but doesn’t reach the ends and doesn’t go all the way through to the bottom of the roll.  If you’re using conventional hot dog buns like Mother’s potato rolls, the bun has already been split for you.
  1. Brush melted butter on both sides of the inside of a regular hot dog bun, but on the outside sides of a New England style roll.  Toast the buttered sides of each roll on a heated griddle or large skillet until the buttered surfaces are lightly golden; then fill the rolls with the lobster mixture.  Serve immediately, accompanied by potato chips or freshly made shoestring fries.


Lemon mayonnaise                                                                         makes about 3-3½ cups

1 heaping tsp. freshly minced or grated lemon zest from a well-scrubbed lemon
½ cup fresh lemon juice, without seeds or pulp  (buy at least 2 large, ripe lemons)
2-3 drops Tabasco sauce, to taste
3 large or extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 tbsp. smooth Dijon mustard
sea salt or fine Kosher salt, to taste  (start with 1 teaspoon and add more later, if necessary)
about 2½ cups extra-virgin olive oil – choose a light, smooth, fruity oil that’s not too peppery**
clean, sterilized Mason jar(s) for storage

** If your olive oil is very green in color, use a 50/50 or 25/75 mixture of olive oil and sunflower oil, so that the finished product has more of a pale golden color; otherwise, your mayo will look pale green, which would look fine for lime mayo but odd or wrong for lemon or plain mayonnaise.

  1. Make sure all your ingredients are scrupulously fresh and at room temperature – temperature matters for this.  If you’re doing this with a blender, warm up the glass blender ‘jar’ and a 2-cup glass measuring cup in a preheated 200° F. oven for about 4 minutes, then remove and let them cool on the counter for about a minute.  If you’re making the mayo by hand, warm up your 10-inch wire whisk, measuring cup and small, deep bowl (about 6 inches in diameter, so that you can whip all of the sauce at once) the same way in the oven.  While the utensils warm up, separate your eggs into small prep bowls; save the leftover whites in a half-pint Mason jar for later use (after I make mayo, I always find an excuse to make meringues – possibly for French-style macarons? – but you can also use the whites for egg-white omelets or whatever).
  1. Measure out 2 cups of olive oil into the warmed measuring cup.  Put the yolks into your blender or warmed bowl and beat or blend on low speed until they’re thick and lemon colored, then add the whole egg and continue beating until that’s thoroughly incorporated and the mixture is thick again.
  1. Add minced lemon peel or zest, salt, Tabasco, mustard and half the lemon juice; whisk or blend for about a minute, then with the blender on medium speed and the lid off, slowly begin dribbling in the oil.  If you’re hand-whisking, dribble in about a tablespoon of oil at a time, whisk that in well, then add more and keep whisking that way.  After you’ve added in about 1 cup of the oil, start alternating the oil in a very thin stream with the remaining lemon juice, about a tablespoon at a time, until all the juice and the oil in the measuring cup is in.  The mayo sauce should be getting very thick and glossy.  Stop beating just long enough to taste the mayo for salt and acidity (add more salt or lemon juice if needed; or, if you’re out of lemon juice, a teaspoon of white wine vinegar will do), then blend again, dribbling in the last of the oil.
  1. By now, the sauce should be very creamy, glossy and moderately thick, like light Hollandaise sauce.  Beat or whisk for another minute, then stop and pour the sauce into clean Mason jars (I use a quart jar, but you may prefer pint jars).  Screw the lids tight and refrigerate mayo in the back of your refrigerator for at least two hours.

Variation:  For lime mayo, use fresh lime juice but only ¼ to ½ teaspoon of lime zest (it’s much more powerful and peppery in flavor than lemon peel).  You can also use blood oranges for an interesting twist, but in that case, use about ½ teaspoon of orange peel.





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