When I lived on the East Coast, Labor Day signaled the slightly sad transition from summer to fall. It was usually the last weekend to take the boat out, the final clambake or barbecue or beach trip of the year, and an excuse to indulge in lobster rolls. To me, lobster rolls are one of the iconic examples of truly American cuisine.
If you'd like to add a bit of New England flair and flavor to your Labor Day weekend, here's a favorite lobster roll recipe of mine.
1 lb. cooked lobster meat (shelled)
1 small celery stick, minced (some people like to use cucumber)
2-3 tbsp. mayonnaise, to taste
1 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon (dill is also commonly used)
1 tbsp. chopped chives or scallions
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
4 New England-style hot dog buns (see note below*)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
Fresh lemon juice
Remove the shells from 1-2 (depending on their size) cooked lobsters, saving the lobster meat.
Chop the lobster meat into chunky pieces, but not too finely. You want to be able to see pieces of claw, tail, etc. Place the lobster meat into a mixing bowl.
Using a spatula or large spoon, gently fold in the mayonnaise, celery, tarragon, chives, salt and pepper. I am very judicious in my use of mayo. I want to taste lobster, not mayonnaise. Use as much or as little mayo as you prefer. You can do this well ahead of serving time to allow the flavors to come together. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour until ready to assemble the rolls.
*A note about the buns: In New England, it's de rigueur to use "top-loading" hot dog buns. These are buns that are sliced on the top, rather than the sides, allowing the lobster roll to stand upright — they're typically served in a rectangular cardboard container. Pepperidge Farm makes a good top-loader bun, but I haven't been able to find them here. So, I just buy unsliced hot dog buns (these ones came from Smith's bakery).
Using a pairing knife, slice the tops open to make pockets for the lobster.
Melt one tablespoon of butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Then, toast the buns on three sides (excluding the top), adding the additional tablespoon of butter if the pan gets too dry, until they are a bit crisp and buttery, about 6-8 minutes.
Then, simply stuff the buns with the lobster mixture and enjoy, drizzled with fresh lemon juice. It's common to serve lobster rolls with pickles and potato chips on the side.
Bonus: If you have leftover lobster, like I did, it makes for a great seafood salad the next day.
Photos by Ted Scheffler