If you have ever been to the New England coast, you too have eaten countless lobster rolls along the way. And while everyone can agree on how delicious those are, two styles compete for the title of THE true Lobster roll.
The most famous version and the one you are most likely picturing in your head right now is from Maine: a to-die-for, mayo-based salad, simply laid on a toasted bun. If you aren’t a purist, you’ll allow some shaved celery to delicately join this tasty party.
The slightly less famous contender comes from the deep south – well… from Connecticut but it’s all relative in the end. Unlike its Northern rival, this roll is hot and relies on a melted-butter base.
Try both versions and decide for yourself what the best lobster recipe is.
Don’t be scared by the length of the recipe below. I wanted to give you everything you need to build each element from scratch but you can easily cut corners by buying ready-made buns or pre-cooked lobster.
Homemade New England hot dog buns
Yield: 10-ish hot buns
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbs active yeast (or substitute above with 1 cup of sourdough starter)
5 tbs buttermilk powder
1 tbs salt
1 tbs sugar
1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
1/2 cup water
1 egg (+ 1 for egg wash)
40g soft butter
For best results, plan to make the dough 24h in advance. It can also be done in just a few hours if you don’t have the time (or are just impatient, hungry, or most likely both).
In a standing mixer, with a dough hook, mix well together the flour, yeast, buttermilk powder, salt and sugar. In the meantime, bring the water and milk to a warmish temperature (about 100F / 38c). Add the liquids to the solids before dropping the egg in the batter.
Knead the dough until smooth (about 5 min). The texture you are looking for is a dough that does not stick to the side of the bowl but still a bit to the bottom. Add a teeny weeny bit of water if needed (different types of flour will hydrate differently).
Now, add the butter, piece by piece and keep on kneading for an other 5 minutes. In the end the dough is sticky, shinny and smells delicious. Cover the bowl with cling film and let it rise in the fridge for 24h. If you opt-out for the shortcut, simply put your bowl in a warm place (but not HOT) until doubled in size (about 1h).
Pre-heat your oven to 350F (180c).
To shape the buns, cut the dough in pieces of about 110g (around 10 pieces). Roll each on your table in a 4-inch long cigar. Press the center of the cigar with the side of your hand to create a small furrow. This is to help you pinch both side tightly together to create a smooth top. Place each bun 1/2 inch apart to have them bump into each other during the second proofing (or while cooking) and get those delicious soft sides that comes with New England style buns.
Brush some egg wash on top, to create a nice coloration and cook for 25-30min or until golden brown.
Note: If you bag them and place in the fridge they will stay equally delicious for a few days. I actually found them to be easier to work with on the next day and we both preferred the second round.
I also really recommend to trim a tiny bit each side to have a planer surface which helps get a much more evenly toasted side. It seems like applying the butter directly on the side instead of in the pan also achieve more toasted and crunchier sides.
Lobster salad (Maine)
Yield: 4-5 proud rolls from Maine
1 lbs lobster tail
3 tbs high-quality mayonnaise
2 tbs very thinly sliced celery heart
2 tbs chives
2 tsp celery seeds
2 tbs lemon juice
Splash of champagne vinegar (optional)
Salt & Pepper
The preparation for both versions is the same up to the final steps. First you need to flash-boil the tail to remove the lobster meat more easily. Lay it flat and place a skewer or chopstick between the meat and the shell to prevent the tail from curbing.
When the water is boiling, drop the lobster in the pan for one minute. Stop by putting the tail in an iced-water bath, then separate the meat from the shell. Technically, because you’ll cut that tail into pieces you could argue this step is not critical but it’s always a good way to learn how to remove lobster meat from its shell – plus it really is much simpler to remove the meat without butchering it.
Now for the actual cooking the easiest way to get perfect results without effort is to rely on a sous-vide. If you don’t have one you can steam or boil until the lobster turns bright red (about 8-10 minutes). However, you’ll thank me later for telling you to bag that bad boy with 2 tbs of butter and some fresh herbs. Cook for 30min to 1h at 130F (55c).
For Maine-inspired rolls, remove the cooked lobster and let it cool down. Cut it down into chunks making sure to remove the tougher tiny bits if there are any in your lobster. Mix with the rest of the ingredients before placing in the fridge until the last moment.
Toast each side of your New England buns in a hot buttered pan. Garnish them with the cold lobster salad. Close your eyes… take a bite… I’m sure you can almost hear the seagulls.
Butter-poached lobster (Connecticut)
Yield: 4-5 warm rolls from Connecticut
1 lbs Lobster tail
60g Butter (about 4 tbs)
2 tbs Chives
2 tbs Lemon juice
1 tsp Paprika (optional)
Salt & Pepper
Follow the steps above to remove the meat from the shell and cook the lobster to perfection. The difference here is that you’ll cut the meat while still hot, then melt the rest of the butter with the liquid that was in the bag if you opted for sous-vide cooking. Note 60g is the total amount of butter so subtract any amount you’ve already put in that pouch if you don’t want an extra buttery sauce. Add chives, lemon, salt, pepper and paprika to the melted butter.
Toast each side of your New England buns in a pan. Meanwhile, mix the lobster meat with the hot butter sauce (in a bowl to avoid having the lobster cooking a second time). Garnish (without soaking the bread with butter) and prepare for a treat.
Fresh green coleslaw
3 cups fine grated green cabbage
1 cup thinly sliced celery
3 tbs mayonnaise (or to taste)
1 tbs lemon juice (or to taste)
1 tbs celery seeds
1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tbs coarse salt
1 tsp pepper
Mix everything together appart from the mayonnaise. I prefer to do this by hand and massage the mixture for 2-3 min to make sure the salt is covering the pieces as evenly as possible.
Let the coleslaw rest for a good 30 minutes. The salt will do its magic and pickle the veggies slightly. The more you let it rest the more the salt will “cook” the cabbage. 30min offers a good balance between soft & crunchy. It is also usually the time it takes to do the rest of the recipe so start with the coleslaw and let it rest while you work on the above.
Stir before serving. Add lemon juice to taste.
So guys, what’s the verdict: Maine or Connecticut lobster rolls?