One of life’s simplest pleasures is a lobster roll. A few ingredients, modest techniques, and one glorified specimen (lobster) come together to make a sandwich that is neither showy nor pretentious, and one that tastes great all on its own, next to a side of potato salad, or enjoyed right out of the palm of your hand, without a plate or utensil in sight.
While a lobster roll’s origins are simple, it’s recently been elevated to a status that is far above its humble nature. Now, we’re seeing lobster rolls served at five-star restaurants, shelled out the window of numerous food trucks, and used as the basis for large-scale cooking competitions. Lobster rolls are moving far beyond their role as the signature item of a modest shack sitting on the coast of Maine and are becoming something that is widely discussed, glorified, and, well, argued about.
Cooking can be another way to find joy in life, used as a vehicle to bring pleasure to others and to oneself. Much like the fate of the lobster roll, though, it can also become a competition, a "who does it best," or a standoff between two talented individuals. While the Cook editors at The Daily Meal never shy away from a healthy competition, or a thorough debate of what’s the best, when it comes to the lobster roll, we decided to examine it in its purist form.
There are several ways to go about making a lobster roll, from traditional to non-traditional, and we’re not going to exclude any of them when we tell you to make the best lobster roll. To give you a well-rounded and non-biased view of how a lobster roll should be made, we’re including several techniques for how to do it. And coming with the lobster roll’s rising status are the celebrated industry experts that stand behind the dish, so we sought out a few of them to get their advice on what makes a lobster roll great, as well.
You might remember Susan Povich of Red Hook Lobster Pound — we recently named her Red Hook Lobster Truck the Best Food Truck in America — and we spoke to her about how she charms her way into New Yorker’s hearts with authentic and fresh lobsters at her restaurant. There’s also Luke Holden, who like Povich, took one of Maine’s institutional dishes to the streets of New York with his company Luke’s Lobster, and has been successfully trucking lobster rolls around the city, and now elsewhere, since 2009. Moving away from New York, there’s Virginia Wright, editor of Maine’s Down East Magazine and co-author of Red’s Eats: World’s Best Lobster Shack, a well-deserved tribute to one of the state’s best shacks, who feels pretty strongly about certain aspects of the lobster roll. Last but not least is Rebecca Charles. Owner and executive chef of Pearl Oyster Bar, Charles has received a decent amount of praise for her lobster roll, and we valued her opinion on how to make one when she said, "I do it the way I like it."
Not only did we speak to industry experts about their set of doctrines surrounding a lobster roll, but we sought out celebrated recipes from each, as well. There’s Cooking Channel’s Ben Sergeant’s recipe, soon to be featured in his first-ever cookbook, The Catch, and renowned restaurant Legal Sea Food’s version of a lobster roll. We were even able to nab most of the celebrated recipes created by the folks we spoke with, including Povich’s, Wright’s, and Charles’.
To Charles’ point, a lobster roll is meant to be enjoyed the way you like it — whether that’s dressing it in mayonnaise or with a light squeeze of lemon juice, or tossing in chopped celery and a few tablespoons of seasoning. There’s no right or wrong way to make a lobster roll, as long as there is good technique and great ingredients, and we’ll show you how it’s done so you can you start enjoying your own, ultimate version of life’s simplest pleasures.
Anne Dolce is the Cook editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce