A New England Summer StapleJuly, 2020
By Marc Bouchard
If you want to start an argument with a local foodie, just ask them to describe their favorite version of that New England summertime classic, the Lobster Roll. Then stand back.
Everyone has an opinion, a favorite seaside clam shack, a preferred style of preparation that they insist is vastly superior to all others. And woe betide those who would besmirch Their Word, for “I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes.” (Ezekiel 25:17)
The funny part is that since these sandwiches are the ultimate in minimalism, the actual differences are trivial. Every credible recipe calls for just three things: fresh lobster meat, a New England-style hot dog bun and one fat-based binder.
So, what are we arguing about? Whether the mayonnaise they use on the Penobscot is better than the drawn butter preferred in Old Lyme? Is a pinch of minced celery or celery salt allowed, or blasphemy? Can I sprinkle a little Old Bay on top? Or is salt and pepper the only seasoning any self-respecting Down Easter would use?
Personally, I take an entirely different approach. Like any chef, I believe that there’s nothing that is so good that it can’t be made better. Which reminds me of an all-lobster dinner I presented at Stellina several years ago. Lobster gumbo, lobster and nduja on fresh bucatini, smoked lobster salad… the attendees loved it all.
But the hit of the night was a modernist reinterpretation that combined three of America’s most popular dishes into one: lobster roll, BLT and avocado became a lobster and avocado BLT. All I could think is, “Where have you been all my life?”
Like any work of culinary art, the devil’s in the details. Only use the finest ingredients. Claremont’s own North Country Smokehouse makes the best thick-cut bacon around, and it has become readily available in most stores.
Tarragon, with its subtle hint of anise, is the perfect shellfish herb. But whatever you choose, it must be fresh. Ripen your avocado until it yields when gently pressed but is not so mushy that it will disintegrate on the cutting board. And it’s summer, for crying out loud, so get the ripest, sweetest red tomato you can find.
Once you have the ingredients, this sandwich assembles in seconds. Pour yourself a crisp pale ale, the preferred beverage choice, and take your time, savoring every bite.
4 slices smoked bacon
½ cup prepared mayonnaise
2 tsp chopped fresh herb (tarragon, parsley, or basil)
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
6-ounces cooked lobster meat, chopped (see sidebar)
½ semi-ripe avocado, sliced
1 tsp lime juice
2 challah or brioche sandwich buns, split
2 tb unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ripe 4-ounce tomato, sliced
2 small lettuce leaves
2 sliced smoked gouda or provolone cheese
Bake or broil bacon until crisp. Cool.
Mix mayonnaise, herbs, lemon juice and Old Bay. Adjust to taste. Mix 1-2 tablespoons of the seasoned mayo with the lobster meat. Add more to taste. Reserve the remaining mayo. Dress the avocado slices with lime juice, salt and pepper. Refrigerate all these ingredients until needed.
To assemble, brush the cut sides of the rolls with the butter and broil until golden brown. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Assemble each sandwich by adding, in order, a teaspoon of the seasoned mayonnaise, half of the avocado slices, half of the lobster mixture, 1-2 tomato slices, 1-2 slices bacon, one piece of lettuce and one piece of smoked cheese. Add the sandwich top and press down gently. (Adding one or two long toothpicks vertically through the sandwich helps to keep it intact). Carefully place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and put into the oven just until the exposed edges of the cheese are melting. (We’re not trying to heat up the contents of the sandwich, just seal everything together). Remove and eat.