Lobster Rolls

  • Hot Lobster Roll
    Hot Lobster Roll
  • Cold Lobster Roll
    Cold Lobster Roll

Well, it’s been quite a hiatus, but I’m back, and starting up again with one of my favorite sandwiches…the lobster roll.

Let’s begin with a bit of lobster history! There are actually quite a few species of lobster, but culinarily speaking, there are two that really matter. Lobsters are actually found all over the world, but the two we eat most are from each side of the Atlantic Ocean: the American lobster, and the European lobster. In fact, lobsters have been a part of the human diet as far back as the Greeks and Romans!  For our purposes, let’s stick with the lobster we all know and love, from the westside of the Atlantic.

When the Americas began to be populated, lobsters were overwhelmingly plentiful, and not considered a delicacy. As it became a part of our diet, it was actually seen as the opposite: only the poor, prisoners, and indentured servants ate lobster…and they weren’t happy about it! But by the mid 1800s, eaters in Boston and New York had begun to pick up on the deliciousness, and technology advanced to a point where lobsters could be fished more easily for mass consumption.

The problem is, lobsters inherently lend themselves to being a luxury. They live alone, on the sea bed, in rocky outcrops, and reproduce very slowly….it can take up to two years to produce fertilized eggs, and then another six to eight years for the lobsters to become large enough to legally fish. Furthermore, lobsters are caught in traps, not with huge nets, and have been known to engage in cannibalism when in captivity. So in terms of price, female lobsters are the way to go…not only are they generally bigger, but the eggs, or coral, can also be used in sauces, and many gourmands believe that they taste better anyway.

In America, Maine is known for their lobster, and lobster is associated more than anything else with Maine. And it’s true, a lot of lobster comes from Maine. But actually, there’s a whole lot more in Canada, Maine just has a better PR company.

But let’s move on to lobster rolls. Lobster rolls come in two forms: hot and cold. The original lobster roll, unsurprisingly, comes from Maine, and is cold. The Maine version usually has a bit of mayo and some seasoning tossed with the lobster meat. Elsewhere in New England, the meat is usually mixed with mayo, celery, and a bit of seasoning…it’s actually a bit similar to a tuna salad, just overwhelmingly better (because it’s lobster). The hot lobster roll is credited to Harry Perry of Milford, CT, and is a simpler affair: hot chunks of lobster meat, drenched in drawn butter. But where the hot and cold join in the Venn diagram of lobster rolls is the bread: a toasted hot dog bun (or similar shape) cut down from the top instead of horizontally. I think the wonderfulness that is the lobster roll is best summed up by Susan Russo in her book The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: “it’s ironic that lobster, one of the world’s most luxurious foods, is also the featured ingredient in this, one of New England’s least pretentious sandwiches.”

I think anyone who has had a lobster roll in New England can agree. The photos above are from Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock in New London, CT, where I went to college. The afternoons I spent there, eating lobster rolls (always hot of course…I may be a sucker for mayo, but there’s nothing better than hot lobster and drawn butter), are recalled with casual vibes and feelings of relaxation, not of white tablecloths and fine wines. It was about sitting outside at wooden picnic benches with friends and a cold beer, watching the boats come in and out of the harbor, chowing down on delicious food.

2 Comments

  1. Reply
    Faye March 20, 2015

    Ummm yum? I haven’t really tried lobster before… The American version or the European one… but that sandwich sounds amazing. I might have to make a list of foods I need to eat when I come visit you guys. I’ll be a whale by the time I get home

  2. Reply
    David McLean March 21, 2015

    I am so glad to see you discussing the iconic lobster roll. The Maine style lobster roll that most tourists are acustomed to is a pretty straight forward concoction. The best bang for your buck that I have seen for a lobster roll is from Graffam Bros. Seafood in Rockport, Maine. However, the lobster roll has evolved quite dramatically here on the mid-coast of Maine and there are many eateries that really take pride in their own proprietary makeup of the sandwich. There is a focus on quality breads and locally grown fresh, organic ingredients that has changed the face of the lobster roll. People, like myself, are not so impressed with the expensive old-style lobster roll that was merely cold lobster meat mixed with mayo on a hot dog bun. We are looking at it being served on focaccia sprinkled with olive oil, chives, and rosemary as one example. Regardless of how you like to have it, to sit outside with friends and chase it all down with a fresh locally brewed ale is what it is all about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *