Before I became Lobster Gal, I grew up in the land of cheesesteaks and crab cakes that is Northern Delaware. While I was visiting my family this weekend and chatting with some of my pals from QVC, headquartered in nearby West Chester, PA, I found out that my friend David Venable, of In the Kitchen with David, was making his version of the greatest food known to man -lobster rolls!! So, I simply had to try out his version.
My first impressions of the recipe were that he solidly had the essentials down on this one -fresh picked lobster meat including all parts of the lobster, not just claw and knuckle. Each part of the lobster just has such a unique texture and flavor that any lobster roll wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t involve it all. And fresh-picked; I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a thousand times more, if lobster meat has been previously-frozen it has no business being in a lobster roll. Frozen can be fine for cooked dishes, but the lobster roll, where the meat is on full display in all its glory, can be nothing but perfectly briny and fresh. He also involved a split-top hot dog bun, the standard in lobster rolls. I liked that he didn’t suggest a specific brand, which if I may suggest -never use any mass-produced supermarket bun. This is fresh picked lobster meat, and it deserves a bakery-fresh bun. Fortunately, most bakery-fresh hot dog buns are not split at all, so you can just split them down the top yourself and buttery grill up those sides.
When reading the recipe, the controversial parts for me were first, the inclusion of celery. I have only ever had one lobster roll where I was on board with the inclusion of celery, Ed’s Lobster Bar, and that was because he minced it into tiny pieces so that it just melted into the lobster meat. David says “minced” in the recipe, so that’s just what I did. The other flair in the recipe was a dash of hot sauce and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Woah, spicy stuff in a lobster roll -crazy!! I’ve never seen it done, and I must admit I was skeptical. I’m not usually good at following recipes; I just throw things in a bowl and stir them around until I think it tastes right. The down side of that, of course is that I can never recreate it. So, I was going to follow this recipe by the book.
I started at my favorite fish shop nearby, City Fish in Wethersfield, CT, sells fresh picked lobster meat, and it is well worth every penny. The price per pound may at first seem high, but I’ve done the math on this, and it takes 5, 1.25 pound lobsters to get 1 pound of picked lobster meat. If you’re lucky enough to have a shop near you that sells fresh picked lobster meat, support it whenever you can so they keep doing the hard work. I picked up my buns from the bakery at The Fresh Market, a specialty foods chain nearby. I’ve tried them before and they are the perfect complement to lobster.
After I crafted this lobster roll and took my first bite, I knew that it was an absolutely amazing lobster roll. It was even far better than what I usually make myself, which is really saying something, since I’ve been at this for quite some time. Now, I may have been skeptical about a few things in this recipe, but David has fully made me a convert to the idea that a lobster roll can be oh-so-right with unexpected ingredients!
The celery, which I minced finely, was just the right amount and added a fresh tasting flavor that seamlessly integrated into the lobster without crunch. The tiny green flecks actually looked kind of pretty too. Also the mayo and lemon were perfect amounts. But for me, the spicy additions were what really put this recipe over the top. You couldn’t specifically taste them, but the dash of hot sauce and cayenne pepper really woke up the lobster flavor and made it more pronounced. I’m still reeling from the shock that hot sauce and cayenne pepper can not only have a place in a lobster roll, but genuinely enhance and amplify what is already the perfect food. The power of a secret ingredient!
I rarely say this, but I wouldn’t change a thing about this recipe. The combo of the fresh lobster, buttery grilled bun, lemon, mayo, celery and those “secret ingredients” made this, without a doubt, a top tier lobster roll and most certainly one I will make again. Thanks, David!
Dave Venable Lobster Roll Recipe post
1 lb cooked lobster meat (from two 2-3 lb whole lobsters), cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/4 cup celery, minced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1-1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
Dash of hot sauce
Pinch of cayenne
2 Tbsp butter
4 split-top hot dog rolls
Place the lobster meat, celery, mayonnaise, lemon juice, pepper, salt, hot sauce, and cayenne in a bowl and mix until well combined. Refrigerate until the buns are toasted.
To toast the buns, preheat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Lightly spread the butter over both sides of each bun. Cook until golden brown, about 2–3 minutes. Turn the buns over and toast the other side. When the buns are ready, stuff each with about 3/4 cup of the lobster mixture.