My Own Answer to the Lobster Roll
One of my favorite summertime lunch traditions is the New England lobster roll. In case you haven't been to that region, let me hurry to point out that the dish has nothing to do with Japanese food, sushi rice or seaweed.
A classic lobster roll is a sandwich, based on a soft hot-dog style bun, the "roll," with its split opening facing upward. The inside is generously stuffed with a mixture of freshly cooked lobster meat, mayonnaise, diced celery and onion, salt, pepper, and lemon juice, maybe with some iceberg or butter lettuce. When the lobster is fresh and sweet, the mayonnaise not overpowering, and the seasonings just right, nothing tastes more like a summer at the shore.
I had lobster rolls in mind when I was coming up with sandwiches back in 1989 for my first restaurant in San Francisco, Postrio, a name inspired by our location in the Prescott Hotel on Post Street near Union Square, and the trio of chefs I formed there with Mitchell and Steven Rosenthal.
As I've mentioned before in this column, serving lunch in a very urban setting was something new to me then. Everybody told me that we had to offer sandwiches for lunch, because that's what hotel guests and business people wanted.
Of course, I felt an elegant restaurant needed elegant sandwiches. So we quickly came up with a burger featuring freshly ground Kobe beef, the very rich meat of Japan's most pampered cattle on earth; and a BLT to which we added grilled shrimp in lemon butter sauce, a recipe I shared in this column several years ago.
Our most famous sandwich, though, turned out to be inspired in part by lobster rolls. We took chunks of freshly cooked, shelled lobster and bathed them in a white wine butter sauce similar to the one from the shrimp sandwich. In place of the bun, we toasted flavorful, rustic-style multigrain bread, and then added fragrant applewood-smoked bacon and peppery baby arugula leaves.
From the moment we offered the sandwich, we had a hit. To this day, that lobster sandwich remains a star, not only at the original Postrio but also at our branch at The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas.
In both places, we cook the lobster fresh each morning. To make the sandwiches at home, though, you can simply buy freshly cooked shelled lobster tails or lobster meat from your market, then make the sauce and warm up the lobster in it. Toast the bread, assemble the sandwiches, pour a cool glass of white wine, and enjoy your own moment of summer at the New England shore.
LOBSTER CLUB SANDWICHES WITH WHITE WINE BUTTER SAUCE
WHITE WINE BUTTER SAUCE:
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 medium-sized shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar
1/2 cup heavy organic cream
4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 pound cooked shelled lobster meat; preferably from the U.S., Australia, or the western coast of Baja, California; cut into small bite-sized pieces
4 thin slices multigrain or whole-wheat bread
1/4 cup store-bought mayonnaise
2 ripe organic Roma (plum) tomatoes, cored and cut into thin slices
8 slices thick, uncured, nitrite-free applewood-smoked organic bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and kept warm in a low oven
1 cup organic baby arugula leaves or mixed baby lettuces
First, make the sauce. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and saute until they begin to soften without browning, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and vinegar, raise the heat, and boil until the liquid has reduced slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and continue boiling until the liquid has reduced by half, 7 to 10 minutes. Place a fine-meshed strainer over the heatproof container of a blender. Securely put on the blender's lid, leaving the feed hole ajar and covering the lid with a clean kitchen towel to guard against splashes; then, turn on the blender and add the butter a few pieces at a time until it is all incorporated. If the sauce seems very thick, blend in a little bit of hot water. Pour the sauce into a clean saucepan and stir in the lemon juice and salt and white pepper to taste. Cover and keep warm on the stovetop.
To make the sandwiches, put the lobster meat in the pan of prepared sauce. Place the pan over very low heat and warm the lobster gently, stirring occasionally and taking care not to let the sauce reach a boil.
Meanwhile, toast the bread in a toaster or under the broiler. Transfer the toast to individual serving plates. Spread one side of each slice with the mayonnaise.
For each sandwich, arrange the tomato slices on top of the mayonnaise on one slice of toast. Arrange the bacon slices on top of the tomatoes. With a spoon, distribute the warm lobster meat on top of the bacon on each sandwich, leaving most of the sauce behind in the saucepan. Arrange the arugula leaves over the lobster, then place the remaining slice of toast on top, mayonnaise side down.
With a sharp knife, cut each sandwich diagonally in half. If you like, transfer some of the sauce from the pan to small bowls for each person to add to the sandwich to taste. Serve immediately.
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