Monday, February 24, 2014

Lobster Rolls and Roasted Cauliflower

Is there anything more decadent than lobster? For me, not really. I'm down at the lakehouse this weekend, so I decided to make something nice for my mom, and I'm a sucker for a good lobster roll. Plus we had a giant head of cauliflower left over from another project, so the unlikely pair wound up as dinner.
To make an excellent lobster roll, you need a good, creamy base that you add the meat to. You're going for a balance of creamy mayo sauce (I'm shaking my head at those of you, mostly derby friends, who are cackling like 12-year-old boys at the potential for dirty jokes here. You know who you are), crunch from the celery and bread crust, firm texture of the lobster itself, and mix of sweet (lobster with a bit of sugar in the sauce), salty, spicy (from the smoked paprika), and tart (from the lemon). However, you have to be really careful and taste your sauce a lot. Don't let one flavor get too pronounced, or it will overpower the lobster, which is pretty delicate. When you have your sauce mixed (see below for the recipe), put it in the refrigerator to chill.
I'm a fan of steaming or boiling the lobster. I think boiling is the easiest, and because I just bought tails, there was no dramatic scene a la Julie and Julia to be had. You just need a pot of salted water that is deep enough to submerge the lobster in. Bring the water to a boil. I boiled my 16 ounces of lobster for 8 1/2 minutes, and they came out completely cooked without being over done. The tails will be all curled up when you take them out. Let them cool a bit, stretch them out flat, and use a large, sharp knife to cut them (longways) down the center into two large strips. Pull out the meat with a fork and dice it into just a smidge larger than bite-size pieces. Add the lobster meat to your sauce and put it back in the fridge to chill.

While your lobster mix chills and develops flavor, move on to the side dish. I unabashedly love cauliflower. I can't lie. Pureed, shredded into fake rice, roasted, whatever. I opted for, well, whatever you would call this method. First, boil your cauliflower head until it just begins to get tender, about 20 minutes. Pull it out of the water to drain. While it cools, mix one cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs, 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese, a pinch of cayenne pepper or smoked paprika (depending on if you like spice), 1/3 t. garlic salt, and 2 T. oil or melted butter. You could use panko either with the bread crumbs or instead, if you like. If you do that, make sure you season your panko well. Mix well. Transfer the cauliflower into a baking dish, flower up, and press the mix onto the cauliflower in a thick layer.
Bake at 350 degrees for about twenty minutes or until just golden. I love this slightly salty compliment to the natural sweetness of the vegetable, and it was not as weird a combination with the lobster as I had feared.
And okay, so I get that this isn't technically a lobster roll. I didn't see any rolls I was interested in at the store, and there was a lovely loaf of fresh ciabatta bread to be had. So I lightly toasted it, spread it with my lobster mix, added some avocado, and sprinkled on some really rough, large-flake sea salt. I served it with some of my sweet and spicy pickles, and it was sort of a sexual experience.

Lobster Roll (recipe is for two people)
  • 2 8 oz. lobster tails
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 1/2 T. lemon juice (preferably fresh)
  • 1/2 t. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 T. granulated sugar
  • 2 stalks celery (from center of bunch, chopped fairly small)
  • 3 T. parsley (flat leaf, chopped)
  • 2 T. butter (unsalted, melted)
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • garlic salt/sea salt to taste (I added both, probably about a total of 1/2 t. together, but add slowly and taste a lot!)
  • Avocado
  • Rolls or bread (I like ciabatta) 
Make your lobster sauce first so it can chill and the flavors can develop. Mix the mayo, lemon juice, celery, and parsley in a medium-sized bowl. Then add the sugar and spices a little bit at a time, stirring in well and tasting each time, until you like the flavor. When you like it, add in the melted butter and refrigerate. 

Fill a pot with enough water to submerge the lobster tails (but don't put them in until it's boiling), salt it, and bring to a boil. When the water is at a rapid boil, drop in the lobster tails. Mine were pretty small, so I let them boil for 8 1/2 minutes. Probably the most important step of this recipe is not to overcook the lobster, as it will go rubbery. Remove from water and put on a plate to cool. When the tails are cool enough to handle, stretch them out flat, legs down, and cut longways with a large, sharp knife. It will then be quite easy to remove the meat in four large pieces with a fork. Chop into about one-inch pieces. When they're completely cool, add to the lobster sauce and put back in the fridge. 

When you're nearly ready to eat, lightly butter your bread or rolls and warm in the oven. Divide your lobster mix onto your bread and top with avocado and a pinch of sea salt (unless your lobster sauce is really salty).