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Lobster Rolls (and Lobster Lessons)

July 22, 2010

I love Maine lobster – in butter, in bisque, but most especially in rolls. I’ve never thought twice about cooking one myself… but then again, I’ve never chased one around my living room before.

I didn’t set out to cook a lobster. It was a recent revelation that you could buy ones pre-steamed, and that’s what I had in mind. But my fish store was jammed and they gave me a choice: take the live ones or come back in an hour. Too hungry to wait, I set off with two live crustaceans and some sage advice: pop them in the freezer quickly before steaming. Simple enough.

Now let me preface by saying I’m a complete lobster novice. Raised in California, I don’t own a shred of seersucker and have never even cracked a cooked lobster without adult supervision. And thus begins my post: things I have learned about lobster.

First, photographing a live lobster is the quickest way to re-create the classic lobster scene from Annie Hall. I naively tried to sneak in a few shots while the water boiled, and at first the lobster obliged. Then he did a sudden flick-flick-flick jujitsu move with his tail, lunged for the camera and flung himself off the table onto my living room floor. Ninja lobster! Scared the living daylights out of me. Lobster 1: Liz 0.

Second: they don’t really freeze, they just kind of chill out a little. When I slipped off the claw bands, he grabbed the bag and held on for dear life. In a tug-of-war, lobsters win every time. Lobster 2: Liz 0.

The good news is, he emerged from his bath all bright red and steamy. I triumphantly twisted off his tail… and found myself covered in lobster goop. Didn’t see that one coming. Lobster 3: Liz 0.

Determined, I pried some respectable chunks of lobster free, and piled them high in a buttered roll with celery, lemon, chives and (purists look away) crème fraiche, since I was out of mayo. I am happy to report that it was absolutely delicious, transporting me back to the Maine coast last summer where I first fell in love with lobster.

In the end, the roll was totally worth the trouble… though next time around, I’ll stick with pre-steamed, both for food and for photos.

I am not providing a recipe because clearly I am not fit to dole out lobster advice. For wiser words, I refer you to Smitten Kitchen. For an awesome video of Kid meets Lobster, I refer you to YouTube (thank you Kitchn readers!). And for more seafood faceoff fun, I refer you to Liz v. Oysters… they were similarly scrappy.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2010 5:22 am

    Ha! Hilarious story…love it! I’m glad the rolls turned out well, at least. Thanks for the laugh, Liz:)

  2. July 22, 2010 10:09 am

    OMG – brilliant post! You had me laughing all the way through. Never cooked lobster myself either. Great photos too. Just last week I thought I have to make some lobster rolls, and thought it would be great to include some lobster photos in my portfolio. Thanks for the push and inspiration. Look out for a blog post soon =) x

  3. Liz permalink
    July 22, 2010 10:28 am

    Well if you do decide to do a lobster shoot, Mowie, consider yourself forewarned!

  4. July 22, 2010 10:58 am

    You are a brave woman indeed. I totally flaked out when I had to stab my lobster through the head at cooking school. I couldn’t do it. Wuss! Although I do love lobster of course, can I eat one that died of natural causes? Like a heart attack?
    Beautiful post, love your photos and the comedy!

  5. July 22, 2010 11:32 am

    this is too funny – i love this post ! and i really LOVE that opening photo up top, just brilliant. gorgeous photos as always. only, it’s lunchtime here – and i have no shot at finding a lobster roll anywhere in these parts of town, zürich – land of wursts and rösti, not exactly lobster rolls. hence my having about 5 during my week in nyc recently😉

  6. Liz permalink
    July 22, 2010 11:47 am

    foodieinberlin – I am finding that so many people have lobster cooking school stories!

    Kerrin – Glad you like the top photo. In the crustacean chaos, I snapped off one of his feelers by mistake, and in the attempt to glue it back on, superglued ALL my fingers together. I don’t think my friends have ever laughed so hard at me.

  7. Susan permalink
    July 22, 2010 11:50 am

    Love the first picture, too!

  8. July 22, 2010 1:24 pm

    What a great story…and how brave of you to take on the lobster. Even if he did win:)

  9. July 22, 2010 1:43 pm

    I wrote a tutorial on how to eat a lobster last year.

    When you put the lobster in the pot, did you put it in head first?

  10. July 22, 2010 5:15 pm

    I’ve been thinking about cooking lobster at home for a while now and still thinking and thinking….and you’re so right about Annie Hall scene, it always pops into my head whenever I’m close to buying it.
    One of these days….:)

  11. July 23, 2010 2:12 pm

    Oh my, that was a trip! Great photos and what a tale you spin!

  12. July 23, 2010 3:24 pm

    Looks delicious lovely pictures
    We had a lovely lobster roll at a restaurant in Prince Edward Island Canada
    check it out

  13. July 23, 2010 5:41 pm

    Ha, AMAZING post!!

    I’m pretty sure my boyfriend secretly wants to try making lobster where they start off alive. We tend to buy lobster tails, and that doesn’t leave enough shell to fulfill his visions of making lobster stock. Glad that I know what to expect – maybe your tips will let me acquire at least one point in the struggle against a lobster!

  14. July 23, 2010 7:46 pm

    I added you to my linky love this week!
    Thanks for the great post!😀

  15. July 23, 2010 8:01 pm

    haha !! totally see it missing now that i look back. that is hysterical – but ouch. i have had some bad experiences with crazy glue (sans lobster though), not fun.

  16. July 24, 2010 1:09 pm

    hilarious:) I am scared to cook them live by myself as well. For those reasons. The pics look great though!

  17. July 26, 2010 3:40 am

    I’m a California girl also and I have no idea how to handle love lobster! This was a very funny post. Your photography is amazing!!!

  18. July 28, 2010 6:18 am

    Awesome pictures!

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