Lobster: decadent, delicious, decidedly New England. We’re lucky enough to live in the land of this coveted crustacean while many others have to settle for subpar shellfish. And as we all know, fresh ingredients make a world of difference in our dishes. While folks in other parts of the country suffer for their lack of fresh, local lobster, we celebrate our abundance in a multitude of ways. We dress it in butter and garlic or mix it into risotto and mac and cheese. We bicker over how to best cook them…boil, steam, or grill it to perfection. But a classic combo we have come to know and love is the lobster and its roll.
Dating all the way back to 1929 and first documented as served by a Milford, Connecticut restaurant called Perry’s, the lobster roll has been a fan favorite of the region since its inception. Good on you Perry. Making its way across New England was not a difficult task. This is, of course, no surprise. But what is a surprise, is that the first place to put the lobster roll on the map was not in Maine. Can you imagine a summer tourist not searching the rocky coasts of Maine for the best lobster roll? We can’t either.
Maine gets most of the lobster hype, but Connecticut has their own opinions on the perfect roll. Maine serves their lobster meat cold and includes mayo in the mix, while Connecticut serves their meat warm and only uses butter. If you’re in Connecticut and the lobster meat is cold, you’re eating a lobster salad roll. It gets very technical when you’re talking about lobster in New England. Whatever way it’s served, it better be nestled into a split-top New England style hot dog roll! A staple of local cuisine, and generally a must. (Did you know other areas of the country have never heard of top-sliced hot dog rolls!?)
There’s really no separating a New Englander from their shellfish. We have a reputation as being a particular lot, prone to upholding traditions. This may not be true of all things, but it definitely is true of our feelings on the sea’s sacred roll. Close your eyes, take a bite, and imagine salty breezes and coastal sounds that send you sailing away. How very quintessentially New England in the summertime. We like what we like and there’s no changing our minds.
Now the fun begins! What inspires you?
Are you a lover of the classics, whether it be a cold Maine or warm Connecticut? Or are you an adventurous eater? Will you buck tradition and dare to swap out the classic split-top hot dog roll (like the brioche roll shown above)?! Will you try some new textures, flavors, spices? These are the questions you have to ask yourself before you let loose in the kitchen or it may become a tragic “tail” of good lobster gone bad. But don’t let the pressure get to you! Try a little spice, try some chive, but whatever you do, always let the lobster be the star of it’s roll.
P.S. What should you serve it with? Chips? Fries? Onion Rings? A debate for another day!