Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tailgating Like the 1%

A couple weekends ago, Michigan played UMass in what no one referred to as the Mitt Romney Bowl. Nevertheless, it seemed like as good a time as any to buy some lobsters and tailgate like the 1% with some New England lobster rolls.

The market for lobsters is an interesting case study of economics and the environment. In recent years, the market price for lobster has declined due to overfishing of cod and haddock - the primary predator of lobster. Back in 2008, lobstermen encountered even further challenges to get rid of the oversupply when Canadian lobster processors lost their lines of credit due to the financial crisis. The price of lobster plummeted, leading to an explosion of lobster roll shops in NYC. The Midwest has not reaped any of these benefits, so it'll take a little bit of work to get your hands on a lobster roll.

(Sidenote: In his article Consider the Lobster, David Foster Wallace recounted his visit to the Maine Lobster Festival and discussed the moral and ethical quandary of cooking and eating lobster. It is a great, if uncomfortable, read.)

Lobster rolls come in two varieties across New England. The most prevalent variety is cold lobster with mayo and celery or scallions served on a split-top hot dog bun (split-top buns are virtually unheard of in the midwest). The less popular variety is warm lobster served with drawn butter. As an ardent opponent of all things mayo, I opted for the latter variety.

If you are thinking about serving lobster rolls for a crowd, you'll rightly assume that it could quickly become a costly event. To cut down on the cost, I picked up some langostino tailmeat from Trader Joe's. Langostino refers to meat from the squat lobster, which looks like a sort of mash-up of a lobster, crab, and crayfish. The tailmeat is pretty tasty and worked well to cut down on the cost of the whole operation.

To cook the lobster, I used my outdoor fryer/boiler and got a big pot of water and tossed them in. After about 10-12 minutes, I removed the lobsters to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Removing the meat from the lobster tail, claws and legs is by far the most difficult part of the whole operation. I used my kitchen scissors to cut through the shell - be careful not to hack through the claw meat, that's the best part.

To prepare the meat, I melted a ton of butter in my dutch oven, tossed in the lobster & langostino meat, sprinkled it with salt, pepper, and celery seed. I could not find any split-top hot dog buns, so I bought an unsliced loaf of Zingerman's bakehouse white. I cut the loaf into thick slices, buttered each side and toasted it on a skillet. I cut a slit down the top and then stuffed it with lobster meat. Serve and devour.

If I were to do it again, I'd try to kick them up a notch somehow as they were just a little too plain - not totally a bad thing when it comes to lobster, but it could have used something else. My buddy P gave me a tip after his recent trip to a lobster roll shack in Connecticut - add a bit of sherry and garlic to the butter to make a sherry butter sauce. That sounded like exactly what is needed to bring these to the next level. I didn't hear any complaints from 99% of the people at the tailgate though, the only complainer was the one who didn't get a roll:

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