But this week, I engaged in some real, genuine, bank balance blowing extravagance. I offered to make lobster rolls for the engagement party. As has been mentioned, my husband is allergic to shellfish. Ergo, lobster rolls would never be on the family dinner table, and I have to look for other outlets. What transpired was a combination of a computation error, the uncertainty of how much meat your average lobster contains, plus, possibly a desire on the part of the fish store to sell as many lobsters as possible to the rookie cookie.
I ordered them last Saturday, and when the woman told me how much it would be for six pounds of lobster meat, I nearly fell on the floor. We're talking one fourth of my bi weekly paycheck here. I gamely handed over my ATM card, and announced when we got home that we would be eating out of the pantry for the next two weeks. We had already ordered the buns, since in the District of Columbia, you don't find buns that open at the top. Our buns open on the side. I had suggested that one of my son's friends from Boston bring them down in their luggage, but that idea was vetoed. We ordered 50, the idea being we could cut them in half, and it would be an hors d'oeuvre.
On Friday, I went to pick them up. As I was waiting for the bus, one of the parents invited me to their apartment for a cold drink. "Quando?" I inquired. "Ahora," was the answer. Yeah, I can do that, I said. I can come now. So I spent a lovely hour conversing in my rotten Spanish and occasionally asking my third grader to bail me out when I couldn't say what I wanted. Then, I had to wait half an hour for the L2 bus. The L2 bus runs up Connecticut Avenue, which is a major traffic artery. Its buses must lead lonely little lives, because they long for the company of their fellows. They dawdle on street corners waiting for their buddy buses to come along, and then they happily skip up Connecticut wheel in wheel as we riders sit steaming at the stops.
At that point, it was 5:00 and I had neither my phone nor the knowledge of when the fish store closed.
So I decided to stay on the bus and get the lobsters without passing go at my house, where there may or may not have been a car. It turned out the fish store closes at 7:30.
"Where your car?" asked the Korean fish store owner.
"At my house."
"You need car. We drive you."
So the owner's sister drove me in her brand new Honda and carried the huge heavy box up to the front door, which I appreciated. Then, I had to find house room for those suckers in the refrigerator. I did some quick rearranging, threw away the cranberry sauce that had been taking up space since Thanksgiving, and tried to fit the box into the empty space. No dice. So then, I removed the individual, foil wrapped corpses and stacked them like bricks on the shelf. It looked like a lobster wall.
The next order of business was removing the meat from the lobsters. The fish store had cooked them and split them for me so I was spared the ordeal of chasing them around the kitchen floor, immersing them in boiling water, etc. etc. I consulted The Joy of Cooking, which had a useful disquisition on lobsters, eating them, taking the meat out, as well as a non pc joke about what the cannibal has to say about lobsters. The end had a great line. "At this point we commend you to the finger bowl."
So, laboriously, I began taking the meat out. I quickly decided that the whole head part could just be chucked into the garbage bag residing in the sink. Claws, arms, tail, toss. The volume of meat in the bread bowl, since emptied of punch, grew bigger and bigger. The lobsters were enormous. Huge spotted claws, thick bristly heads. There was a lot of chat in Joy of Cooking about tomally and other stuff and how you could eat it. I decided that if it looked disgusting, I didn't want to eat it, nor would I make anyone else eat it.
About two hours and seven lobsters later, I wearily turned the picking process over to my son, and went to bed. The next morning I began all over again with chopping up the meat into "bite-size" pieces. There were probably ten pounds of meat at the end.
I didn't want to actually assemble the things until just before the party started, because I felt they would be soggy. So, at 5:00 with the serving person trying to maneuver around me I started heating up the buns to put them together. She politely watched this process for a few minutes, and then, around 5:25 , with the guests coming at 6:00, she announced, "I'll do the rest of this." and I went and took a shower.
At least a quarter of the guests were from New England, so presumably they knew what they were talking about when they said the lobster rolls were as good as ones you would get in a restaurant. So they were a pretty major success, even though we still ended up with a couple of pounds of lobster salad after all the guests left.
Cape Cod Lobster Roll
(This recipe makes enough for 8 people. Probably not too many of you want the recipe for 50.)
8 frankfurter buns
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 cups, about one and one half pounds to two pounds) cooked lobster meat, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup minced heart of celery
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or one half teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions, including green part
Tabasco sauce to taste
Lemon juice to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Stuffed olives, parsley sprigs or lobster claws for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Split the buns and arrange them, split side up, on a baking dish. Brush them with the butter and bake until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Combine the lobster, mayonnaise, celery, garlic, basil, parsley, scallions, Tabasco, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Blend well.
- Spoon equal parts of the filling into each of the split buns and serve garnished with stuffed olives, parsley sprigs, or lobster claws.