Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm Going on a Picnic and I'm Bringing...

Here is my take on "gourmet picnic food." When I think about it, gourmet picnic food is kind of an oxymoron. Designed to be eaten outdoors, maybe on a blanket or a wooden table, picnic food to me has always been casual and portable; delicious, but the opposite of anything too fancy or exotic. Even Ina Garten must not get too extravagant when making up a picnic for herself and Jeffrey in the Hamptons.

The biggest challenge here was just trying to strike the right balance, and to me nothing does that quite as well as the lobster roll. When it comes to being gourmet, what could be more so than lobster? Put it into a sandwich bun and it’s like changing from a gown into a pair of jeans: casual but still sexy.

I love a good lobster roll. Here on Long Island, they are pretty popular on the east end where lobster fishing is prevalent, but everyone knows that New England holds the lobster roll crown. Whether served warm with drawn butter Connecticut-style, or cold with a mayo base like they do in Maine, the New England states set the standard.

Lightly dressed with homemade lemon aioli, mine is a Maine lobster roll. Fresh herbs, celery, and a sprinkle of paprika mixed in give it great flavor and a little crunch. For more of a gourmet edge, I made the potato roll and chips from scratch.

Jordan Lobster Farm is my favorite place to get a lobster roll in the summer and a part of the inspiration behind my own. The wholesale and retail seafood distributor has been in business for over fifty years with locations in Island Park, Long Island and Brooklyn. In the summer, they have an outside patio right on the water where I’ve often sat and enjoyed their roll filled with huge chunks of lobster meat.

Lobster Roll with Lemon Aioli:
Yield: 4 servings
- 2, 1-2 pound lobsters
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced and mashed into a paste
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 cup olive oil
- ½ cup finely chopped celery
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- Salt, pepper, and paprika to taste
- 4 potato rolls
- About 3 tablespoons of melted butter for buns
• Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Submerge lobsters into the water and cook for 8-9 minutes. When done cooking, submerge the lobsters into an ice batch. Remove meat from the shells and chop coarsely.
• To make the aioli: in a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolk, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and red wine vinegar. In a very slow stream, vigorously whisk in the olive oil until a thick mayo is formed. Season with salt and pepper and chill. *If your first attempt fails, whisk another egg yolk and once again, in a very slow stream, incorporate the broken mix. You can also make the aioli in a food processor.
• Add celery, parsley, chives, and seasonings to the lobster meat and lightly coat with the lemon aioli. Slice potato rolls in half and brush the sides with a coating of melted butter. Spoon the lobster salad mixture into the rolls. Serve with homemade potato chips.

Potato Rolls:
Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats
Yield: 6-8 hot dog bun-sized rolls
- 1 russet potato (big enough to make 1/2 cup mashed potato), peeled and chopped
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup milk, warmed
- 1 1/8 tsp. instant yeast
- 1/4 cup reserved potato water, lukewarm, with 1 teaspoon sugar added to it
- 2 1/2 – 3 cups bread flour
• Boil potato until tender. Drain cooking water, reserving 1/4 cup for use in the rolls. Finely mash the potato and measure out 1/2 cup. Let cool to nearly room temperature.
• In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the mashed potato, butter, sugar, salt and egg. Mix together on medium speed for about 2 minutes.
• Combine the yeast with the warm milk and reserved potato water; pour into the mixer bowl. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Gradually add the flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. Switch to the dough hook attachment on knead on low speed for 5 minutes, adding more flour if necessary to achieve a soft dough that is slightly tacky but not sticky.
• Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 60-90 minutes.
• Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and punch it down. Separate into 6-8 equal pieces and shape into long rolls. Place the rolls on the prepared baking sheet, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Sprinkle the rolls with a dusting of flour. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rise again until the rolls have grown into each other, about 30-45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
• Bake in the preheated oven for about 12 minutes, until golden.

Homemade Potato Chips:
Yield: 4 servings
- 3 unpeeled cleaned russet potatoes
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Salt to taste
• Heat the oil in a deep dryer to 375-380 degrees and line 2 sheet trays with paper towels.
• Slice potatoes paper thin using a mandolin. Place the slices into a bowl of cold water.
• Drain the potatoes from the cold water and lay out on one of the paper-towel lined trays. Blot the slices until they are very dry using several layers of paper towel.
• In small batches, submerge potatoes into the hot oil, turning occasionally until golden and crispy. Make sure that the oil comes back up to temperate after each batch.
• Drain the cooked chips on the other paper-towel lined tray. Season with salt while still hot.


5 Star Foodie said...

The lobster rolls look absolutely scrumptious! So nice paired with lemon aioli and I love that you made the rolls and the chips all from scratch!

Priscilla - She's Cookin' said...

Absolutely Love Lobster Rolls and can't wait until I visit New England again to have one! Dressed in a lemon aioli on top of a soft homemade roll with homemade chips - this is perfection! The last lobster roll I had was after a day at the beach in Ogunquit, Maine during a heat wave. It was rather plain and served on a hot dog bun - casual, but not sexy.. Unlike yours :)

Victoria said...

Very impressed that you made every component from scratch. As a native New Englander, I can say you'd done New England proud with your lobster roll :) Well done!

Lazaro Cooks! said...

Lobster roll. Homemade chips. You can come to my picnic any day. Well done!

Faith said...

Oh my, does that look fantastic. I've actually been dying for a good lobster instead of going out for it I'm tempted to make it at home! Love how you made each component, that really adds something special to the meal.

Magic of Spice said...

Very sexy indeed! All hand made from scratch, even sexier :)

Christy said...

Lobster roll for picnic???:) Wow, I am so joining you on your 'simple' picnics now...LOL:D

Claudia said...

The lemon aioli is a summery, grand addition and I'm going to remember and bookmark this page. I adore lobster rolls and even considered a vacation in Maine to just eat lobster!

Mother Rimmy said...

Oh my would we be in heaven with this picnic lunch and the sunny weather that goes with it. Yum!

Karen said...

This is the most fabulous picnic food! Eat your heart out Ina!
I am a sucker for lobster rolls...can't pass them up on a menu. I've never had one with lemon aioli, but it sounds like it would be a match made in heaven! Great recipe!

angela@spinachtiger said...

I love lobster rolls and I can't believe you made everything including the chips. You outdid yourself. This is one picnic I would want to be at.

Table Talk said...

Now this is how a lobster roll should be made~the homemade chips, crisp and salty are a fantastic complement!

Healthy Mamma said...

Wow! What a lovely picnic. I have never had a lobster roll *sighhh
I just love lobster but havn't been eating it much because I'd have to take a loan out on the house to feed it to all my boys :p
I'll have to try this one this summer! My hubby and I are going to take a day trip picnic and this is just sooo perfect!
love the home made chips too!

Tanantha said...

I agree! what could be more gourmet and fancy than lobster! it pairs well with lemon aioli. Wow the buns and chips were made from scratch!? You rock Marisa!

Trix said...

Isn't making your own bread component to a meal the best? Everything tastes better on homemade bread! This looks amazing, and your chips came out perfectly.

Bren said...

i love it: casual yet sexy! I don't eat lobster but the sandwich looks really good! and filling, perfect for an ensuing nap! :)

Evan @swEEts said...

I just feel in love.. I absolutely love lobster rolls.. spending summers in RI made me crave a good lobster roll every now and again and in texas I definitely won't be having one any time soon :( I'll just gawk at yours!

lostpastremembered said...

Those are the best looking lobster rolls ever. Absolutely inspired to make the potato rolls... store bought just wouldn't do for a filling as grand as that. They are a real favorite of mine and making them at home is soooo much cheaper than the $20 version in restaurants.. and better too! Thanks for the great recipe!

Lori Lynn said...

Lobster was a perfect choice for the picnic! Kudos to you for making it all by hand!

Daily Spud said...

Oh my gosh, I want this for my next picnic - in fact, scratch that, I want this for my next meal! And I love your take on gourmet chic vs picnic casual - the lobster roll does indeed strike the perfect balance.