There are only a few restaurants and shacks left that serve truly delicious lobster rolls. Most versions are plagued with untoasted buns filled with huge pieces of dry, rubbery lobster meat and limp lettuce. If you want to experience lobster roll perfection, you can drive to the outskirts of Maine. Or you can make your own at home. There are two lobster roll schools: the mayonnaise-celery one and the drawn-butter one. This recipe is the latter: warm lobster tossed in melted tarragon-lemon butter.
What to buy: If you can’t find top-split hot dog buns, trim off the outside edges of regular hot dog buns before buttering them.
Game plan: You can prepare this recipe in advance through step 4. Refrigerate the lobster meat and broth separately until you’re ready to finish the dish.
For the lobster:
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 2 (1-1/2-pound) whole live lobsters
- 3 whole black peppercorns
- 1/4 bay leaf
- 1 cup water, plus more for steaming the lobsters
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the buns:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick), softened
- 4 top-split hot dog buns
For the lobster:
1Fill a large pot with a tightfitting lid with 1 inch of water and stir in the measured salt. Add a steamer rack to the pot. (If you don’t have a steamer rack, lightly bunch a long piece of foil so that it looks like a rope. Then make a figure eight out of the foil rope and set it in the pot.)
2Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the lobsters to the pot head first, cover, and return the water to a full boil. Reduce the heat and cook at a gentle boil until the lobsters are bright red, about 14 minutes from the time they go into the pot. Check their doneness by pulling on an antenna: If it comes out with no resistance, the lobster is done. Remove the lobsters to a rimmed baking sheet and let them sit until cool enough to handle.
3Using your hands, twist and separate the tail from the body. Twist and remove both of the claws where they meet the lobster body; set the claws aside. Discard the head and torso.
4Starting with the tail, remove the small, wispy flippers on the underside of the shell. Using a fork, pierce the exposed tail meat and slowly twist and pull it out of the shell in one piece. Rinse any white debris off of the tail meat and set it aside on a cutting board. Reserve the shell of the tail.
5Twist the claws and separate them from the legs; set the legs aside. Gently wiggle and pull the smaller part of the pincer shell off each claw. Using a seafood cracker, gently crack the claws, remove the meat, and set it aside on the cutting board. Crack the legs, remove the meat, and set it aside on the cutting board. Reserve the shells from the claws and the legs. Repeat with second lobster.
6Check the meat for any cartilage or shell and discard it. Coarsely chop the reserved meat and place it in a medium bowl. (You should have about 2 cups.)
7Place the reserved lobster shells, peppercorns, bay leaf, and measured water in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced to 1 tablespoon. Discard the large shells and strain the lobster broth through a fine-mesh strainer set over a small saucepan.
8Place the small saucepan with the lobster broth over medium-low heat and whisk in one piece of the butter at a time until all of the butter is incorporated. Add the tarragon and lemon juice and stir to combine. Fold in the reserved lobster meat and cook until just heated through. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the buns:
1Spread the butter on the outside of the buns. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat until hot, about 3 minutes. Place the buns in the pan butter-side down and toast until golden brown, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Flip and toast the second side until golden brown, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Divide the warm lobster salad among the buns and serve immediately.
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