Southern Coastal Heaven: Lobster Mac & Cheese

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This is a meal fit for a king. Seriously.

My parents were in town visiting recently, and I wanted to make a special dinner. Lobster is an expensive ingredient, but life is short and sometimes, one must indulge. Continue reading “Southern Coastal Heaven: Lobster Mac & Cheese”

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The Transcendent Lobster Roll: A Worthy Splurge

imageFor months now I’ve been reading and hearing about the ubiquitous lobster roll–in Bon Appetit and Cook’s Illustrated magazines, and on TV shows like the Cooking Channel’s Eat Street. I must admit I’ve only eaten lobster on a cruise ship vacation; it is not something I can often afford. Plus, I live in the South and have always associated the lobster roll with Maine and seaside towns like Portland, Oregon. The concept of pairing lofty lobster with the all-American lowly hot dog bun, well, that’s just not something you see every day. So, over the weekend I sequestered myself in the kitchen and set out to make this mystery. I may be in Georgia, but with one bite, I was at a seaside shack on the upper East coast, toes in the sand.

imageWith a little help from the July & August edition of Cook’s Illustrated, the recipe was actually very simple. The most difficult part is getting the meat out of the lobster tail, but no worries. I’ll share a tip that makes it easy. I purchased two lobster tails for $18.95 from Ellis’ Meat Market here in Statesboro, then cooked them for 12 minutes in boiling salted water.

imageMeanwhile, I toasted two good ol’ Sunbeam white bread hot dog buns in butter and seasoned them with salt and pepper on each side. They didn’t know what to think.

imageI managed to get all my ingredients locally, which can never hurt. I picked up some lemons, green onions and celery from L&D Produce. Chop about two tablespoons of celery and a teaspoon of the onion. A little onion goes a long way, it shouldn’t overpower the lobster.

imageOnce the lobster is finished cooking (you’ll know when a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the tail registers 175 degrees), drain and let it cool. Be sure to take them out of the hot water. I forgot to do this and nearly burned myself cracking the shell because I was so excited to get to the meat. There is more than one way to skin a cat, but to keep the tail meat in one piece, Cook’s Illustrated recommends removing the meat by turning the lobster on its side, and pressing down with both hands until the shell cracks. Then, with the flippers facing you and shell facing down–thumbs on opposite sides–pull back to crack the shell and remove the meat. Works like magic. See? Dice lobster into 1/2 inch chunks.

imageNext, mix two tablespoons of mayo with a pinch of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, and a splash of lemon juice. Toss in the green onion and celery. Mix well and add lobster meat. Toss to coat.

wpid-IMG_20130825_164422.jpgAnd now for the assembly. I used a lettuce trio including green leaf, iceberg and radicchio. Line the hot dog buns with lettuce. Then spoon lobster salad into the buns, until it’s spilling out and looking irresistible. Finish with a drizzle of melted butter and a final sprinkle of salt and pepper.

imageThe lobster roll is really the perfect, down home dinner party food around. It’s so approachable and unpretentious. That is of course, if everyone brings their own lobster. Ha! Serve it with potato chips or fries, whatever suits your fancy.

imageThe crunch of that toasted bun with the creaminess of the lobster salad is something to write home about. The lemon juice really brightens the flavor.

imageBon Appetit contributor Michael Paterniti says, “For me, the lobster roll is more than just culinary transcendence or proof that simple food made simply is the most soul-satisfying of all. It is summer itself, the baptismal rite after winter and mud season, a diary of days.” That sums it up.

Here’s a quick reference of everything you’ll need.

Lobster Roll Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise (Preferably Dukes)
  • 2 tablespoons of minced celery
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of minced chives or green onions
  • Salt & Pepper
  • A pinch of Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 Cooked Lobster Tails, Chopped
  • Unsalted butter
  • Green leaf lettuce
  • Hot dog buns

Have you ever eaten or made a lobster roll?

A Beach-Food Experience for Landlocked Atlantans

100_8024The Optimist Fish Camp & Oyster Bar
Atlanta, Georgia

I walked in and the first thing I saw were the words, “Country Ham” in navy blue and yellow, painted on a white wall. The restaurant had been converted from a previous slaughter-house and the words preserved. Country ham is one of those Southern mainstays, and I knew immediately this was a place I would love. I had driven from the coastal plains of Southeast Georgia, about 200 miles, to the big city of Atlanta on a business trip to meet a good friend. We had done our research, and of all the fine places to dine in the notorious A-T-L, had naturally settled on what the restaurant’s Twitter account classifies “A beach-food experience for landlocked Atlantans.”

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100_7949While we waited on our table in the main dining room, we sat at the Oyster Bar and tried just about everything–East and West coast oysters of every variety, snow crab & lobster knuckles, oyster crackers and salt & vinegar chips. The oysters were served with fresh horseradish and a mignonette sauce (a sauce of vinegar and shallots, typically served with raw oysters). The mignonette sauce was so bright and fresh, it would awaken even a sloth.

100_7996You can’t have oysters without a cold beer, so I took the chance to try the one in a red can with a lighthouse pictured on the front—Cisco Brewers Sankaty Light from Nantucket, MA.

100_7947This oyster was served over warm “coals,” roasted in a wood-fired oven with parmesan cheese and bacon at $3 a pop. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

100_7941The Opi Salt & Vinegar Chips were crunchy…the perfect bar food.

100_7950100_7954100_7953Next, let’s talk about the snow crab claw & lobster knuckles in a chili-lime butter bath. It took a little work, but once I got my hands on the cracking tool, we were good to go. Who wouldn’t want to eat something presented that beautifully?

THE FOOD:

I experienced food at The Optimist like I have never experienced food before…intense flavors with no detail undone when it came to presentation. Every encounter I had with staff members was pleasant, from the hostess taking notice of my black dress and providing me a black napkin, the bartender who told me he even spent his days off there, to the manager who described the place as “one big house.” I could tell our waitress Jenn, genuinely enjoyed her job and was very knowledgeable about the menu.

THE ATMOSPHERE:

Some Kinda Good is all about good food and good company, and when the two are combined, that’s a life well lived. The Optimist is a breath of fresh air for the city life, a nautical escape. My friend Harper said it perfectly, “That wasn’t just going out to dinner, that was the best two-hour dining experience of my life.”

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