America On a Bun: Connecticut-Style Lobster Rolls #CooktheBooks #FoodieReads
Updated: Jun 10
The June-July selection for our online Cook the Books group is Food Americana: The Remarkable People and Incredible Stories behind America’s Favorite Dishes by David Page. You can read the announcement by Simona of Briciole. So, if you care to join us, you have quite a bit of time; posts aren't due till the end of July.
On the Page
Let me start with this: I will be sharing a few recipes posts inspired by Food Americana: The Remarkable People and Incredible Stories behind America’s Favorite Dishes by David Page. This book was so much fun to read and food history is my favorite genre!
Page's voice is informed, engaging, and oftentimes hilarious. He offers us a peek behind the curtain on how American cuisine has evolved from all of the global flavors of the country's immigrant communities. I used to say that America doesn't have a cuisine, that we just take other traditions and adapt it to what we have here. But that, in itself, is a tradition. As Page asserts: "The history of American food is the story of embracing another country’s cuisine, then changing it."
Food Americana is engaging, insightful, and often hilarious. Some of my favorite conversations were Page and the owner of a sushi bar in an Oklahoma gas station (yeah, it wasn't around when we lived there), a New Englander who brought lobster rolls to Utah; ice cream legend Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s, and so many more.
If you love and you love food history, get this cook in your hands now. You won't regret it.
On the Plate
I was inspired by this passage...
"'Lobsters are really iconic American food,' says culinary journalism legend Ruth Reichl, who’s been both the New York Times restaurant critic and the editor of Gourmet. 'Hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza all came from somewhere else,' she says."
"The lobster roll didn’t come from anywhere else. It is America on a bun." - Ruth Reichl
Page details and I already knew there were two distinct kinds of lobster rolls: Maine-style vs. Connecticut-style. After testing both, I realized two things: first, I have only ever had Maine lobster rolls and, second, I vastly prefer Connecticut lobster rolls! And another thing to note...when I posted these photos, a friend of mine who lived in Connecticut for a decade asked where I got the "authentic rolls." Apparently, buns sliced lengthwise down the top - not the side - are authentic. Hmmm...well, I picked them up at Trader Joe's. She said she was heading right over there!
Okay, here's the difference. Maine-style lobster rolls are served cold, tossed in a mixture of mayonnaise, tarragon, celery, and scallions. Served on a buttered, toasted bun, this is the kind of lobster roll you'll likely find most easily.
Connecticut-style lobster rolls hold the mayonnaise and bring on the butter. Yep. I'm sold already. Then they are served warm with more butter. My household loved it so much, it was requested again and I happily obliged!
three 4-ounce lobster tails, cleaned and cut into chunks
3 brioche, split-top buns
6 Tablespoons butter, divided
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried thyme
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (I used a mixture of chives and thyme)
In a large pan, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter and toast the brioche buns on all sides until golden brown. Set aside.
Using the same pan, melt the remaining butter on low heat and add the lobster meat. Toss gently to cook the lobster until just opaque and coat evenly with melted butter. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and crushed dried thyme. Toss in the herbs until well-combined.
Assemble: Divide the lobster chunks evenly between the toasted, buttered rolls. Serve immediately while still warm.
And to go with our deliciously decadent lobster rolls, I poured a Pét-nat from a local-to-me winemaker. Bubbles and lobster are always a winning pair. Stay tuned for more Food Americana-inspired recipes. I will be sharing more soon.
Pushing the Ice Cream Envelope at Salt & Straw
I will also add a footnote about Salt & Straw, an artisan ice cream shop, that Page mentions in this passage: "Which resulted in a flavor called Duck Crackling with Cherry Preserves, made of duck fat ice cream with molasses and salted custard, candied duck skin brittle, honey gastrique, and scratch-made tart cherry preserves."
I believe Salt & Straw was founded in Portland, but there is an outpost in San Francisco. So, we have ventured there a few times in our visits to the City. On our first trip, back in 2017, I noted that many of their flavors were intriguingly unique, but once I spied the words 'bone marrow' as an offering, I knew that I had to have it. Bone marrow & smoked cherries, read the menu. I am a sucker for anything sweet that has a savory element or surprising ingredient. Bone marrow definitely qualifies.
While I loved the idea of the bone marrow, that only got me through about half of my kid-sized scoop. I found the smoked cherries alluring, but after a few bites, the texture of the ice cream was unctuous and left an unpleasant film on my teeth. Oh, well...
Other flavor offerings included Roasted Strawberries Tres Leches (what D ordered), Honey Lavender, Olive Oil and Lemon Custard, and Peach Vinegar Cobbler with Toasted Nutmeg.
I am trying to locate Nightfood ice cream that is marketed as sleep-friendly. I will keep you posted.