Notes from the Island Fishmonger: The Tale of the lobster roll

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 By Scott Dolan

Lobster rolls are a special summer sandwich. Native to New England clam shacks and roadside stands, it is now an island delicacy in Florida as well.

Traditionally, the best lobster rolls have been found in the states of Maine, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Well, recent importation technology has since thrown Florida into the mix. Best-known locations on Siesta Key to get an authentic lobster roll include the Lobster Pot, Siesta Beach concession stand, and the Big Water Deli and Fish Market.

Who invented the lobster roll? It’s a seriously succulent story.

Fishermen of course, before the roll went gourmet, when lobster sandwiches were made by the lobster fisherman themselves. It was a simple, inexpensive meal made with two slices of white bread with cooked lobster meat from less-than-perfect lobsters or from the day’s unsold catch.

Today, hand-picked lobster for the rolls is easier to come by. Specialty fish markets and restaurants are able to get lobster from their food suppliers, or the good ones have Boston connections where live lobsters and hand-picked meat is sold directly to them.

Lobster in the 1920s was in high supply and low demand, and was even once considered to be the cockroach of the sea. While there are plenty of rumors about the lobster roll’s original birthplace, it can be first traced to the Roaring Twenties to a restaurant called Perry’s in Milford, Connecticut. 

Harry, the proprietor, began perfecting the sandwich and noted that sliced bread was a bit of a letdown. According to Harry, it was “flimsy, soggy, and didn’t hold the lobster well.”

He thus created a special bun just for Perry’s, sort of a submarine sandwich roll. Harry made a simple recipe of cooked Maine lobster with mayo and chopped celery. This eventually developed into hot steamed lobster meat combination on a buttered roll. The bread was buttered, grilled, and ready for takeout.

The history continued of the lobster roll, and as it became more popular it developed into a gourmet sandwich that’s now served on a split bun, depending on locale.

In 2021, beachgoers, island locals, and tourists enjoy this evolved lobster roll that’s been reinvented on the Florida Gulf Coast.

Want to make your own lobster roll? Bostonian hand-picked fresh lobster meat is available at Big Water Fish Market. Here is an easy-to-follow recipe that serves four:

Combine …

* quarter cup of chopped celery

* one freshly squeezed lemon

* 2 pounds of freshly picked Maine lobster meat

* half cup of mayo of your choice

* salt and pepper to taste

Once you gather and mix all ingredients in a bowl, butter a  sauté pan or grill your bread of your choice (top-split buttered and grilled hot dog bun is most popular), then overstuff with lobster salad and enjoy with a cold one.

Enjoy!

Eat fish……live well.

 
Scott Dolan
Author: Scott Dolan

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