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Volume 40 Issue 13 • July 29 - Aug. 4, 2010
now in our 40th season

Camping and Crustaceans

by Jenn Farmer
Chef, Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm 

So coming from the Midwest via the west coast, it was a big shock to me to see the lobster roll on every menu I encountered when I first arrived on this coast.  It was oh so many years ago, I was young and foolish, (now I am older, but still foolish!).  I had eaten some good seafood,  San Francisco was close by and I knew a couple fisherman who fed me well, so at least I was not completely ignorant on the subject.  But when I first walked into the Cape Cod Mall and witnessed (with my own eyes) Lobster Roll on McDonald’s menu, I was a bit shocked. 

The first question to my traveling companion (who incidentally had never been east of the Mississippi) was “What the **** is a Lobster roll?”  His immediate answer was “I have no *******clue, but it is expensive.”   We both took pictures of the menu board, with the cute, glossy, color photograph that some food stylist diligently rendered.  They looked indeed very enticing, and probably nothing like the item you would receive upon ordering.  We moved on, forgetting about the lobster roll.  Little did I know how many lobster rolls I would be making in the future, easily hundreds, perhaps even thousands?  

We don’t have lobster in the Midwest, well not really fresh lobster anyway.   That must sound like blasphemy to a New Englander, but I am from the Great Plains, the wide open prairies, brimming with meat, corn, and wheat.  Most New Englanders have never eaten corn-fed beef with perfect marbling, or a nice 3-inch thick slab of pork, or “Iowa Chop” that is juicy and perfect, so I guess we are even!  We do have lakes, rivers, and streams in the Midwest, so I had some experience catching, cleaning and eating fish.  We would go fishing for trout, catfish, pike, or sturgeon.  Usually we would come home with bluegills, and crawdads.   Crawdads or crayfish are crustaceans that resemble small lobsters.   Their meat is sweet and juicy.  Crawdads don’t tolerate polluted water, so they are often found in clear running streams.  They were about the closest thing I had ever had to fresh lobster.  It brings back memories of one specific camping trip my family took to a beautiful forest, with a big stream and cliffs.

Upon arrival to the campground, my step-brothers and I got out our fishing poles, bait, bobbers, and went to catch some dinner.  Our parents (my mom, their dad), started to set up the tent, and get a fire going for the food.  We did not catch any fish, but, we did find a great deal of crawdads under the rocks.  My mother looked so excited, since she is a huge shellfish fan, and they would boil up to be a very good dinner indeed!  They were sweet and delicious.  It was a good thing too, since while we were enjoying the cool stream, and catching our bounty, our poor parents struggled with the tent and fire.  The humidity made the fire difficult to start and keep going, and we had parts for two tents, but only one actual tent.  They were hot, frustrated, and in a foul mood.  We were miles from anywhere, plus being poor, we would not be wasting our gasoline on an excursion to find a tent that we probably would not buy.  Our parents slept in the rather small tent, and we had to share the old station wagon as sleeping quarters.  This does not sound too bad, but all three of us were rather tall adolescents, and the stubborn back seat of the rusty old wagon would not fold down as it was intended to do.  So one of us would get the “way back,” one of us would get the middle seats, and one the front.  I was the youngest and slightly smaller—I got the front seat.  It was a challenge, trying to sleep around the steering wheel and gear shifter.   Many of you are probably asking why we just didn’t sleep under the stars that night, I wish we could have, but there was horrible thunderstorm cutting through our campground; in fact later we learned that the area was riddled with tornados.  There was torrential rain, wind, thunder, and lightning.  Whatever discomfort the three of us were enduring in the sauna called a car, our parents were going through worse.  The tent kept blowing down, and we could see them struggling around inside it.  My eldest step-brother, in all his wisdom, decided to take the spare parts from the other tent out to them.  So out into the storm, abundant with lighting, he traipsed, carrying a handful of large metal poles.  Luckily nothing happened to him, except my parents threatening to kill him, if he ever did anything that stupid again.  It was an interesting trip.  

Typical Lobster Roll

  • 2 # lobster meat, cooked
  • One half to 1 cup real mayonnaise
  •  A squeeze Lemon juice
  • Pepper and salt
  • Romaine lettuce, shredded
  • Basil and chives, chopped
  • Toasted hot dog rolls

Combine lobster, mayonnaise, and lemon, salt and pepper together, until it is desired taste and consistency.  Put a few ounces in each roll, and garnish with herbs and lettuce.  Eat and enjoy.
Lobster rolls were originally made with what is called beurre monte, (a warm butter and water emulsion) not mayonnaise.  Some restaurants still serve the butter version, I even know of one that serves the lobster in beurre monte, but garnishes it with a little dollop of mayo.   I am going to throw everyone for a loop, because my favorite lobster roll recipe is not a lobster roll at all.  It is a croissant and it is made with...get ready:  crème fraiche.  Whoa, I know, not the norm, but to me much more refreshing and delicious.     I also find the use of chervil and shallots, and chives to be delicious. Sometimes I like to go real wild and add a little bacon.  

Lobster Salad Croissant

  • 8 ounces lobster meat, cooked and cooled (Crawdads can be substituted!)
  • One quarter cup (more if you like it creamy) crème fraiche, sour cream, or Greek strained yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chives, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chervil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, fresh if possible
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 4 croissants
  • 4 lettuce leaves
  • 4 tomato slices
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked (optional)

Carefully mix the first eight ingredients together, taste and add salt and pepper.  Serve on sliced croissant (toasted is even better!) with lettuce, tomato and bacon (optional).  Serve with a nice light, ice cold glass of wine and enjoy.

One of my favorite side dishes is pickled vegetables.  Now is the time to make pickled cucumbers, since they are in season, and are light and refreshing. 

Cucumber Pickled Salad

  • 5 cucumbers, sliced (about 9 cups)
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • One quarter cup water
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Bring the sugar, vinegar, water and salt to a boil.  Pour over cucumbers and onions immediately.  Let cool at room temperature. This salad may be eaten after a couple hours.  It keeps well refrigerated for 2-3 weeks!


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