By Josh Ozersky
I have to credit Dr. Claw for teaching me how good a lobster roll can be. The infamous Brooklyn "lobster pusher"-the guy who won fame and no small degree of notoriety for illegally selling lobster rolls out of his apartment-gave me the first one I ever liked: A warm, garlicky tube of soft, delicate lobster inside a crisp and buttery white hotdog roll. It opened my eyes not just to how good a lobster roll can be, but how good lobster itself could be, even when made by some guy in a Bed-Stuy bachelor pad. Like many of you, I had previously thought of the dish as a monstrosity, a giant heap of lobster-flecked mayonnaise overloaded onto a maimed hot dog bun. Such items are generally tasteless and messy, and so grotesquely top-heavy that are literally unable to stand on their own. The lobster roll Dr. Claw created, and which I have improved upon, is a different arthropod altogether, and I am here to tell you how to make it.
Warm Lobster Rolls with Garlic Tomolley Butter (serves four)
4 1lb. pound lobsters
1 stick salted butter
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup fresh scallions, coarsely chopped
4 white hot dog buns, preferably "New England style" (i.e., top-loading par-split).
1. Read David Foster Wallace's classic essay "Consider the Lobster." If you are still as okay with eating lobster as I am (they are unmistakably a form of bug, and as such are entitled only to death at my hands), go out and buy some. They are cheap these days; my friend Tommy got a box of them in Maine for $4 a pound. Even though these strangely insectoid animals are so alien to us-the second most alien thing a person can eat after an octopus-it remains hard to kill them right there in your kitchen, and handling their newly dead flesh is disturbing indeed. So ask your fishmonger to quickly poach them for you. That will spare you the slaughter, as well as firming up the lobster's flesh and, as a bonus, giving it its familiar red color. If you do have to kill them yourself, I would suggest beheading them; as Wallace says, we don't know enough about how their "brain" works to just assume that stabbing it in the head, a la Trotsky, will send them back to hell. I cut the head off and then cut that in half. Then I throw both away and, if necessary, drop them into simmering water for a few minutes before putting them in the morgue next to the orange juice.
2. Lay out some newspaper (or brown paper bags, or something like them) on your counter, below the cutting board. These things will release a lot of water when you cut them in half, which is your next step. When you look at the resulting cross-section, you'll see a bunch of weird material in the front half and a nice big tail in the back. Remove the tail meat. Next, crack the claws and remove the meat from those, a much harder task but obviously necessary. Chop it all up coarsely and set it aside in a bowl.
3. This is the most important part: you will see a bunch of weird green stuff along the meat in the tail. Do not throw this out. Set it aside. It is called tomolley for some reason, and it is important. If are especially fortunate, you may have a fertile female, whose bright red egg sac (aka, coral) is essentially lobster caviar, and even more precious. These two odd, somewhat revolting substances are the key to your lobster roll.
4. Melt three quarters of a stick of butter. I know this seems like a lot. It is. But so what? Do you eat lobster rolls every day? I didn't think so. Warm the butter (it should bubble but just barely) and add the garlic, finely chopped, and a heaping tablespoon of the tomolley. If you get some coral, put every bit of it in there too. Let it infuse, moving it around from time to time with a wooden spoon. Once the butter tastes good-really good-put the lobster in it and stir it around a fair amount, as if you were scrambling eggs. You aren't really looking to cook it, just to coat and warm it. Set it aside.
5. In another pan, melt the remaining quarter stick of butter. Toast the buns in it. They should be brown and buttery.
6. Put the lobster in the bun. Sprinkle the scallions over the thing. Salt it slightly. Eat. Repeat as necessary.