Why don't my Pearl-recipe lobster rolls taste like Pearl Oyster Bar lobster rolls?
Rebecca Charles's lobster-roll recipe is all over the internet, and it's very simple. But when I make lobster rolls at home they don't approach a Pearl roll's deliciousness. I'm a pretty good home cook, can steam or boil a lobster, can toast a roll, can mince a celery rib. My lobster salad never attains the balance of sweet and briny, nor the rich, never-watery texture of Pearl's...
I wonder if there's a secret ingredient, a secret technique, or some other tiny missing tidbit that makes Pearl's rolls so transcendently good and mine so so-so.
Any ideas anyone?
Here's a trick that prevents "watery" lobster meat. I discovered it on my own but as a long ago art teacher used to say, "there's nothing new under the sun." Anyway, after lobsters have been cooked, whether boiled or steamed, I remove them from the pan and stand them head down in a colander in a bowl. This lets liquid drain out through the head. Sometimes, if the lobsters are very large, I insert a knife tip into the shell of the head just to make sure all the liquid comes out.
One thing restaurants use that is not common in the home pantry is heavy duty mayo. I would suspect that at their restaurant heavy duty mayo is in the recipe. That addresses the rich not watery part of your question.
Sweet and briny... could be the freshness of the lobstah. :-)
True, Hellman's, which tends to be the standard brand in the food service industry, is actually heavier (thicker, stiffer) in texture than the stuff packed for home use. I guess we h ome cooks are just chopped liver.
To the OP: I bet Pearl mixes it's lobster roll filling to order, so there's no time for the lobster salad to become sogged out, from precooked and chilled meat. Chilling the meat prior to mixing will result in a less "wet" salad, rather than using freshly picked still hot lobster, which can add extra unwanted moisture. Try that. The meat doesn't have to be ice cold, that will mask the delicate lobster flavor, but just chilled.
Then it gets back to the freshness of the lobster, and there's lots of instruction about using a court bouillion for poaching seafood on the web.
As fas as peeling celery, use the more tender inner stalks, and finely mince. No need to peel.
Best of luck in your endeavor.
@bushwickgirl - Well, I'm sorry I didn't check this post for awhile, because I appreciate this reply. Thanks for the information - seems like you know what you're talking about so I'm guessing you work(ed) in the restaurant business? The commercial Hellman's is definitely a factor. I've seen them assembling the rolls at Pearl and the lobster salad has an almost cakey quality coming out of the bowl (so: thicker mayo). I did, however, solve the texture/moisture problem (squeezed my shelled lobster meat gently in a dishtowel which worked nicely) and I still ended up with a lobster roll that was tasty but not amazing, so at this point I think I have to fault the meat. A combination of my cooking and less-than-the-best lobsters, I assume. Of course the one day I made it to the city in the past couple of months Pearl was closed....
@Gio - thanks for the tip!
Gosh, sorry for the non-response to these replies. The post got nothing at first so I stopped looking.
Responders are correct - the recipe is very simple (Hellman's, celery, lemon juice, salt, pepper, lobster on a buttered, toasted top-loading roll - http://www.npr.org/programs/wesun/fea...) and I concur that there's unlikely to be a secret ingredient that's terribly dramatic (meaning, no hidden minced truffles, but there could be a pinch of sugar or a dash of vinegar or some such thing).
I do wonder about cooking method and I'm intrigued by JoanN's court bouillon comment.
The lobster meat in Rebecca Charles's rolls is uniformly delicious and always very sweet, whereas mine sometimes tastes rather drab. The texture of the lobster salad also tends to be quite thick - almost like that of a good old-fashioned chunky potato salad - whereas my boiled or steamed lobsters tend to retain a bit of steaming/boiling liquid in the flesh that then seeps into the salad and waters down the dressing, adding a dull salt-water flavor on the way.
It may boil down (heh) to a matter of ingredients - she undoubtedly gets the freshest possible lobsters and for all I know my tired out Chinatown-tank animals just aren't as tasty as they ought to be. But I can't improve my access to top-notch crustaceans (I live in Philadelphia these days and have yet to find a really great seafood market) and so I can only hope to make up some of the difference by improving my technique.
I like the idea of peeling the celery, and I'm interested in learning about court bouillon and how it might enhance the flavor of the meat. Maybe I should be more rigorous about letting the meat drain - or even squeezing it between dishtowels - after I shell it...
Never had Pearl's, but to my knowledge the filling is: Lobster in big chunks, minced celery, white pepper (maybe a little salt) mayo (sorry but everyone I know uses Hellmanns) and some lemon juice. Served on a toasted buttered bun. Are you making your own lobster meat?
Expound on her recipe and what you do and then maybe we can figure it out. I have to say if you have an internet recipe, it's possibly missing a bit of something, but there's really not much to a lobster roll. Where do you get your lobsters? Do you make the mayo or use commercially prepared? When you say balance of sweet and briny, never watery texture, I'm wondering if it's not a lobster cooking technique issue; do you steam or boil?
Doubtful secret ingredient, maybe some secret technique but I hardly believe that. I firmly believe this lobster roll dilemma can be solved if you provide more of your technique details.
You are soooooo right, amiga, we need more details to solve this dilemma.
My uneducated guess is along yours - there is a simple solution, most probably having to do with source or method.
You can be overcooking the lobster, using too much or too little mayo, maybe the original recipe they make their own aioi, which would have a profound effect on flavor. Maybe they squirt in some fresh lemon or lime juice? Do you peel your celery, for instance? This has an effect on texture. It can totally be something as simple and nuanced as that.