When I think about it, gourmet picnic food is kind of an oxymoron. Designed to be eaten outdoors, maybe on a blanket or a wooden table, picnic food to me has always been casual and portable; delicious, but the opposite of anything too fancy or exotic. Even Ina Garten must not get too extravagant when making up a picnic for herself and Jeffrey in the Hamptons.
The biggest challenge here was just trying to strike the right balance, and to me nothing does that quite as well as the lobster roll. When it comes to being gourmet, what could be more so than lobster? Put it into a sandwich bun and it’s like changing from a gown into a pair of jeans: casual but still sexy.
I love a good lobster roll. Here on Long Island, they are pretty popular on the east end where lobster fishing is prevalent, but everyone knows that New England holds the lobster roll crown. Whether served warm with drawn butter Connecticut-style, or cold with a mayo base like they do in Maine, the New England states set the standard.
Lightly dressed with homemade lemon aioli, mine is a Maine lobster roll. Fresh herbs, celery, and a sprinkle of paprika mixed in give it great flavor and a little crunch. For more of a gourmet edge, I made the potato roll and chips from scratch.
Jordan Lobster Farm is my favorite place to get a lobster roll in the summer and a part of the inspiration behind my own. The wholesale and retail seafood distributor has been in business for over fifty years with locations in Island Park, Long Island and Brooklyn. In the summer, they have an outside patio right on the water where I’ve often sat and enjoyed their roll filled with huge chunks of lobster meat.
Starting Friday, click the link below to check out the roundup of all the phenomenal gourmet picnic ideas that everyone in the Five Star Makeover Cooking Group has contributed.
Lobster Roll with Lemon Aioli:
Yield: 4 servings
- 2, 1-2 pound lobsters
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced and mashed into a paste
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 cup olive oil
- ½ cup finely chopped celery
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- Salt, pepper, and paprika to taste
- 4 potato rolls
- About 3 tablespoons of melted butter for buns
• Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Submerge lobsters into the water and cook for 8-9 minutes. When done cooking, submerge the lobsters into an ice batch. Remove meat from the shells and chop coarsely.
• To make the aioli: in a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolk, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and red wine vinegar. In a very slow stream, vigorously whisk in the olive oil until a thick mayo is formed. Season with salt and pepper and chill. *If your first attempt fails, whisk another egg yolk and once again, in a very slow stream, incorporate the broken mix. You can also make the aioli in a food processor.
• Add celery, parsley, chives, and seasonings to the lobster meat and lightly coat with the lemon aioli. Slice potato rolls in half and brush the sides with a coating of melted butter. Spoon the lobster salad mixture into the rolls. Serve with homemade potato chips.
Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats
Yield: 6-8 hot dog bun-sized rolls
- 1 russet potato (big enough to make 1/2 cup mashed potato), peeled and chopped
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup milk, warmed
- 1 1/8 tsp. instant yeast
- 1/4 cup reserved potato water, lukewarm, with 1 teaspoon sugar added to it
- 2 1/2 – 3 cups bread flour
• Boil potato until tender. Drain cooking water, reserving 1/4 cup for use in the rolls. Finely mash the potato and measure out 1/2 cup. Let cool to nearly room temperature.
• In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the mashed potato, butter, sugar, salt and egg. Mix together on medium speed for about 2 minutes.
• Combine the yeast with the warm milk and reserved potato water; pour into the mixer bowl. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Gradually add the flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. Switch to the dough hook attachment on knead on low speed for 5 minutes, adding more flour if necessary to achieve a soft dough that is slightly tacky but not sticky.
• Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 60-90 minutes.
• Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and punch it down. Separate into 6-8 equal pieces and shape into long rolls. Place the rolls on the prepared baking sheet, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Sprinkle the rolls with a dusting of flour. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rise again until the rolls have grown into each other, about 30-45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
• Bake in the preheated oven for about 12 minutes, until golden.
Homemade Potato Chips:
Yield: 4 servings
- 3 unpeeled cleaned russet potatoes
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Salt to taste
• Heat the oil in a deep dryer to 375-380 degrees and line 2 sheet trays with paper towels.
• Slice potatoes paper thin using a mandolin. Place the slices into a bowl of cold water.
• Drain the potatoes from the cold water and lay out on one of the paper-towel lined trays. Blot the slices until they are very dry using several layers of paper towel.
• In small batches, submerge potatoes into the hot oil, turning occasionally until golden and crispy. Make sure that the oil comes back up to temperate after each batch.
• Drain the cooked chips on the other paper-towel lined tray. Season with salt while still hot.