Monday, October 20, 2014

Lobster Rolls at Red's Eats


16 oz Lobster Meat
1/4 Cup Butter (melted)
1/4 cup mayonnaise (optional)
1 oz celery (optional)
4 Hot Dog Bun (New England Style)
Lemon (Squeeze of)

Those of you who know me well know that I have an uncanny attraction to the state of Maine.  Even though I was born in, raised, and have lived almost all of my life in Texas, something about The Pine Tree State has always drawn me in and fascinated me.  I really can’t explain why.  I had no real exposure to anything remotely related to Maine as a child, other than perhaps Hawkeye Pierce’s wistful reminiscences of his (fictional) home town of Crabapple Cove, Maine.  Since I looked up to Hawkeye as a role model, that was probably it. 

So, finally after college I was able to visit Maine.  I fortuitously chose October for my visit, and much of the state was afire with autumn splendor.  It was like a fall fantasy land.  Everything that should be right and sweet and proper about a fall that could only be remembered (but had never existed) from one’s childhood was right here in Maine.  Fall colors to rival a Maxfield Parrish palette, little country roads, carnivals, pumpkin patches and fields of Indian corn.  It was as if I’d landed in a Ray Bradbury novel, only without the supernatural shenanigans.   



Yes, Maine is a trip back in time, a best-kept secret, a throwback to an idealistic era.  Here is a land where people don’t lock their doors, where people are kind and gregarious, if a little reserved in that Yankee charm sort of way.  Even the ‘big’ cities (Portland, Bangor) are little. And charming.  And quaint.  But take care, particularly if you’re looking for a meal.  Restaurants and pubs, particularly out of season, can have notoriously quirky hours, and some of the smaller towns in Maine roll up the sidewalks at dusk. 

One of these places I discovered on a coastal drive in Maine many many years ago was Red’s Eats.  It’s a little roadside stand (or, more appropriately, lobster shack) in Wiscasset, Maine, and I discovered it on my way to Castine, or Stonington, or one of those other little coastal Maine towns I’ve visited way back when.  It was the middle of the day, half way between lunch and dinner, but something made me stop and check out this little place. 

I decided to get something I could carry with me and eat in the car, and for some reason, hot dogs sounded like a good bet from a place called ‘Red’s.’  (Red Hots, get yer Red Hots!)  Well, I wasn’t disappointed.  Red’s turned out to take hot dog production to a new level.  It was, indeed, the best hot dog I’ve ever had.  They start by splitting the plump beef frank and sort of butterflying it open, 

then they grill it on their ancient griddle, weighed down with a cooking weight so it gets a nice sear.

Then they load it up with relish, mustard and sauerkraut and serve it on a buttered and toasted New England style hot dog bun. 

The N.E. hot dog bun took me for a bit of a loop when I first saw it.  Coming from Texas I’d never seen anything like it, so I at first thought that they had just folded a piece of bread around the frank, for the sides of a New England hot dog bun look like white bread, and not the brown crust color of the buns I was used to here in Texas.  

After eating my dog on this bun, however, I have to say that I don’t know why they are made any other way.  This exposed crumb texture (looks like a slice of white bread from the side) allows them to be buttered and grilled, giving one’s dog a much more crispy, savory taste.  Also, the split is on the top, and not the side, so all the ingredients and fillings stay put.  Gravity works, my friends. 

This of course, is a good thing, when it comes to a proper lobster roll, the item that Red’s is actually famous for.  I didn’t try one that first time, but I did the next, and the next, and so on and so on. 

The N.E. hot dog bun is proper because it can hold a lot of lobster, and that, in my opinion, is absolutely required in a good lobster roll.  And Red’s doesn’t skimp on theirs.  There is more than a whole lobster in each roll.  


Another thing in their favor is they don’t try to turn their lobster meat into some sort of salad, like some places do.  There’s no celery to be seen, and if you want mayo or drawn butter, it’s served on the side.  No, it is the unadulterated flavor of lobster that you get from a Red’s roll, and that is as it should be.  The lobster is always perfectly cooked and served chilled on the hot bun.  Basically, what you’re getting with a lobster roll like this is the same thing you’re getting from a whole lobster, just without all the work.  With a lobster roll, someone has deconstructed your lobster for you.  I like to eat mine starting out with a fork, 

as the meat is spilling over the bun, with just maybe an occasional dip in the butter.  

When the lobster’s under control, I’ll pick up the bun and get down to business. 

So, to sum up, here’s how to make the perfect lobster roll. 

Get one more lobster than the number of rolls you’re going to make.  I.E., if you’re going to make four, get five, so that you can have some extra meat, and have ‘more than one lobster in each roll.’

Boil or steam the lobsters as you choose, just don’t overcook them.  Overcooked lobster is rubbery.  Separate the meat out of the claws and tail.  Coarsely chop it.

Try your best to acquire New England style hot dog buns.  Butter them and toast them on the side.  Fill them with the lobster meat and serve with a little drawn butter on the side. 

That’s it.  You’re done.  Go and enjoy your lobstah rolls. I listed things like Celery, Mayo and Lemon in the ingredients.  Lots of people use them, but at Red's they are optional or served on the side.   

Note, if you can’t get New England hot dog buns, regular can be used, or even a hamburger bun.  Try to butter and toast them as best you can.  This really ramps up the experience.  One other alternative is to make your own buns.  I have a handy-dandy New England hot dog bun pan from King Arthur flour that makes a perfect batch of buns every time. 

Until Next Time,