Never has such a simple sandwich generated such ferocious debate. Pretty much all sides agree that the perfect lobster rolls call for fighting-fresh lobster meat, mayonnaise, and a split bun soaked with butter. But beyond these basics, hair-splitting begins.
Now that high-quality live Maine lobsters are widely available across the country, the distinctions are not so much regional as ideological. Some camps get their backs up at the mere mention of embellishment; others advocate the addition of chopped celery (for economy's sake as well as contrapuntal crunch). And then there are those who believe that this insanely expensive sea delicacy deserves better company than mayo from a jar and a common hot dog bun.
New York Chef Dan Silverman can be counted among the latter. Toward the end of his tenure at New York's Lever House, he created this lobster roll with truffle mayonnaise, a treat so delicious – briny, earthy, foresty, sweet – it set a new benchmark in crustacean delight.
We asked Silverman, now behind the burners at The Standard Grill, to approximate his take on the Northeast classic, and his first tip was to make our own mayonnaise. (His rendition is speckled with shavings of black truffle, enhanced by an infinitesimal amount of black truffle oil, and sharpened by the tang of crème fraîche.) With the help of a food processor, the entire sauce-making operation takes little more time – honest – than opening a jar, and your guests will applaud you as a master.
1-1/4 lb lobster
1 tbsp celery
1 tbsp chives sea salt ground pepper
1 oz chopped black truffle
1 egg, plus 1 yolk
Juice of 1 lemon
2-1/2 cups grapeseed oil
2 cups crème fraîche
2 tbsp black truffle oil
For each serving, combine the cooked meat of one 1-1/4 lb lobster (sliced into bite-sized chunks), a tablespoon of finely chopped celery, and a tablespoon of chives in a bowl. Season to taste with sea salt and fresh-ground pepper. Refrigerate.
For the mayo, make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature before you begin. In a food processor, whir the egg, yolk, an ounce of chopped black truffle, a pinch of sea salt, and a squeeze of lemon juice for 30 seconds. With the motor running, add 2-1/2 cups of grapeseed oil in a slow trickle until the mixture thickens (it should take about a minute). Add another good squeeze of lemon, and season with salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne pepper. If the mayonnaise seems too stiff, add water until you achieve a thinner consistency. Fork in the crème fraîche, followed by the black truffle oil.
To assemble, scantily dress the lobster meat with the mayonnaise, then pile the meat mixture into a grilled, buttered, split brioche bun. (For an optional flourish, mix 1/4 cup julienned celery root and a tablespoon of chopped chives, season with sea salt, fresh-ground pepper, and a tablespoon of lemon juice, and load that into the bun as well.)
Garnish with chopped chives and serve with chosen accompaniment. Lever House pairs theirs alongside fries showered with salt and Old Bay seasoning, but a bag of potato chips won't complain about dating out of its league. Try not to eat it all in one bite.