Monday, March 31, 2014

The best fried clams I’ve ever had!

I originally started this blog as a joke for a friend of mine who hates social media. I’ve been craving lobster rolls lately and finally worked myself up to making them, in lieu of flying to Maine to get one. When I get an idea in my head, I become a one-track thinker, with a narrow-minded purpose that translates into every conversation (or as Sarah likes to say – a broken record), so my plans to make the perfect lobster roll did not go unnoticed. Rather than text with details of my project, I promised her I would blog and she could read about my adventures there.

What started as a simple quest for a good lobster roll turned into a trip down memory lane. One of my favorite vacations ever was the time that I took my parents and most of my siblings to Maine. Growing up, we didn’t have the means to take family vacations, so when I got old enough, I rounded everyone up for a trip to one of my favorite places to make some of our favorite memories. During that wonderful week, we drove through the town in New Hampshire where my dad up, hiked in Acadia National Park, shopped at L.L.Bean, visited every lighthouse along the coast and remembered how much we loved growing up in a big family.

We feasted on fresh lobster for a week straight. I remember every morning, my dad would gather everyone up and make the ½ mile walk to the pound at the end of the peninsula and buy our lobsters for the day. They would sit in the fridge until we were all worn out from sightseeing and starving. Then Dad would fire up the stove in the old Victorian and start churning out lobsters with the regularity of the peanut man at a major league baseball game tossing bags of hot peanuts to hungry fans.

So with memories of that trip and my taste buds dancing wildly, I began my search for the perfect lobster tail. Yes, I could have purchased a whole lobster, but I am squeamish about some things, so the very idea of tossing a live lobster into a pot of boiling water was not high on my bucket list. No, frozen lobster tail would suffice, and, after trips to multiple stores and several days of disappointment, I managed to round up some impressive tail. 

I had read that boiling and steaming weren’t the best ways to cook the lobster, as it pulls so much of the flavor out of the meat. I opted instead for roasting them in the oven. There is some debate about how long one should actually cook lobster. I cooked them for ten minutes in a 400 degree oven then let them finish with the residual heat. I finished them off in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

When they chilled to room temperature, I started to pick each sweet, succulent bit out of the perfectly reddened shells. Each lump brought me closer to the elusive lobster roll. Finally, finished I added just a dollop of Mayonnaise, leaving the recipe as pure as possible, and put it in the fridge to chill. 

Several hours of yard work later, it was time to make dinner. I added a dash of celery salt, some pepper and a bit of sliced celery. I toasted the top split buns with butter and assembled the lobster rolls. Anxiously, I took a huge bite of the finished product. Was it everything I built it up to be?? Make no mistake, it was delicious! But as I munched my way through, I found myself remembering that it tasted better on the deck of an old lobster dive, overlooking the coast, with my family by my side. And as it is with lots of things, it was better experienced where the memory was made.  

My dad always said he wanted to go back to Maine. That was the best vacation he’d ever had and the best fried clams he’d ever eaten. We never made it back to Maine. Something always came up. I told Sarah this summer I was going to order a bunch of lobsters from Maine, have them shipped to my parents’ house and my dad could cook for us once again. We haven’t made it to summer yet, and I’ll need to find someone else who doesn’t mind cooking lobster, but I will keep our plans for our own family lobster-fest. I’ll probably even grab Dad off the mantle and bring him out to the porch to enjoy the party. I figure that’s the only fair thing to do since it was his idea to go back to Maine.  And like my lobster rolls, maybe they won’t taste as good as they did all those years ago, but I know the memories we make will be just as sweet!