Sure, it’s early spring and some days feel more like lingering winter. You might have a ridge of unmelted snow in a shady part of your yard, or if you live upcountry, the ground might still be covered.
While lobster rolls evoke summer, this column is dedicated to Mildred “Brownie” Schrumpf, who graced the pages of the Bangor Daily News for about 43 years and whose recipe you’ll find below. I like honoring Brownie on the anniversary of this Taste Buds column that began in April 2005.
Oddly, I’ve not addressed the simple lobster roll. Lobster salad with pasta and a curried dressing, yes, but the barely enhanced lobster roll? Not yet. Maybe because it is too simple a recipe: cooked lobster, a little lemon juice, onion juice, some celery and mayonnaise.
One of the first things I learned from a reader of this column was how to freeze lobster meat. The late Eleanor Campbell of Gouldsboro — and the mom of my island neighbor, the late Connie Leach — told me to just break off the claws, tails and legs, and freeze the lobster in its shell in a plastic bag. When you thaw the lobster, you can pick it out just as if it was freshly cooked.
When Brownie wrote about lobster for salad or filling for rolls in “Memories from Brownie’s Kitchen,” one of two compilation cookbooks from her BDN columns, she recommended cooking enough for boiled lobster one day, then having lobster stew the next, then, finally, salad or lobster rolls. When a young fisherman friend of ours ends his season, we are sometimes graced with lobster: dinner in the rough, then stew for Christmas Eve. And now, with a little post-Easter warm weather, lobster rolls.
Brownie recommended that cooks tweak recipes to suit their taste, and so I’ve added a little chopped, home-grown shallot in lieu of onion juice. And I’ve observed the proper Maine way to serve the lobster filling: using a top-split roll with butter-toasted sides. How many rolls you can make with this recipe is really a matter of personal taste. You may really like a generously stuffed roll, risking a little spillage, or perhaps you like a more manageable one. Your choice.
Unlike Brownie, however, I’m not lasting 43 years as a food columnist. This week marks my 18th anniversary and this is my last weekly column in this paper. When I first began, Blue Hill’s Allene White, a food writer who herself wrote for 32 years in the Ellsworth American, told me, “If you want to see time fly, write a weekly column.” Too true. These years have whizzed past my ears at top speed.
I’ll tell you a secret: I hate writing recipes. I don’t follow them to fix our average family meal. When it comes to cake or fussier items, I’ll get on board, but even then I fiddle with them a little, and smooth out the finickier bits. So 936 recipe columns later, plus or minus, I can’t honestly say I’m going to miss writing them. I am going to miss you.
From the start, I’ve been blessed by wonderful correspondence and conversations with so many of you, in the early days with handwritten notes and, more recently, emails. Some of you have become personal friends. You’ve shared some fabulous recipes that became household favorites here.
Best of all, I’ve learned so much from you all about food and everyday cooking in Maine. I’ve loved the opportunity to celebrate Maine home cooks past and present. Recipes from your family collections together with the memories you’ve shared of the cook has given them a bit of immortality, elevated their talent and work and preserved it for the future.
Others of you sharing your recipes, cooking experiences, and best advice has been your expression of overflowing generosity, soul work of the very best sort. My kitchen has been happily occupied by your lovely spirits, and my life immeasurably enriched by your friendship.
Please stay in touch. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to me at 1061 Main Road, Islesboro, ME, 04848. I keep your correspondence and will do my best to stay in touch with you.
Many tanks for eighteen very good years.
Lobster Salad Filling for a Maine Lobster Roll
Makes a little more than 2 cups of filling
2 cups of lobster meat, chopped lightly
Juice of half a lemon
Finely chopped shallot, to taste (optional)
½ cup finely chopped celery
Mayonnaise to mix, to taste
Salt and pepper
Top split rolls with flat sides
Mix the lobster meat with the lemon juice and set aside in the refrigerator.
When you are ready to make the rolls, toss the lemon-lobster meat and the shallot, celery, and mayonnaise together.
Spread the sides of the rolls with butter and grill them until they are golden.
Fill each one with the desired amount of lobster filling and serve.