So unless you’ve been living under a food media-deprived rock since the beginning of the year (or you know, not in Melbourne) you will probably have heard of the Lobster Roll. It’s become legendary, winning dish of the year accolades all over the place and generally earning rave reviews from all and sundry.
Golden Fields, from whence it came, even sells them take-away now. I would hit that every day if it weren’t in St Kilda. I don’t do St Kilda. Though if any man were to convince me to change my mind, it could only be Andrew McConnell.
But as I am north of the river all the way, I just dream of the day I will again venture south and eat this heavenly sandwich. It really is heavenly. For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure – here’s a breakdown:
Based on a Maine, New England style lobster roll (thus the name despite the fact that it uses crayfish and not lobster) it’s a few slices of perfect crayfish sandwiched in a lightly grilled sweet, soft, Asian-style bun, with naught but some watercress and a squeeze of Kewpie mayonnaise for company. It’s simplicity and good sourcing at its best.
At the markets recently I spotted some rather nice looking fresh cray tails and since I have no plans to head to south side any time soon, I decided to treat myself for lunch. Buying a tail with no head meant I avoided the uncomfortable “how best to kill my crayfish” situation by letting someone else do the dispatching for me (though I’ve never cooked one that was not whole before – swings and roundabouts). For the record, I would usually pop it in the freezer or an ice bath until it’s asleep, then drive a knife into the brain, killing it instantly and theoretically painlessly, before cooking.
First, I lightly poached the crayfish tail in salted water and butter. Shellfish love butter. Really if you’re going to have a luxury ingredient, you may as well go full luxury. One crayfish tail was enough for two sandwiches, though two tails between three would have been the perfect, super indulgent amount. I pulled it out after about 10 minutes, peeled it and sliced it into neat rounds. It didn’t look like much meat to share between two, but once on the roll it yielded a surprising amount.
Next I made a quick mayonnaise with loads of lemon zest and juice to give it a nice zing, and finished it with chopped fennel tops, leftover from the baby fennel I shaved on a mandolin to mix with watercress, lemon, oil and plenty of cracked pepper.
Finally I warmed some baguettes in the oven, and brushed the open faces with a little melted butter, because I can’t emphasise enough how much crayfish loves butter.
To assemble, I gave the cray meat a quick bath in melted butter before layering it on the bread and slathering with mayonnaise. I then topped it with the watercress and fennel salad and sat down with a glass of Ardeche Chardonnay to toast a completely indulgent lunch.
Manfriend declared it the best crayfish roll he’s ever had. That being said he’s never been to Golden Fields, but I’ll take the compliments when I can get them.