Lobster Salad Is a Maine Classic

One good thing about lobster salad is that it is a neater way of eating lobster, and right now, when most lobsters seem to be the soft shells that squirt in every direction when you open them, it is good to keep all that mess in the kitchen and off the plate. It is also a delicious way enjoying Maine’s famous crustacean.

A couple years ago, I think I asked in this column if anyone had a great lobster salad recipe and no one responded. I suspected it was because most of us keep it very simple: mix in a good mayonnaise, maybe some onion, celery, and quit while we are ahead. That pretty much sums it up.

I made a lobster salad the other day for a company lunch, and I wanted a little pasta in it, not much, and chose orechiette, those little cupped, disc-shaped pastas because I wanted the lobster to stand out, and other shaped pastas are show-offs, distract us from the main feature. I’ve used orechiette before in summer salads, and been annoyed at how it tends to clump up in cooking, the little cups stacking themselves up, and sticking to each other. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out that I could prevent that if I stirred the boiling cooking water continuously while pouring in the pasta, then stirring it frequently until the water re-boils. Duh.

I like celery in lobster salad, and I prefer kinder, gentler shallots over even mild onions, though if mild onions are what you have, by all means, use them. Mayonnaise. Salt. Pepper. Maybe a squirt of lemon. I added a sprinkle of curry powder, not so much that the salad tasted of curry, though that might not be a bad thing, but just enough to deepen the flavor.

That was pretty much it. It looked pretty and tasted good. Another time I might consider a few capers, and once a long time ago, I ate a very good lobster salad that had pieces of blanched zucchini added. Use as much lobster as you want to afford, and half as much pasta as the package says the quantities will serve. Everything else is “to taste.” One option, is, of course, to leave out the pasta, shallots, and celery, and just eat the lobster straight–cooked, cooled, and lightly dressed. You decide.

Slightly Enhanced Lobster Salad

3-4 lobsters, cooked and picked
3 big handfuls of orechiette or pasta of your choice, cooked until al dente, drained and rinsed in cold water
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 ribs of celery, finely chopped
A dollop of mayonnaise, to taste
Salt and pepper
Sprinkle of curry powder.

Mix all the ingredients together, toss until well blended, serve on a bed of lettuce.

Makes six servings.

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Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.