When I was pregnant with Lemon Baby, I (predictably) craved all sorts of random food. Most notably was my craving for a Lobster Roll, which, if you were friends with me on Facebook, you must have scrolled past a thousand times. I couldn’t get enough lobster roll foodporn. Intellectually, I knew it was just making my hankering worse, but I couldn’t stop. The closest lobster roll to Mobile is in Atlanta, not exactly dinner date distance. Then my neighbor Ron suggested I make my own, with one exception: replace lobster with Royal Reds, a particularly succulent shrimp native to the deep waters of the Gulf Coast. I did, and the Alabama “Lobster” Roll was born.
Fast forward one year. It was this sandwich that my mother named when I asked her what her heart desired for her birthday meal. So this past Sunday, we were elbow deep in head-on Royal Reds, competing to see who could peel the biggest shrimp.
Royal Reds are considered to be the most prized variety of shrimp, and they don’t come easy. This type of shrimp dwells in the deeper waters of the Gulf Coast, some as far out as sixty miles. Royal Reds require a special shrimping permit, and they’re immediately flash frozen on the boat because of the long trip back. I actually cannot get over how similar Royal Reds are to lobster. They have the same sweetness and tenderness as a lobster tail does. And at $12.99 a pound at Fort Morgan Seafood, they’re a lot more affordable.
To round out my mother’s birthday meal, I made Ina Garten’s Coconut Cupcakes and a gorgeous, vibrant salad of watermelon, feta, and arugula, drizzled with olive oil and a balsamic reduction. The salad was gorgeous, with a peppery arugula, a deep, earthy tang from the balsamic and a punch of sweetness from the watermelon.
It is impossible to improve upon Ina’s cupcakes. They are insanely rich (thanks to a pound and a half of butter), dense and ethereal all at the same time, and I’m not even going to try to riff on them. They are perfect as is. The only dissension was whether to serve them chilled or at room temperature. I’ll admit, I do not like cold cake otherwise, but I prefer my coconut cupcake straight from the fridge. There’s something about the crackle of the cream cheese frosting. The birthday girl preferred them at room temperature. Be warned, this recipe (cupcakes and frosting) can easily be halved to make 12 cupcakes. I made 18 and still had leftover batter (perfect for a single layer cake for–ahem–breakfast) and about a cup of leftover frosting (which I may or may not have dipped a few pretzels in). Follow this link for Ina’s Coconut Cupcake recipe.
One other word of advice: don’t make these cupcakes in a beach house using a hand mixer from the 70s. My biceps still ache and my fingers are still cramping. I’m pretty sure it spun at a speed of two revolutions per hour. I’m no wimp with a hand mixer; it’s what I used for years. This guy is nearing retirement. My iPhone even refused to shoot it in color. 😉