Main Dish

A Southern Twist on the Revered New England Lobster Roll

Alabama "Lobster" Rolls
Alabama “Lobster” Rolls

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.

They might not be pretty, but they sure are tasty.
They might not be pretty, but they sure are tasty.

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.

Sweet, succulent, shrimp perfection
Sweet, succulent, shrimp perfection

Alabama “Lobster” Rolls

These faux-lobster rolls are my answer to an annual summer craving. There are a few distinct disadvantages to leaving New England for the South, and lack of lobster is definitively one of them. I even combined the two (very opposing) schools of lobster roll thought: Connecticut likes theirs hot, with butter, and Maine likes theirs cold with mayo. I compromise with doing a little of both. This buttery, sweet, succulent sandwich comes in a solid close second to the real deal, and I'm cool with that.

  • Prep Time: 15m
  • Cook Time: 5m
  • Total Time: 20m

Ingredients

  • 6 split-top "gourmet" hot dog buns
  • 3 pounds Royal Red shrimp, peeled and deveined (6 pounds if they've still got their heads)
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) of butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) of butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup good mayonnaise (Duke's or Hellmann's if you're not in the South)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 tablespoons basil, chiffonnade

Instructions

  1. Set a large pot full of water to boil. Preheat broiler. Split buns from the top, slathering both sides with the half a stick of softened butter. Arrange buns on a baking sheet, split side up. When water is boiling, drop in shrimp and stir until they've curled and turned red, about 2 minutes. Taste one to be sure. Doesn't it taste just like lobster?! Amazing. Drain, run shrimp under cold water to stop the cooking, and put shrimp into a bowl. Toss shrimp with the half of a stick of melted butter. Put in the fridge to cool for about 15 minutes. When cool, add celery and mayonnaise and mix. Salt and pepper to taste. Put in the refrigerator to cool until the buns are ready. Put the buns 5-6 inches under the broiler and watch carefully. Broil for about 1 minute until buns are browned and toasted. Fill buns with equal amounts of the shrimp mixture and sprinkle basil over before serving.
Royal Reds even look like lobster!
Royal Reds even look like lobster!

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.

Watermelon Arugula Salad with Balsamic Syrup
Watermelon Arugula Salad with Balsamic Syrup

Watermelon, Arugula, and Feta Salad

This is a gorgeous way to showcase even the most lackluster watermelon. I was unlucky and didn't get the most flavorful specimen this time around; it was still delicious.

  • Prep Time: 10m
  • Cook Time: 5m
  • Total Time: 15m

Ingredients

  • 5 cups seedless watermelon, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 4 cups arugula
  • 1 block of feta, crumbled into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of your best olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan until simmering; simmer until reduced to 2 tablespoons (about 5 minutes). Watch carefully so it doesn't burn. Pour into a small glass or ceramic container and place into the refrigerator to cool. In a large bowl or on a large platter, scatter arugula. Top with watermelon cubes and chunks of feta. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, toss salad together.
Coconut Cupcake
Ina Garten’s Coconut Cupcake

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. 😉

I have never missed my stand mixer more.
I have never missed my stand mixer more.
Alabama "Lobster" Rolls
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