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 (aka Royal Red Shrimp 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.
Alabama "Lobster" Rolls
A delicious Alabama alternative to New England's Lobster roll using Royal Red Shrimp
- 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 mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons basil leaves chiffonade (rolled and sliced into thin strips)
Set a large pot full of water to boil.
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 15-20 seconds until buns are browned and toasted.
Fill buns with equal amounts of the shrimp mixture and sprinkle basil over before serving.
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. 😉