Lobster Cobb Salad Roll

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Supper in a Box”

The Set-up: Ina trades a boxed dinner with her friend Edwina for a new herb garden.

The Menu: Lobster Cobb Salad Roll, Brown Rice with Tomato & Basil, Mini Orange Chocolate Chunk Cakes

0:59 – Ina reveals that she takes old favorite recipes, like a classic pound cake, and reworks them to incorporate new flavors.

1:15 – First up, the Mini Orange Chocolate Chunk Cakes which are inspired by Grand Marnier.

2:29 – I’ve noticed that Ina uses her Kitchen Aid stand mixer for nearly every baking project, I wonder if that’s for TV efficiency or if she’d really haul it out anyway?

3:41 – But now she mentions that if she has a lot of citrus to juice she uses an electric juicer, so maybe she’s more of a gadget person than I thought…

4:23 – I love chocolate with berries, but for some reason chocolate + orange has never had quite the same appeal.

5:34 – You probably never thought you’d hear me say this, but I think I’d rather have these cakes without the chocolate chunks!

6:42 – Oooh, fun! Ina is making individual sized bundt cakes in neat little silicone molds. Why does something miniature automatically seem more special?

7:06 – Over to Edwina’s where she’s painting two rough wood window boxes bright blue (for Ina) and lime green (for herself.)

8:49 – Back to Ina’s where the Mini Orange Chocolate Chunk Cakes are slightly cooled and ready for to be soaked with an orange syrup. Yum!

11:18 – Ganache time – chocolate chips, instant coffee powder, cream – to drizzle over the top of the cakes. Reminds me a little of those chocolate oranges that pop up around holiday time.

12:03 – Pro Tip #1: If the ganache is too thick, just add a touch more cream until it’s thin enough to drizzle.

13:32 – Onward to the Brown Rice with Tomato & Basil. Ina describes Edwina as a “grown-up hippie” and you know hippies can’t resist brown rice. They just go crazy for it!

14:27 – Ina is making a vinaigrette for the rice salad and I’m a little surprised that she’s going for a white wine based dressing instead of balsamic. Maybe that would be too heavy?

15:20 – Pro Tip #2: Pouring the vinaigrette over warm, cooked rice will allow it to absorb into the grains and add more flavor.

16:56 – I’m also wondering why Ina didn’t go full caprese salad and put in some fresh mozzarella? Obviously, the peanut gallery has aaaalll sorts of ideas about improvements.

19:41 – Ina has moved on to the Lobster Cobb Salad Roll, which she says is a recipe she’s made year after year.

20:04 – Pro Tip #3: Haas avocados are ripe when skin is a deep brown and the fruit is firm. Squeezing fresh lemon juice over the cut pieces keeps the flesh bright green.

21:44 – I’m relieved to see that Ina is not going to boil a lobster on TV, but has wisely opted to buy lobster meat from the seafood shop.

22:15 – We check in with Edwina as she puts the finishing touches on the herb boxes and confirms that Ina is more of a blue person than a chartreuse person.

23:38 – The Lobster Cobb Salad Roll differs pretty significantly from a traditional lobster roll in the dressing department – Ina is using a Dijon mustard based vinaigrette rather than mayonnaise.

27:29 – The fact that bacon and blue cheese are involved completely demolishes my nascent theory that the lack of mozz in the rice salad is because Edwina is vegetarian.

28:40 – Pro Tip #4: This is a “mother-in-law salad” make it for your mother-in-law and she’ll love it and love you!

29:55 – All the treats are packed up in a sweet little take out box as Edwina arrives right on cue with her herb box for Ina. Hugs and exclamations of gratitude all around!

Final Thoughts:
I’m not sure what time of year this episode was filmed, but I can’t think of anything more summery than a Lobster Cobb Salad.

I need to develop more barter-based friendships where I can be the Ina. Any takers?

How many times do you think Ina made Lobster Cobb Salad for Jeffrey’s mother?

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I’ve had Lobster Cobb Salad Roll on the brain ever since I first saw this episode, but I wanted to wait until the summer months when light, simple recipes that involve very little cooking are just what the dinner table calls for.

Lobster: I have a confession to make – I’ve never cooked a live lobster and even after making this recipe that track record hasn’t changed. I decided that Ina had the right idea and was thankful to discover that my grocery store stocks cooked lobster meat in the seafood department. So, I’ll save that adventure for next time. Maybe.

Bacon: Definitely cook this in the oven (20-25 minutes total at 350 degrees, flip halfway through, drain on paper towels) especially if you’re roasting shrimp, or toasting the hotdog buns. So much less stressful, zero splattering from the stove top, beautifully crisp bacon.

Ingredients: As I noted, this entrée type salad requires very little effort from the cook and mainly a little chopping and mixing. It is, however; a recipe that highlights every component (no where to hide here), which makes choosing the best possible ingredients important. Luckily, at this time of year great tomatoes and avocados are plentiful. I looked for fruit that was ripe enough to taste delicious and firm enough to hold it’s shape in the salad. This is also the time, in my opinion, to get the thick-cut bacon and buy a small wedge of proper blue cheese (not the crumbles in the plastic container.) If you need to it’s easy to stretch the salad with more lettuce or a handful more tomatoes, and since a little of each of these items goes a long way it doesn’t have to be a huge investment of $$$.

Substitutions: If lobster, cooked, live, or otherwise, isn’t available or budget constraints don’t allow, I’d suggest using shrimp instead. Either precooked from the seafood counter or defrosted and roasted like in the Shrimp and Orzo Salad. The effect will be the same and it’s nearly as easy.

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, presuming that you’re not boiling your own lobsters! I needed a medium mixing bowl, a baking sheet, liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons, mixing spoon, a medium cutting board and a chef’s knife. Aluminum foil will make repurposing and cleaning up the baking sheet much easier.

The Verdict:
We're not regularly eating lobster, but from time to time it makes a really special treat. I made this for us over a hot hot summer weekend, served in a Martin's Potato Roll (natch) for a little extra something. First things first – the Lobster Cobb Salad Roll is not a Lobster Roll in the beach shack sense. Lobster stands in for chicken, but the other ingredients definitely take their cue from the Cobb Salad. Mike remarked on the variety of flavors at play – from the sweeter, mild pieces of lobster and creamy avocado to the bite of the mustard vinaigrette and blue cheese – and in some sense this dish is almost too much a of a good thing. We liked this salad - seriously, what's not to like? - but I’d also love to strip this salad back a little and let the lobster be the star.

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll | Image: Laura Messersmith