Sunday, September 28, 2014

Playing Hooky!

A few weeks ago my wife, Vicki, and I buggered off for a day (as our late and great friend David Younger would have said). It was going to be a gorgeous warm day, school was back in session and we hadn’t been to the Toronto Islands in a dog’s age.

I got up early to do a bit of prep for our meal (more on that later, of course!) and we made our plans for a really terrific day off.

The Toronto Islands are a string of low islands protecting our Inner Harbour. Most of it is a public park, although at one end is a small community (the existence of which is a hotly debated topic) and at the other end is the Toronto City Centre Airport (also a very hotly debated topic). The narrow channels between the small islets are often filled with paddle boats, canoes and kayaks, and to enjoy the walkways and paths of the main island, you can rent two- and four-wheel pedal operated vehicles (you can’t call a four-wheeled vehicle a bicycle now, can you?) by the hour. Learn more HERE.

We’ve always wanted to do that, do we did. Pedaling leisurely took us about 20 minutes to get to Ward Island where the houses are and it was really quite enjoyable. There wasn’t time to get to the opposite end (where the nude beach is, oh là là!), so we have that to look forward to in a future trip.

Getting there is a large part of the fun. Ferries leave frequently from the terminal at the foot of Bay Street, so you get a lake voyage as part of your day, always pleasant. There are also views of mighty Lake Ontario from the boardwalks and beaches on the western side of Centre Island. And did we mention the small amusement park and farm (closed because the season was over)? We used to take our boys there for a special day out when they were little

One reason for going during the week was to avoid crowds. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out quite as planned because the island was swarmed by university kids doing team building type things, so when it came time to find a place for our picnic (a big part of our excursion) we had to really hunt around to find something away from the madding crowd. But find one we did.

My beautiful companion for the day!
Now, for our special day, we needed something special to eat, right? A family favorite for picnics is cold fried chicken and buttered rye bread, but I’d been wanting to make lobster rolls all summer long and this was my opportunity. Vicki has never met a lobster that she hasn’t wanted to eat, so she was enthusiastic as well. A trip to the fish market was called for!

So today, I’m going to share our favorite recipe for this summertime treat. I suppose it should be called “Lobster Salad Roll” since the true “Lobster Roll” (originating in Connecticut) is traditionally served warm with the chunks of lobster having been heating in drawn butter. Still, our recipe is very nice flavored as it is with fresh tarragon (always a great choice with crustaceans) and makes a lovely picnic main course. I believe we found the basis for this on

That day on the Toronto Islands, it tasted better than ever — but that’s probably because we were enjoying the perfect late summer weather while playing hooky!

Lobster Salad Roll
serves 4

2 one-and-a-half-pound lobsters boiled and chilled thoroughly
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
scant 1/4 tsp of freshly grated black pepper
3-4 Tbs mayonnaise
2 Tbs chopped fresh tarragon
a touch of Tobasco sauce
some Boston lettuce leaves
4 soft-crust rolls (hot dog rolls if you must!)

  1. Extract the all the meat from each lobster: claws, joints and the tails. If they were boiled, you may need to squeeze the meat gently, either in a colander with the back of a spoon or even just in your hand to get rid of excess liquid. If you don’t know how to clean a lobster, here’s an excellent video on how to do it and get the pieces out in large chunks which suits this recipe:
  2. Combine the shallots, lemon juice and salt and let it stand at room temperature for 1/2 hour.
  3. Next, chop up the meat (discard tomalley and any roe) and cut meat into 1/2-inch pieces.
  4. Whisk together remaining ingredients into the shallot mixture, then add the lobster meat and toss it gently until coated.
  5. Toast and butter the buns generously. Line the inside with boston lettuce and load in the lobster!
This is especially good with a chilled sauvignon blanc or pouilly fuisse.

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