SOUTH SHORE LOBSTER SALAD CIRCA 1900

In this immediate precursor to today’s version, the ingredients of dressing #2 have been translated from a suspension to a mayonnaise-type emulsion, but with a very fancy (and optional, but recommended) whipped cream finish. This recipe is adapted from the notebook of Ruth Spooner Baker (1858-1927), who lived most of her life at 29 North Street, Plymouth. Thanks to the Plymouth Antiquarian Society, which holds her papers.

The Hedge House is the site of the Plymouth Antiquarian Society’s Summer Fair, held every August.


Notebooks of recipes are preserved at the Plymouth Antiquarian Society at Hedge House, Plymouth.

Photogenic and delicious lobsters generously provided by The Lobster Pound at Manomet Point.

5 MINUTE MAYO CLINIC

For the most versatile mayonnaise, use a very light-flavored oil like canola or safflower. The basic proportions are critical to the emulsion, but you may cut back on the vinegar by half a teaspoon if it’s too sharp for your taste. Tinker with Mrs. Baker’s seasonings until you get your own signature mix — I can’t do without freshly ground black pepper, and I skip the sugar and step up the salt a bit.

A few simple ingredients, including a nice fresh local egg yolk, are the basis of your own super-simple mayonnaise.

Whisking up a perfect emulsion is strangely satisfying. The blender or food processor option works, but sticking to low-tech also makes for minimal cleanup.

Add seasonings to your taste — snipped herbs, a little cayenne — and enjoy the world’s best lobster (or egg or striper or chicken or potato) salad.

FOOTNOTES

1The indelible description of Byron by Lady Caroline Lamb (1785-1828), an expert in the matter.

2 I tell myself that it was mere coincidence that Mrs. Rundell and Lord Byron shared a publisher, John Murray (1778-1843). No need to get paranoid. Paula Marcoux enjoys her salad days in Plymouth and at www.themagnificentleaven.com.

Paula Marcoux enjoys her salad days in Plymouth and at www.themagnificentleaven.com.

MAYONNAISE BASE

• 1 raw egg yolk
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 1/2 teaspoon sugar
• 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
• 1/2 tablespoon wine vinegar
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 1 cup light olive oil (or half olive, half canola)
• 1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream
• the meat of one boiled or steamed local lobster, cut or torn in bite-sized pieces
• small tender lettuce leaves, for lining the dish
• snipped chives or scallions to taste

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolk 20 strokes. Add the mustard, sugar, cayenne, salt, vinegar, and lemon juice, and whisk to combine.

Whisking constantly, begin adding the oil, drop by drop. After 1/4 cup of the oil has been absorbed, you may increase the rate to a controlled drizzle, but back off the second you see unemulsified oil shimmering on the surface. Keep whisking and add more oil only when the sauce is unified again. Keep at it, gradually increasing the rate of flow, until all the oil is emulsified, and, voila, you have mayonnaise. (You may do this ahead, and store in a closed container in the fridge until needed.)

Put a small bowl in the fridge or freezer.

Just before assembling the salad, put the cream in the chilled bowl and whisk until nicely whipped. Fold in half the mayonnaise base (that’s about 2/3 cup — keep the other half in the fridge to use for sandwiches, etc.). Toss as much of the dressing as you like with the prepared lobster and chives or scallions; taste for seasoning. Arrange on lettuce leaves and serve instantly.

All variations serve 2.

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