Lobster Burger Caribe
This is another in my series of explorations of the other possibilities, beyond grilled beef, when the topic turns to burgers. The idea of a lobster burger is not that exotic, in that you can find some version of a lobster burger on restaurant menus all over the U.S., so I set out to make something a little different with this one. Also I set out to make one that's mostly lobster, instead of mostly bread or other fillers, which in my experience is what most of them are at restaurants.
Most people think of lobster as summer fare, so it may seem odd to be presenting this dish in the middle of October. However, as Jasper White points out in his excellent book, Lobster at Home, October, November and December are actually the best months of the year for lobster, with hard-shelled lobster plentiful and the price usually moderating with the slackening demand.
It took me several tries to get this one right, to the delight of my usual victims, but it all finally came together. The added flavors - sweet juicy mango, crunchy spicy slaw, the lime marinade, and the toasted cumin, coriander and fennel in the lobster patties - bring tropical notes to the burger without overwhelming the flavor and texture of the lobster. I served this with sweet potato fries, a simple green salad and margaritas, for a little trip to the tropics in October!
Lobster Burgers Caribe
Makes 6 burgers.
1-1/4 pound cooked lobster meat, 1/4" dice (do NOT use lobster meat that has been frozen!)
3 medium limes, juiced
1/2 lb shrimp, deveined, peeled
1 medium carrot, peeled, fine dice
1 medium rib celery, fine dice
1/2 tsp whole cumin seed
1/2 tsp whole coriander seed
1/2 tsp whole fennel seed
2 egg whites
2 small hot red peppers, seeds, stem and membranes removed, minced
4 T cilantro, fine mince
6 T panko flakes
2 T flour
salt, hot sauce to taste
Spicy Slaw Topping
1/4 head cabbage, trimmed, cored and cut in thin shreds (about 3 oz)
1 carrot peeled and shredded
1/4 medium red onion, sliced very thin, slices halved
1 T cilantro, minced
1 green chile, membranes, stem and seeds removed, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled, minced
1/2 C lime juice
1/4 C mayonnaise
salt, hot sauce, to taste
6 onion rolls
thin slices of red onion
1 ripe mango, peeled, cut in thin slices
Marinate lobster meat 1/2 hour in the juice of 2 limes. Marinate shrimp 1/2 hour in the juice of 1 lime. Still keeping them separate, drain lobster and shrimp, pressing out liquid. Refrigerate lobster and shrimp until needed.
Sauté the carrot and celery in a small amount of oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Heat a small dry sauté pan until hot, then add the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds. Toast the spices, stirring constantly, a minute or two until they start to color and give off fragrance. Remove to a spice grinder and pulverize to a fine powder. Set aside.
Place shrimp and egg whites in the bowl of a food processor and purée until smooth, about a minute.
Mix well the minced hot red pepper, cilantro, panko flakes, carrot/celery mixture, flour, lobster meat, shrimp/egg mixture, and toasted spice mix. Correct seasoning. Divide into 6 equal portions and press firmly into burgers. Allow to rest 30 minutes, refrigerated, while making the Spicy Slaw Topping.
Spicy Slaw Topping: mix all the Spicy Slaw Topping ingredients well.
Spray a hamburger frame with vegetable oil spray. Spray both sides of the patties with the vegetable oil spray. Place patties in frame and grill over medium-hot fire about six minutes on a side. Allow burgers to cool about 2 minutes before opening frame.
Toast the onion rolls over the fire until lightly browned, 2 - 3 minutes.
To assemble and serve: place one patty on each of the toasted onion roll bottoms. Lay slices of mango on the burger patty, and top with a portion of the Spicy Slaw and, if desired, a slice of red onion. Lay the roll top over the slaw on each burger.
Regarding the filler issue: something is required in a lobster burger to hold it together. However, restaurant lobster burgers, usually factory-produced and sold frozen to the restaurant, seem to me to go way too far with the binding agents (to insure that the burger stays together and also to reduce the amount of lobster that goes into each burger, I assume) so, like a lot of lobster rolls you get in New England, they can be very unsatisfying if you came for the lobster! I've tried to push the envelope in the other direction, looking to see just how much lobster, and how little of the binding agent, I can use before the burger starts to fall apart. The formula I've used here - a little flour, panko and egg white for binders - works, but be aware that these burgers are delicate, especially before the egg white is cooked. That's why I've specified the use of a hamburger frame, since the stress of turning them with a spatula can be too much for them. I think that the strong lobster flavor and texture of these burgers is definitely worth the additional care you have to give them!