Lobster Salad Stuffed Arepas

by Kelly on March 30, 2011

Last month I had a great time participating in the 5 Star Makeover hosted by Natasha of Five Star Foodie Culinary Adventures and Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks! This month’s challenge: to create a dish using sustainable seafood.  It was one I was particularly excited about because sustainability in food production and harvesting is something I’ve always been passionate about, but it’s also something I will admit I’ve been a bit lax about these days.  I was excited to have the opportunity to get back on track and challenge myself at the same time.

I thought the challenge would be especially fun for me if I took something I was already eating and looked for a more sustainable alternative.

Lobster Salad Stuffed Arepas-7-2

Enter lobster.  I chose this ingredient because of all seafood it’s the one with which I have the most emotional and nostalgic relationship.  I ate it for the first time in college, in the dining hall no less.  Every year my university would have lobster night in the dining hall.  It was a big production.  Each student got a paper ticket that entitled them to exactly one lobster.  I, however, was very lucky and had a vegetarian friend who couldn’t have been more happy to pass off her lobster to me.  I was a clear amateur.  By the time I finished I had bits of shell clinging to my hair, but I was hooked.  For the eight years I lived in Boston lobster was a common source of joy for me.

Fast forward to 2011.  I’ve been living in Chicago one year and lobster has become a sadly infrequent treat.  I knew this challenge was the time to change all that.  Prior to this challenge I was most familiar with the Maine Lobster, as I am sure most of you are as well.  Also known as the main lobster, it thrives in cold, shallow water and is most common on American restaurant menus.  According to The Monterey Bay Seafood Watch it’s a ‘Good Alternative’ but not the ‘Best Choice’ because the current population status is unknown and whales sometimes get entangled in lobster fishing gear.

spinylobsterImage from California’s Department of Fishing and Game

Lucky for me, there was a better, though less known option – The spiny lobster.  Also known as the California spiny lobster or red lobster you’ll know it because it has no large front claws and instead has a thick, muscular tail.  It’s caught in places like Florida, California, and Baja, Mexico.  Unlike the Maine Lobster, it is caught using traps that are less likely to accidentally catch unwanted fish or other wildlife and that do only moderate damage to the environment.  I found it stocked frozen (as tails) at Whole Foods along with the typical Maine Lobster Tails.

And what did I make with it?  Because lobster rolls were among my favorite lobster-centric dishes I knew I wanted to reinvent them.  For my take I decided to make a latin-inspired lobster salad of avocado, bell pepper, and granny smith apple tossed in a homemade Serrano-Cilantro mayonnaise.  And continuing with the latin-inspired theme, I traded the standard buns for arepas.

Lobster Salad Stuffed Arepas-7

If you’ve never had one before, an arepa is a simple bread made from masarepa, a precooked corn flour.  It’s an unleavened and made into patties that can be grilled, baked, or fried.  It’s most common in Colombia and Venezuela.  The arepas are sometimes stuffed with a filling, making them the perfect stand in for a more traditional bun.  I love them!  They remind me of a bread version of polenta – dense and full of corn flavor.  They are very mild, but serve as the perfect pairing with lobster salad.

Lobster Salad Stuffed Arepas-4Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased with this dish.  The creaminess of the mayonnaise and the avocado played up the richness of the lobster beautifully, while the red bell pepper accentuated its sweetness.  The crunch of the arepa was also a great compliment to the soft pieces of lobster.  The most noticeable difference for me between the Maine Lobster and the Spiny Lobster was that the meat was a tad bit tougher, but easily overcome by using it in a salad where this texture could be offset by other ingredients.   No lobster?  Shrimp would also taste delicious in this dish and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch also has some great suggestions for sustainable shrimp options.

Overall I had a gerat time with this challenge.  It was fun to find a more sustainable option for one of my favorite treat foods.  Thanks again for the invitation to participate and be sure to check out the blogs of our gracious hosts to see what everyone came up with!

Lobster Salad Stuffed Arepas
Arepa recipe adapted from Bobby Flay and The South American Table and mayonnaise recipe adapted from Last Chance Dinner Club
Serves 4

Ingredients:

Arepas:
-3/4 cup milk (I used reduced fat)
-2 tablespoon unsalted butter
-1 1/2 teaspoons honey
-3/4 cup masarepa
-3/4 sea salt
-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Serrano-Cilantro Mayonnaise:
-1 egg yolk
-1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
-2 teaspoons lime juice
-1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
-2 serrano chiles, ribs and seeds removed and minced
-3/4 cup canola oil
-Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Filling:
-8 ounces cooked spiny lobster tail meat, chopped
-1/3 cup diced granny smith apple
-1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
-1/3 cup chopped avocado
-2 tablespoons chopped green onions
-1/3 cup Serrano-Cilantro mayonnaise

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. To make arepas, heat the milk in a saucepan over low heat until gently simmering.  Add the butter and honey and stir until the butter has melted.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the masarepa, sea salt, black pepper and stir until well combined.  Pour the milk mixture over the masarepa mixture and mix together using a large spoon until it forms a soft dough.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand for 5 minutes.  Then, knead the dough until smooth.  Shape into 4 equal-sized disks, about 3/4-inch thick. Oil or wet your hands lightly and shape into balls the size of golf balls. Flatten each ball into a circle and shape the edges to form a smooth disk.

To cook the arepas, heat a griddle or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Grease it lightly with oil and cook the arepas on both sides, turning a couple of times until a crust forms. If the arepas are browning too fast, reduce the heat to low. Total cooking time is about 10-15 minutes. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes. To tell if the arepas are ready, tap them lightly. If they sound hollow, they are ready.

While the arepas are in the oven, make your mayonnaise. Add the egg yolk through serrano chiles to the food processor and pulse until a pesto-like paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

With food processor running continuously, slowly add oil very slowly, drip by drip until the begins to thickens. Once your mixture starts to look like mayonnaise you can then add a steady stream of mayonnaise. Note that depending on the consistency of mayonnaise you prefer, you may use more or less oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble lobster salad, gently toss lobster meat through green onions together in a bowl and then gently fold in mayonnaise. Serve alongside arepas or inside arepas by cutting a slit and stuffing with filling.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

brandi March 31, 2011 at 9:00 am

oh, arepas! I love arepas. These look delicious!

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Mary March 31, 2011 at 12:22 pm

This looks wonderful and I think you’ve spiced your way around the blandness of the spiny lobster. This is a really nice recipe. I’ve found that monkfish has a texture similar to lobster, but when I want something with more flavor I use really large prawns. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

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Sarah March 31, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Your posts always get me excited because they are so creative and mouthwatering! If I lived in your city I would be on your doorstep hoping you would share some of these with me. They sound Amazing.

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5 Star Foodie March 31, 2011 at 9:45 pm

A fun makeover of a classic lobster roll, with arepas. Thanks so much for participating!

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Sues March 31, 2011 at 10:44 pm

FAbulous idea! I don’t even know how I would survive if I moved away from New England and had to be away from lobster 🙂 And to think, I spent about 15 years of my life thinking it was gross! I’m glad you found a decent New England lobster-like love 🙂

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Bren April 1, 2011 at 8:39 am

I looooove the arepas in this! what a great way to infuse some Latin flair. And, I love that I now know more about lobster!

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deana@lostpastremembered April 1, 2011 at 10:41 am

Lobster is doing very well, I have read lately… the quotas are having an effect (although the downside was a loss of jobs for many lobstermen) I’d like to think it’s true because I do love them and it is a great American tradition out east.

You did a wonderful job with the dish… and what a fabulous photo! It’s really lovely with all those colors. I must try to make those arepas… gorgeous!

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Jennifer- Adventuresome Kitchen April 1, 2011 at 11:27 am

I was just re-introduced to arepas last weekend! My husband and I honeymooned in PEI and I fondly remember the lobster rolls (prior to my gf diagnosis) I love the combination here, and the fact that it is gluten-free! Yay! Chicago is hands down the best city in the Midwest, with great cuisine and a good farmer’s market- enjoy your time there and keep cooking up great stuff like this!!

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Lori Lynn April 1, 2011 at 11:29 am

Hi Kelly! Great addition to the Cooking Club!
In the 80’s we used to drive down to Ensenada, Mexico and feast on spiny lobster. It was so cheap and plentiful then…
LL

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Kelly April 1, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Brandi – I do too. 🙂 I really need to make them more often. Not that I want to be boring by making the same dish over, and over again but they really are so good, easy and a fun substitution for bread.

Mary – I’ve eaten monkfish liver pate in restaurants before, but otherwise have very little experience with it. Now that you mention its textural similarities to lobster I’ll have to check it out. I hear you on the blandness, I WISH spiny lobster was a perfect swap for maine lobster since I love that it’s more sustainable than my original.

Natasha – No problem. Thanks for including me. I’m having a blast.

Sarah – Aww. I’m blushing. Seriously. Comments like that are what make blogging fun.

Sues – I know, I will admit from a culinary perspective lobster is definitely the thing I miss about Boston most. Luckily, I love the Chicago restaurant and foodie scene so it balances things out. 🙂

Bren – Thanks. I’ve definitely been all about the latin flare lately. Maybe because it’s so cold and I need a bit of warmth and sunshine?

Deana – Thank you. I’d like to think so too especially since I’m an unabashed Maine Lobster fan. And thanks for the compliments on the photo.

Jennifer – Thank you. 🙂 It’s got to be awesome when things are naturally GF and so delicious at the same time.

Lori Lynn – Isn’t it funny how an ingredient is plentiful and cheap one minute, and expensive the next?

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Elina (Russian Bites) April 1, 2011 at 3:18 pm

What an informative post. I’m really into sustainable food so it was so interesting to read about a more sustainable alternative to the Maine lobster although it’s hard to beat it in taste.
Btw, we had lobster nights in college too and I always scored an extra ticket. It was like winning the lottery 😉

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Maris (In Good Taste) April 1, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Love this! It was so good to see you last night, we’ll have to do it again soon, and maybe find ourselves some non-hipster boyfriends this time 🙂 Talk soon!

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Jen H April 1, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Anything with lobster is a winner in my book. There is a place here in Toronto called Arepa Cafe and I LOVE it. I may have to suggest they add this version to their summer menu!

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Shannon April 3, 2011 at 11:18 am

what a fabulous recreation! i’m not a huge fan of lobster, but these might win me over 🙂

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Daily Spud April 4, 2011 at 5:51 am

I know I should be concentrating on the lobster, but I’m intrigued by the arepas – I’ve never eaten them, but anything that can be described as a bread version of polenta has got my vote!

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Angela@spinachtiger April 4, 2011 at 9:30 am

Lobster anything gets my attention. Eating lobster rolls in Maine is s till a major food memory. I’ve never had spiny lobster. Great Challenge entry. The Serrano Cilantro Mayo sounds just delicious.

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Jessica April 4, 2011 at 11:22 am

This is such a gorgeous dish!!! I love the creativity and spin you put on it as well. The photo you took is absolutely perfect, with its lighting, coloring, etc. And the use of arepas? Oh my I’m getting hungry again… great job you did here!

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Trix April 13, 2011 at 9:00 am

I first had arepas at a Venezuelan carry out called ‘Arepas y Mucho Mas” in Puerto Rico … I was smitten and couldn’t get enough of them. The lobster salad with them here is just amazing. I will be making this for sure.

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