Seafood—and its disappearance from menus—has been a hot topic this summer. At the Lobster Roll, a popular seafood shack in Amagansett, N.Y., also known locally as “Lunch,” thanks to its giant sign, co-owner Andrea Anthony hasn’t had to drop her restaurant’s signature shellfish from the menu, but prices are up. She’s currently paying $40 to $42 per pound for lobster, upward of $7 more than last year.
Still, the rolls are a mainstay. “We sell about 800 a day, 1,000 when it’s busy,” she says. Orders are a pretty even mix of hot—dressed in drawn butter—and cold, made into a salad with a secret-recipe mayonnaise; heat waves push up sales of the chilled preparation.
About 10 years ago, Anthony and her business partner, chef Paul DeAngelis, came up with the idea to expand the boundaries of how they could serve the shellfish: lobster chili that features in a plate of nachos. And they broke some culinary seafood rules doing it.
For one thing, the chili is flavored with red wine, which is almost never paired with seafood. More irreverent, it’s topped with mounds of shredded cheese before it’s put in the oven.
DeAngelis says he got the idea from watching a televised chili competition. “I saw turkey—I saw all these unusual kinds—but not seafood,” he says. He created a version he liked, made with firm shellfish (shrimp, scallops, and lobster) that would hold up in a saucepan; he advises against using fish fillets, which would disintegrate in the sauce.
Anthony saw it as an opportunity to extend their season, when temperature starts sliding. “Nachos are such a comfort food,” she says. “We were looking for something that would attract a fall crowd. It was unexpectedly well received, so we kept it on the menu going forward.” She estimates they sell 150 orders a day.
The nachos will be featured on the menu at the new Lobster Roll aka Lunch, opening in Southampton in November, where the menu will also include seafood and cheese pairings such as lobster mac and cheese. One reason Anthony likes the nachos is that they’re a value proposition, at least as far as the Hamptons is concerned. The lobster rolls are market priced, currently $31.95. The nachos are $18.95 and meant to be shared.
They’re also a fun dish. To make them, DeAngelis tucks the seafood into a well-spiced tomato and bean mixture; the red wine deepens the flavor. They’re then layered with tortilla chips in a baking dish, along with grated cheddar, and put into a hot oven for a couple of minutes. The mild cheese adds a salty and tangy accent to the seafood and melty texture to the chips, but what pulls it together is the refreshing sour cream dollop on top.
One more thing: “They’re a great pairing with a margarita,” says Anthony. “You know nachos and margaritas go well together. Seafood nachos and margaritas go well together, too.”
The following recipe is adapted from Paul DeAngelis, chef and partner at the Lobster Roll aka Lunch.
Testers note: If you’re using cooked lobster or shrimp, stir it into the chili right before you build the nachos. DeAngelis makes his own tortilla chips, but store-bought will do; just make sure they’re thick and substantial and won’t collapse when the chili is spooned on.
One-fourth cup olive oil
Half cup diced sweet onion
Half cup diced celery
2 large garlic cloves, minced
One-fourth cup red wine
2 cups canned diced tomato with their juices
1 tsp. chile powder
Half tsp. each ground cumin and oregano
1 cup red kidney beans
Half lb. small raw shrimp
Half lb. raw lobster meat, preferably claw meat, cut into large pieces
One-fourth lb. sea scallops, quartered
12 oz. thick tortilla chips
2 cups grated cheddar and/or Monterey Jack cheese
Sour cream, sliced scallions, and pico de gallo, for serving
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, celery, and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook until almost reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and spices and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Gently stir in the beans.
Add the shrimp, lobster, and scallops and cook over low heat until the seafood is cooked through and the chili is thickened, 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and season well with salt. If desired, pull a few pieces of seafood from the chili to decorate the nachos. The chili should be loose but not wet; if necessary, drain off some of the liquid.
Preheat the broiler. Layer half the tortilla chips in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Cover the chips with half the seafood chili and shredded cheese. Make an additional layer of chips, chili, and cheese. Cook a few inches from the heat until the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Garnish with sour cream and scallions and any reserved seafood, and serve from the dish with pico de gallo on the side.