Thursday, June 30, 2011

Butter Poached Lobster Tail

Today, I discovered the magic of poaching in butter.

More specifically, I discovered the use of beurre monté. I'd always read about it in my French Laundry cookbook but I'd never actually tried to make it before. It was so easy to do, I'm kicking myself for not making use of it earlier.

Our neighborhood Vons occasionally get these lobster tails from Canada. So maybe these aren't the highest quality of lobsters (I didn't even know Canada had lobsters?), but they were damn delicious even just boiled or steamed. Poached in butter? The end. The meat became 10x sweeter, the texture 10x more snappy, and the flavor 10x stronger. I'm wondering why I'm writing this blog post right now and not running back to the grocery store for more lobsters instead.


Butter Poached Lobster Tail with Corn Two Ways
polenta, basil creamed corn, buttered peas, pattypan squash
serves 2

for the vegetables:
2 ears of corn
1/4 cup of shelled english peas
1 pattypan squash

I just sautéed the peas and pattypan squash separately in some butter. For the corn, I cut the kernels off of two ears of corn. Then, I ran the back of my knife up and down the cob to get the kernel meat left behind. This also produced some milky white liquid. I added the liquid and kernel meat into a pan first with some butter. Once that was bubbling, I added in the rest of the kernels. Cook until tender. Then I chiffonaded some basil and folded it into the corn.
for the polenta:
1/3 cup polenta
1 cup water
2/3 cup whole milk
2 tablespoon butter

Combine the polenta, 1/3 cup of water and 2/3 cup of milk into a pot, whisk together, and bring to a boil. Cook until the polenta is tender, stirring constantly. I like to gradually add water during the process--up to another 2/3 cup of water. When the polenta is cooked, stir in the butter. Keep warm until ready to serve.

for the lobster tails:
2 4oz lobster tails
1 stick of butter
4 tablespoon of water

First I put the lobster tails in an airtight container and covered them with boiling water and a squeeze of lemon. I left them in there for 2 minutes before taking them out and using kitchen shears to cut through the underbelly of the lobster tail and the top part of the shell. This makes the shells much easier to remove. Make sure to shell them while they are still hard, otherwise the meat will stick to the shells. Set the lobster tail meats aside.

For the beurre monté, cut one stick of butter into small pieces. Start with 4 tablespoons of water in the bottom of a small pot. Once the water comes to a boil, slowly add in small pieces of butter, whisking constantly after each piece to ensure emulsification. I was only cooking two lobster tails and my pot was relatively small so this amount of beurre monté was sufficient for me. If making more, just continue adding more butter--there's no need for more water. Set aside but keep warm.

When ready to assemble, place lobster into a pot with enough beurre monté so that the tails are just covered. Heat the lobster through in the butter for about 5 minutes.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Bourbon Caramel Chocolate Macarons

It's officially summer vacation! I spent the past week back home in Fresno, and although it was very relaxing, there really is not much to do there. So, we made a little trip to a magical place called BevMo! and made a few little purchases--one of them being a handsome bottle of Bulleit bourbon. After that, we spent all our afternoons lounging by the pool with fantastic drinks in hand--bourbon for the man and fruity, spicy drinks for me, of course.

With a bottle of bourbon just sitting around, I couldn't help but think about incorporating it into some desserts. First thing I thought of was bourbon caramel...then macarons (of course)...then chocolate macarons...and thus, my bourbon caramel chocolate macarons came into being. I filled the chocolate macaron shells with a dollop of caramel in the center surrounded by a ring of chocolate ganache. I don't have a specific recipe to post up yet...I kind of played everything by taste. In the end, there was only a very subtle hint of bourbon flavor so I'm working on making it a little bit more pronounced. Hopefully I'll have a full-blown recipe up eventually. This is just a little guide as to which products I used in the macaron shells and filling.


Bourbon Caramel Chocolate Macarons

for the macaron shells:
Guittard cocoa powder, unsweetened rouge red dutch process cocoa

for the chocolate ganache filling:
Valhrona Guanaja, 70% dark chocolate

for the bourbon caramel filling:
Bulleit bourbon

Friday, June 10, 2011

lunch today: Soft Shell Crabs

While wandering through the seafood section of Whole Foods today, I saw some beautiful soft shell crabs. I'd never seen them at Whole Foods before, and at $4.99 a piece, I thought they weren't too overly expensive (tell me if I'm wrong). Still, I stood there for an awkward 5 minutes just looking back and forth between the seafood guy and the soft shell crabs, trying to decide whether or not I wanted to buy the crabs and attempt frying something for the first time. In the end, I bought them.

Frying also turned out to be a lot less scarier than I had made it out to be in my head. I imagined oil splashing out of the pan and attacking my tong-wielding hand, or even overflowing oil bubbling out of the pot. Neither actually happened. It was actually quite drama free, and the results were so satisfactory, I might start frying things more.

So here is a little recipe of what I did today. Everything occurred on a whim and some parts might benefit from a little more refinement or planning ahead, but the entire dish took less than 30 minutes from start to finish.


Soft Shell Crabs with White Corn Relish
makes two servings

for the sweet corn relish:
1 ear white corn
1/2 jalepeno, finely diced
1/2 fresno chili, finely diced
1 small shallot, finely diced
1 small clove of garlic, minced
juice of one lime

Place the entire ear of corn, husk, silk, and all in a microwave and cook on high for 3 minutes. If the corn is already husked, loosely wrap a damp paper towel around it instead. While it is cooking, seed and dice the chili peppers, mince the shallot and garlic, and mix it all together in a bowl with the lime juice. Once the corn is cooked, shock it in some ice cold water. When it is cool enough to handle, cut off the kernels and add it to the bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. This can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator.

for the chili vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 teaspoon sushi vinegar (sweetened rice wine vinegar)
1 teaspoon olive oil

Whisk together and set aside.

for the cilantro oil:
handful cilantro leaves
handful parsley leaves
olive oil

Today, I just threw all the ingredients into a mortar and pestle and went at it. If I was planning ahead, I would pull out the food processor, blend them all together, set it sit in the fridge, and then strain through a paper towel for a more vibrant, pure, green oil. Next time!

for the cornmeal-crusted soft shell crabs:
2 cleaned soft shell crabs
2 tablespoon corn meal
2 tablespoon all purpose flour
vegetable oil

Mix together the cornmeal, flour, some salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil on the bottom of a deep frying pan. Soak the whole soft shell crabs in enough buttermilk to cover while the oil heats up. Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, shake off excess buttermilk from the crabs and dip in the cornmeal mixture. Shake off excess and gently place the crabs in the hot oil. It should start sizzling right away. Cook each side until golden brown, flipping once. Remove from pan and drain the excess oil off the crabs on a paper towel.

to plate:
Arrange corn relish on the center of the plate. Cut the soft shell crab in half and place on top of the corn. Drizzle cilantro oil and sriracha vinaigrette around the plate. Garnish with cilantro leaves and cilantro flowers.

Monday, June 6, 2011

dinner tonight: Fennel and Sausage Orecchiette

Lately I've been craving pasta. Usually I like to be difficult, and I crave fresh, handmade pasta, but this time, I'm simply craving some dried, boxed pasta. I can't even remember the last time I bought a box of rigatoni or penne. When I picked some up from the grocery store today, hearing the hard pasta rattling around in the box instantly brought back memories. The first meal I ever cooked from start to finish on my own was back in high school. It was Mother's Day and I wanted to surprise my mom with lunch. I followed Ina Garten's recipe for linguine with shrimp scampi exactly. Simply boiling the pasta and making the lemon butter sauce simultaneously was almost too much for me to handle, but from then one, if I announced I was making dinner, you can bet it involved some pasta dish.

My first taste of fresh pasta was at Bartolotta in the Wynn Las Vegas. I remember falling in love with the texture and wondering why all pasta couldn't taste like that. Once I got the pasta extruder attachment for my stand mixer, I became a pasta extruding machine. If I was going to make a pasta dish, it had to be made with fresh pasta. For a while, all I did was extrude rigatoni and make bolognese sauce. So really, now that I'm thinking about it, I don't think I've touched a box of dried pasta since I got that pasta extruder over a year ago.

Tonight, I tried to work some magic with little pieces of dried orecchiette. Italian for "little ear,"orecchiette might possibly be my favorite pasta shape. I love the extra chew that comes from the little dimpled shape. Orecchiette always seems to be served with sausage, sausage reminds me of fennel, and I love fennel. So, Voila.

Here's a rough recipe of what I made tonight:

Fennel and Sausage Orecchiette

1 slice pancetta, 1/4 thick, diced
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
crushed red pepper
fennel seeds
1 link mild Italian sausage, from Whole Foods removed from casing
1 small bulb fennel, thinly sliced
2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 large tomatoes, blanched and skinned, large dice
white wine
fennel fronds

1. Render the fat out of the pancetta in a sauté pan until browned but not completely crispy. You may wish to drain some of the fat, but it's tastier if you don't ;)

2. Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent but be careful not to burn the garlic. Add a sprinkling of crushed red pepper and fennel seeds. Toast the spices a little in the oil to make them fragrant.

3. Remove sausage from casing and add to the pan. Break it into pieces and cook until browned.

4. Add in thinly sliced fennel and cook until barely translucent.

5. Add tomato paste and chunks of fresh tomato. Cook until the liquid from the fresh tomato has evaporated then deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine.

6. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Finish with fennel fronds.

7. After the dried pasta has cooked for the recommended amount of time on the box, drain and add directly into the sauce. Keep the sauce and pasta on the stove for a few minutes to let the sauce really soak into the pasta.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

dinner tonight: Bibb Lettuce Salad

date: 6/4/11

Bibb Lettuce Salad
cucumber, white corn, sautéed shrimp, green goddess dressing

Lately, I haven't been feeling very motivated to blog. Even writing this post right now is not as enjoyable as it used to be. It's distressing because this blog used to be a much larger part of me, and I don't want to lose it.

It's not because I no longer enjoy taking pictures of food that I eat, and it's definitely not because I've lost my love of food. I just realized it's been a while since I've really had such a spectacular meal that I'm rushing home to blog about it. I also don't feel the need to blog about a dinner that a dozen other food blogs out there are already waxing poetic about. Nor do I just want to be an encyclopedic documentation of dishes at a restaurant. And honestly, sometimes I just want to eat. Who wants to deal with a camera when there's tasty food in front of you?

So, I've come up with this temporary remedy/trick to get myself into food blogging again. Since summer is approaching, and I have about a month before any traveling occurs, I will probably be cooking a lot at home. I'm going to start posting pictures up of the dishes I make. Maybe it's fantastic, and I'll want to share a recipe within the post. Maybe it's a work in progress and the recipe needs little tweaks here and there before I share. Maybe it just looks tasty and I want to post up a picture. I'm going to stop expecting so much of my posts. I'm just going to share.

So this was dinner tonight--a last minute creation that turned out better than I was expecting. It was my first time making green goddess dressing, and I took a little short cut by not even pulling out the food processor to make it. I merely finely chopped up some scallions and basil and whisked it together with some anchovies, mayonnaise, sour cream, and lemon juice. I'm definitely going to experiment with this dressing more. The baby shrimp were quickly sautéed with some olive oil and garlic before finishing with some white wine. I reached into the heart of my head of lettuce and pulled out the tender, small leaves in the center--the best part.