Friday, January 9, 2015

Lobster Thermidor

Happy New Year!

And Happy New Blog Year as well.  Time for a bit of self-congratulating and pat-myself-on-the-backing, cause the ole’ bloggy has reached its one hundredth post.  This one right here that you’re soaking up with your very own eyeballs.  Who knew when I started this little endeavor almost five years ago that it would go this long?

Well, I’ve enjoyed it, and am proud to have amassed a nice collection of recipes that not only form a nice reference for me but are now handy for sharing with family and friends and strangers alike.  Anyhoo, before we get to that 100th post recipe, I have a little announcement to make.  I’m making a change here at the blog, hopefully, a change for the better. 

Here’s the change in three words.  Better Food Photography.  Yes, over the years I’ve poured over many a food blog and lamented that many of them had such professional looking food photography on them, while mine was pretty much hit or miss.  Oh, sometimes I got lucky and got a nice shot or two, but often times my photos looked quite amateur, or even downright crappy.  But I just settled for such, figuring those pro-looking shots were beyond me. 

Well, no longer, sez I.  Over the past few months I’ve been studying, buying new lighting equipment, learning and practicing and figuring it all out.  What I discovered is that just a few simple changes and a few cheap pieces of equipment can drastically improve one’s photography.  I’d always shot with a pretty high end camera, but I always just set it on automatic and shot away.  Now I’m shooting in manual, with off-camera strobe lights, and the results are pretty awesome.  Sure, there’s still room for improvement, and I’ll be striving for that as the months and years follow, but I’m still happy with where I’m at now—light years ahead of some of the old stuff. 

I’ll be posting a page shortly with some more info on my new photography technique.  Meanwhile, what follows is the first recipe to fully feature the results. 

So, the 100th post recipe.  What to post, what to post?  Well, I decided it had to be something special.  Something decadent.  Something French.  Enter Lobster Thermidor. 

Even though I’m something of a lobster purist, and don’t feel that it really needs to be all gussied up with sauces and such, Lobster Thermidor has always fascinated me, as do all old guard French recipes that harken back to days of gastronomic glory.  I just had to try to make it at least once.  The results actually turned out to be pretty spectacular, but what else would one expect from those decadent French!

Lobster Thermidor

2 One and A Half Pound Lobsters
1/2 stick Butter
1/2 Pound Mushrooms, Sliced
1/2 Onion, Diced
1 Shallot, Diced
1/2 Cup White Wine
1/4 Cup Flour
2 Tablespoons Cognac or Brandy
1/2 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
2 Egg Yolks
1 Tablespoon Dry Mustard
1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon Chopped Fresh Tarragon
1/8 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon White Pepper
1 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese

To begin, prep your lobsters by steaming or boiling them.  I generally boil Lobsters, as I find it easier and am happy with the results.  Get a nice large pot a little over half full of water and get it to a rolling boil.  

Yes, we have a dedicated lobster pot.  Shouldn’t everyone?

Boil lobsters for eight to ten minutes.  This will leave this just slightly undercooked, but that’s okay…they will continue to cook with residual heat and also a bit under the broiler later, and we don’t want them overcooked. 

When the lobsters are finished, we need to split them in half lengthwise.  Yes, lobster Thermidor is all about the fancy presentation, so we’ll be serving it in the shell.  I use good sharp kitchen shears to cut the lobster, 

starting at the tail and cutting along the back, then repeating with the belly, until I have two nice halves for each lobster.   

Next, remove the tail and claw meat and reserve.  Discard the rest of the lobster innards.

Now to make the sauce.  Melt butter in saucepan.  

French dishes always seem to start with butter.  When the butter is melted, add the sliced mushrooms...

and cook them until they are golden brown.  

Remove mushrooms and reserve.  Add more butter to the pan.  

Cook onions and shallots for a few minutes, 

then add the garlic and cook a minute more.  Add white wine and deglaze pan.  Cook 1-2 Minutes.  Add flour 

and cook until roux forms.  Add cognac or brandy 

and cook 1 minute.  Add the milk 

and cook for 2-3 minutes.  While this is going on, whisk the egg yolks together with the heavy cream.  Add this mixture to the skillet 

and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add mustard, tarragon, cayenne, salt, pepper and half the cheese and stir. 

Chop up the lobster meat into bite-sized chunks.  

At this point some recipes will tell you to add the meat and mushrooms to the sauce, but I find if you do that, you risk not evenly distributing your precious lobster meat in the shells.  So, add the lobster meat by first to the shell halves, 

then the mushrooms, 

and then you can cover with the sauce.  


Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.  

Broil for 5 minutes 

or so until golden brown on top. 

Serve immediately while the lobster and sauce is piping hot. 

Until Next Time,

Bon Appitit!


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Halibut en Papillote

Halibut is truly one of the most delightful of fishes--when you can get it.  It is definitely a seasonal thing, and it seems to be available at just certain times a year--even frozen.  I try to snap up as much as I can when I see it and keep it in the deep freeze for making wonderful dishes like this one.

En Papillote simply means 'in paper' in French, and that's because, yes, we'll be cooking the fish in a paper pouch.  Sounds weird, but actually this is a great technique that is easy to do and practically foolproof.  If you're worried about being able to cook your hard-won halibut perfectly, you can't go wrong with this technique.  The fish steams in its own juices, and all you have to do is time it right and it will come out perfect--no worries about overcooking.

The en papillote method also makes for a neat presentation--you can serve the dish right in the same pouch you cooked it in, ensuring the fish is piping hot when it gets to your table.

Halibut en Papillote

2 (or more) Six Ounce Halibut Steaks, Thawed
1/8 Teaspoon Salt
1/8 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 Cup Cherry Tomatoes, Sliced
1 Teaspoon Dried Basil (or a Tablespoon Fresh)
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Several Cloves of Garlic, Peeled and Sliced
2 Tablespoons Capers
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar

Preheat Oven to 400˚F.

Season the Halibut Steaks with salt and pepper.

Slice your tomatoes...

then add them with the rest of the ingredients to a bowl and mix well.

Tear off about a 20 inch run of parchment paper.  Place one of the halibut steaks on the paper to one side, leaving a couple inches space on three sides (and quite a few more on the forth).

Spoon half your tomato mixture over the fish,

then fold over the long side of the parchment paper, lining up the corners.  Fold the three open sides over a couple of times and staple, making a nice little rectangular package.

Repeat with the other halibut steak.

Place both packets on a tray and slide them in your oven.

Bake for 14 minutes.  You should hear a nice sizzling sound coming from the packets when they are done.

Serve immediately.  You can plate the packet and serve just like this, letting your guests tear open the packet and eat the fish right out of it.

Warn them to be careful...lots of hot steam in the packet.

You can also open the packets and plate everything as well, as I've done here.

Until next time,

Why not cook this one...just for the halibut!


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pizza on the Grill

Yes, you read that right--Pizza...on the grill.  Sure, it sounds like a weird way to make pizza, but it is actually simply, quick and makes some tasty pizza pies that have a bit of a baked-in-a-wood-oven character.  This is great for entertaining as well, as the pizzas cook in minutes so you can make several quite fast.

We got the idea for this from Steve Raichlen's wonderful book, How to Grill, and we stick pretty close to his technique.  This will be more a post about technique than recipe, so if you don't have your own sauce or dough recipe, you can find good ones here on one of my previous pizza posts.

Make enough dough for however many pizza's you are going to make.  Here I'm doing three.

Roll the dough out thin thin thin.  When I roll mine out, I usually stack them on a plate with wax paper between then.  The key to making these pizzas is to have everything ready and at your fingertips when the grill is hot.

That goes for your toppings as well.  Here we've got what we want for a simple pepperoni pie.

Some others we like to do include a white pizza (chicken with a white Alfredo sauce) and a green one (pesto with sun dried tomatoes).

Get your grill to a medium heat.

Prior to placing the grill rack over the coals, oil it up well so that the pizza dough won't stick.

Okay, get ready to work fast.  Place the first dough round on the grill.

Close the lid and let cook for 90 seconds to two minutes.  It may bubble up a bit.

No worries.  Just flip it.

Note the nice grill marks on the side we just grilled.

Now, working quickly, apply your sauce...

...then your cheese...

and finally your other toppings.

Close lid and let everything go for a couple of minutes.  This will melt the cheese without burning the bottom of the pie.

Here's our final product.

Yes, I cheated a little on this one and placed it under a hot broiler for a minute to give a little browning to the cheese.

Repeat with the other dough rounds and your favorite toppings.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Farfalle with Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

This is a simple yet easy to fix pasta dish that can be made in minutes but still packs a lot of flavor.  Better still, it can be made from ingredients you probably keep in your pantry (or should) for those times when you just can't seem to make it to the grocery store.

Of course you could roast your own peppers, slice up fresh tomatoes, roll out your own pasta dough, and I'm not knocking that--I do it all the time.  But in some cases there are certain flavors that show up in canned or jarred versions of veggies that actually aren't found in fresh, and in the case of this recipe, I prefer that.

Farfalle with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

8 Oz Cooked Farfalle (Bow Tie) Pasta
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, Diced
1 12 Oz Jar Roasted Red Peppers
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 6 Oz Can Tomato Paste
1 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
Dash Red Pepper Flakes
Salt to Taste

Start salted water boiling for your pasta.

Heat a skillet with the olive oil in it.

When it is hot, add your diced onion

and cook until the onions just start to turn golden brown.  While this is going on, get your jar of roasted red peppers.

I really loved these jarred roasted red peppers, and always keep a few of 'em in my pantry for last minute dishes like this one.  They have a unique flavor from being both roasted and slightly pickled that I find I can't get when I roast my own fresh red bell peppers.

Anyway, pull 'em out of the jar.

They will be pretty large pieces, so chop them down to something around bite sized.  Add 'em to the skillet when the onions have started to turn golden.

Stir this around and let cook for a few minutes, then add the balsamic vinegar.

Cook for one minute and then add the tomato paste.  Follow up this by adding the heavy cream.

Give everything a good stir to combine.

Add the smoked paprika

and the red pepper flakes, then allow to cook for 10 minutes or so, stirring often.

While this is going on, cook your farfalle in the boiling water until al dente, probably 8-10 minutes.

After 10 minutes taste the sauce and adjust with salt if necessary to taste.  Place the pasta in a bowl, spoon sauce over and serve it with a little shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top.

Until next time,

Savor the flavor, my friends.