Monday, March 8, 2010

Lobster and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

This is a recipe modeled after a similar one at one of the restaurants here in Richmond. It's easy enough and definitely worth making if you want to impress a party.

You will need:

3 tbsp salted butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 lb lobster meat
2 tablespoons finely chopped roasted red peppers
1 tsp dried dill weed
8 oz neufchatel cheese

Over medium heat melt the butter and add the garlic. Add the lobster and cook for several minutes, stirring often with a spatula, until done. Make sure to watch so the butter doesn't burn. Halfway through add the red peppers. In a blender or countertop mixer, put the neufchatel and dill weed. Take the lobster off the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes before adding to the neufchatel mixture. Blend until almost all chunks are gone. This makes about a cup, serve with pita chips or flatbread.

Baked Casarecce

This is a dish I've found myself making a lot lately, probably because it's so easy and you can vary the content. I keep mine simple with sauce and vegetables but you could include anything, such as meatballs or even roasted nuts.

I'm posting the recipe I use which serves 2 people, maybe 3. Increase as you see fit.

You will need:

1 cup dry casarecce pasta
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup either provolone or mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh or frozen broccoli, spinach or asparagus

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Boil the pasta and vegetables for about 10 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Strain and set aside. Mix together the salt, marinara and ricotta and add the pasta. Put into a baking dish and cover with the remaining cheeses. Bake for about 10 minutes, then broil until the top becomes bubbly and begins to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

A Quick Note About Meat

I figure it deserves an explanation, my increasing inclusion of meat in my recipes. Due to some health issues I've had to start cooking it for myself; before I only made it for dinner parties per request. There will be more recipes including poultry and certain types of seafood appearing in the future, but I plan to post plenty of vegetarian or veggie-based dishes as I always have. If you do choose to eat meat, I highly recommend getting the organic, cage free, antibiotic-free variety. A happy chicken is a tasty chicken :)

Roast Chakhokhbili: Roasted Georgian Chicken

Making this dish was an adventure in and of itself; eating it was another. Chakhokhbili is a Georgian chicken stew infused with lots of spices and vegetables; instead of making a stew, I decided to roast the chicken whole to give my guests their desired selection of meat. This was the hands-down favorite at my last dinner party. Georgian cuisine is very flavorful and based on ingredients native to the region; one cannot categorize it as Middle Eastern, Indian or Russian, it is an entity in and of itself. The Georgian people are fiercely proud of the culinary bounty provided by their native land, which is clear from the first bite.

The recipe is based on Clarissa Hyman's chakhokhbili recipe published in The Jewish Kitchen, one of my favorite cookbooks. I had to adjust a few ingredients and the cooking time, as always, but I stuck fairly close to the original recipe. However, the sauce came out a little too chunky for my taste, so I'm describing each step separately.

For the sauce:

2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 lb peeled and boiled potatoes
15 oz can plain tomato sauce
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
1 cup Shiraz or other red wine

Put the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they become translucent and slightly browned; remove from the heat. Combine all sauce ingredients and mash together, not all lumps need to be gone but the potatoes should be mashed enough to contribute to the texture of the sauce. Heat for about 10 minutes.

For the chicken:

1 medium chicken
1 large roasting pan, lined with foil
1 cup chicken broth
several tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the broth into the roasting pan and after salting and rinsing, add the chicken. Top the chicken with a cup to a cup and a half of the sauce and bake for an hour and a half. Remove from the oven and increase the heat to 400. Using a wooden spoon, gently clear some of the sauce from the top of the chicken -- this will allow the outside to become crispy. Put it back in the oven and cook until the outside is brown and crispy; using a meat thermometer, check to make sure the meat on the thigh hits at least 165 degrees before removing for good. You can either serve this whole and allow people to sauce it as they desire or you can divide it into about 8 sections, toss and coat with the remainder of the sauce and finally, top with the fresh mint.

I Artichoke You: How to Prepare, Steam and Serve an Artichoke and Hollandaise

So I'll start this off with a nod to Susan Russo of Foodblogga. She has an absolutely fabulous guide to selecting and preparing fresh artichokes so I can't take complete credit for the guidelines on how to do those things. However, I've repeated her method several times and it always works. What never fails to escape me is which poor sap initially thought this strange vegetable would be good to eat.

Whoever they were, they took one for the team -- the combination of sweet artichoke with the spicy, lemony, creamy goodness of Hollandaise sauce is alarmingly decadent. However, I consider this something every good cook should know how to make, so I'm sharing my methods.

To prepare the artichoke:

Using a large sharp knife, cut off the base stem and top 1/5 of the artichoke. Pull off any dead or bruised leaves and use kitchen shears to trim the tips off of the leaves on the sides. Very carefully pull the sides of the artichoke open until the purple flower of the choke is visible. I like to use a grapefruit spoon for this, but a regular spoon works fine -- pluck out the flower and scrape out the fuzz in the bottom of the choke. Working quickly, rub the surface with a sliced lemon and squeeze some juice into the cavern where the flower once was, lest you want a brown and oxidized artichoke.

For this recipe, you will need:

2-3 artichokes
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
a few dashes of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup melted butter

In a large covered pot, heat the artichokes in about 2 inches of water over medium heat with a dash of salt and lemon juice. Allow to simmer and steam for about half an hour. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside, being careful to not let them fall apart.

Using either a blender or a countertop mixer with a whisk setting, combine the egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice and pepper flakes. Heat the butter in a small saucepan until very hot, but watch it to make sure it doesn't burn. With the blender or whisk on high speed, pour the butter in a very thin stream into the yolk mixture. It will end up thickening almost immediately, so there's no need to continue mixing after the butter is all incorporated.

I like to serve the artichoke with a bit of Hollandaise put into the center of the cavern, but others prefer to serve it on the side. Pluck a leaf off, dip into the sauce and using your bottom teeth, scrape the meat off of the fibrous outer leaf. As you progress to the center the leaves will get more tender, eventually ending with the coup de grace: the heart. Smother it in Hollandaise and smile.

Raspberry Vanilla Creme Tart

This is a recipe I actually scrounged from random things I had around before grocery shopping -- phyllo dough, raspberries, vanilla butter, etc. Despite the riskiness of the dough, it was a success.

Phyllo dough is like the grizzly bear of the food world, it can smell fear and will react accordingly. For first timers this is a good recipe to try for getting used to working with it; the sheets don't have to be perfect and you can utilize small pieces that were torn off. So face this bravely and you'll tame the wild phyllo you'll have an awesome tart.

To make vanilla butter, bring a liter or two of water to a rolling boil and throw in 2 sticks of butter. Follow with 2-3 vanilla bean pods and turn the heat to a quick simmer, allow to cook for 30 minutes to an hour. Strain the mixture and set in a cool place for a few hours. The butter will rise to the top and solidify, leaving the liquid in the bottom to easily drain out. If you don't have this kind of time, regular butter will work fine as well.

You will need (for the crust):

12 inch round cake pan
1/2 - 1 cup melted vanilla butter
1/2 lb phyllo dough

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the bottom and sides of the cake pan with a few tablespoons of butter and stick a sheet of phyllo to it. Repeat the process of brushing with butter and wallpapering the phyllo down. Make sure to get the sides and bottom evenly and do this until you run out of dough. Bake for 5 minutes or until it turns a golden puffy brown, remove from the oven and set aside.

For the pastry creme:

2 cups whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
4 tbsp salted butter
1/2 cup cane sugar
4 tablespoons flour

Heat the milk, 1/4 cup sugar and the vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat until it simmers. Whisk the remainder of the sugar and egg yolks together in a bowl, when they become light and fluffy add the flour. Remove the milk from the heat and slowly mix a thin stream of it into the yolks; after about half is added, switch your method and start adding the milk-yolk from the bowl to the rest of the milk in the saucepan, keeping it over medium-low heat. Stir quickly as it heats and once it thickens, remove from the stovetop. Set aside.

For the raspberry filling, you will need 1- 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries and 3-4 tbsp cane sugar. Heat these in a saucepan over medium heat for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring often.

Take the raspberry syrup and drizzle into the phyllo crust. Follow with the pastry cream, smoothing the top with a spatula. Chill until ready to serve.