Monday, February 18, 2013

Let's Start with Dessert!

I made my husband a very special Valentine's dinner last week. We started with Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup and moved on to Lobster Thermidor with Duchess Potatoes and French style Green Beans with Bacon and Garlic. Our finale was...
Who doesn't like ice cream?!? I was on an ice cream making kick a couple years ago and gained 10 lbs. so have slowed down a bit. This recipe was different from many which call for cooking the custard prior to cooling and then churning. The custard portion in this recipe was not cooked. The ice cream was creamy with an elegant texture and rich strawberry flavor. It was very easy to make because the custard mixture was not cooked, just chilled overnight before churning.

3 cups strawberries, washed, stemmed and blended
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 cups Half and Half
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 cup Heavy Cream
Whenever possible I use organic cream. Regular cream has chemical additives where organic is made just from the cow's milk.  Almost all ice cream recipes have the same ingredients; some combination of milk and/or cream, eggs, flavoring and sugar.

Wash berries thoroughly. This is one fruit that tends to hold onto pesticides so good cleansing is essential. To core the strawberries I used a very cute gadget my brother and his wife gave me for Christmas. It made the job very easy. Actually they gave me a bunch of kitchen gadgets which have been fun to use!
Open the corer by pressing down on the top green button. Plunge into the top of the strawberry. Twist and remove the stem. Once your berries are washed and cored, blend them in food processor or blender to a coarse chop.

In a large bowl beat 2 eggs until light and very bright lemon color. Beat in 1 1/4 cups sugar, 1/4 tsp. vanilla, 2 cups Half and Half and 1 cup Heavy Cream. Stir in strawberries. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refridgerator for a few hours or overnight.

Freeze the ice cream per your manufacturers specs. Most churning requires 20-30 minutes to freeze. I have a 1 Qt. Cuisinart Ice Cream maker so this recipe is too large to churn in one batch. Of course I learned that the hard way by trying to fit it all in! Electric ice cream makers retail for under $100 so if you really love ice cream, buy one! It is so easy to make, much better than what you get in the store and after a few quarts has paid for itself!

One happy customer!

This was the first time I have made Lobster Thermidor although I have had it a few times in a restaurant and loved it. This is far better than what you get in a restaurant although it was a fair amount of work to put together. I will save this for special occasions and holidays. This French dish was created in 1894 at a Parisian restaurant near the Theatre Comedie Francaise to honor the opening of a play called, Thermidor. In the 1940's Chef Louis De Gouy, chef at the Waldorf Astoria in NYC for 30 years, author of 16 cookbooks, international guest chef and one of the founders of Gourmet Magazine made this dish very popular in America. To learn more about famous Chef Louis P. De Gouy go to: Plug his name into her search box and take a look at her food blog! I think the dish is somewhat out of 'favor', now considered old fashioned and stodgy, but I assure you this dish is anything but! This is not his original recipe. I have doctored it just a bit.

One 2 1/2 lb. lobster
1/2 stick (4 Tbsp.) unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup port or medium dry sherry
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley, more for garnish
1 Tbsp. chopped tarragon, more for garnish
1/8 tsp. hot pepper flake
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/2 cup Half and Half
2 large egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup lightly buttered bread crumbs

Plunge lobster head-first into 8-quart pot of boiling salted (2 Tbsp. for 8 qts.) water. Cover. Immediately turn down heat so the pot does not boil over. Lobster meat is more tender if cooked gently so gently boil for about 15 minutes. Most recipes call for much longer cooking time, but cooking too long makes the lobster meat tough. You will be re-cooking the lobster once assembled back into the shells so no danger of raw lobster. I cooked the lobster in the morning and set aside to cool.

Once cooled, twist off the claws and remove meat. Chop into bite sized pieces. Cut the lobster in half using kitchen shears. Start at the tail and carefully keep cutting all the way through.


Pull out the rest of the meat and cut into pieces. With your finger, clean out the shell of any undesirable lobster pieces/parts. This is a boy lobster so had no roe (that is the red stuff which are the lobster eggs, edible and great for sauces and seasoning.) I removed the tamale (that is the green stuff which is actually the lobster's liver and pancreas--sounds gross, but is considered a delicacy by many. It's also great for flavoring sauces or just scooped up and eaten on its own.)

Make a roux by melting 4 Tbsp. butter, add 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add 1/4 cup flour and stir over low heat until flour is well incorporated. Add the Heavy Cream and Half and Half, port or sherry, all of the herbs, spcies, seasoning, mustard, and keep stirring and cooking over low heat for about 15 minutes. Temper the eggs (blend a few Tbsps. of the hot roux into the eggs to heat them up so they don't start cooking when you add them back into the roux.) Add in the heated egg yolks. Continue stirring for about another 5 minutes. Taste to adjust seasoning (more pepper? salt? paprika?) If the roux is too thick add a little more cream to thin it down. You want it to be thick, but not cloyingly so.

Now it's time to add all your lobster pieces into the roux along with any lobster juice that may have collected. Cook gently for another 10 minutes to blend the flavors.

Put this mixture back into the clean lobster shells. Top with parmesan cheese, lightly buttered bread crumbs, and a little more parsley and tarragon. Pop under a hot broiler for a few minutes until the cheese just starts to melt.

Once again I was so excited about serving and eating this meal, I did not get a picture of the final presentation. It was well worth the steps to put this dish together!

I have discussed these potatoes before. Basically boil yellow or gold potatoes (such as Yukon Golds) until soft. Mash with salt, pepper, 1/2 stick butter, a splash of Heavy Cream and an egg or two. Traditionally you pipe them into little golden mounds. Brush with butter and broil. That's what I did this time and they were the perfect accompaniment to the thermidor.

To French the green beans, cut the beans into thin strips and saute with a lot of garlic and a couple strips of crumbled bacon previously fried crispy.
It was a Valentine's Dinner to remember. We had a big fire in the fireplace, romantic music playing, and candles burning everywhere...this time not out of necessity (we lost our power for 3 days the week before during the Nemo Blizzard!), but for the shear romance of it. These are the flowers my husband gave me for Valentine's Day!
A bright spot of spring which is only about 5 weeks away!
Enthusiasm is contagious...I hope you catch some of my excitement for and love of cooking!
See you again soon for more talk about food, cooking and most importantly
having fun in the kitchen!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Baby Back Pork Ribs!

I made ribs for Super Bowl last Sunday and I must say they were really delicious! I know self praise is no praise at all, but these ribs were pretty special. I think both the barbeque sauce and cooking them for hours made the difference--the meat fell off the bone! They were the best ribs I have ever made or eaten! I know many recipes call for cooking your ribs with a dry rub and adding the sauce after, but I decided to try cooking the ribs in the sauce and I think it made all the difference. I also marinated the rack for several hours before oven roasting and I think that also added a good depth of flavor. Here's what I did...


15 rib rack of pork
Barbeque sauce-recipe follows
Marinade-recipe follows

1/4 spiced rum (I used a new Bacardi spiced rum called Oakheart, but any spiced rum would work just fine).
1/4 cup Ponzu citrus soy sauce (Again, use whatever soy you have.)
1/4 tsp. hot pepper flakes
1/2 cup brown sugar

Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Cool. Place ribs in a large roasting pan and cover with the marinade and let sit, covered in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours turning ribs every 45 minutes or so to make sure all sides benefit from the marinade.

Make the barbeque sauce.

2 cups ketchup
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
5 Tbsp. brown sugar
5 Tbsp. white sugar
1 Tbsp. Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp. Sriracha or any similar hot sauce
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. smoky paprika chipotle seasoning (I used the Victoria Taylor brand I talked about last time.)
1 tsp. dried chopped onion
1 tsp. dried chopped garlic

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook uncovered for about 1 hour or until you have the desired thickness. Stir every once in awhile. If it gets too thick, thin it with a little water. Let cool. Your entire house will smell like a barbeque joint while this is cooking!
You can doctor this sauce any way you like with cumin, more hot sauce, liquid smoke, cinnamon, molasses, beer or wine, etc., etc....that's the fun of it and once you make your own BBQ sauce I don't think you will buy it again! It's delicious and very easy.

Preheat oven to 290 degrees.

After ribs have marinated for 2+ hours pull out of the marinade and let drain on paper towels. Wash and dry the roasting pan and line with 2 strips of heavy duty foil. Lay the ribs on the foil and cover with a generous cup of the BBQ sauce. Wrap the foil tightly so steam stays inside the foil.

Put the ribs in the oven and do not check them for 3 hours. After they have baked, open the foil, add more sauce and brown under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until they have a nice BBQ crust, but watch so they don't burn...there's lots of sugar in the sauce that can catch quickly.

Cut ribs apart and serve on a platter with extra sauce and plenty of napkins!

I served our ribs with an interesting beer from Allagash Brewing, Co., Portland, Maine, thanks to our friends Ed and Louise who gave us this very special Allagash Curieux. Curieux is the French word for curious or intriguing and this beer was all of that and more. The beer is aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels for 2 months creating a rich, creamy, sweet flavor with a hint of bourbon. It is stronger in alcohol than regular beer and was the perfect accompaniment to the ribs.

Check them out:

As a starter to the ribs I made a pizza with whole grain crust. I bought the dough from the store all ready to roll out, but you could easily make it yourself if you wanted.



For carmelized onion:
2 medium onions, sliced thinly
Olive oil for pan
1/4 tsp. salt
Juice and zest from 1/4 lemon
1/4 cup water. More if needed as the onions carmelize.
(This will make more than you need for the pizza, but it's always nice to have carmelized onions on hand to add to sandwiches, stirfries or great on a burger with melted blue cheese.)

Other ingredients:
1/2 pound scallops
5 strips bacon
1 cup mozzarella
1 cup parmesan
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 scallion tops (green part only), cut into thin rings
Enough Olive Oil for liberal drizzling
Flour for rolling out the dough

Start by carmelizing the onions. Cut 2 medium onions into thin rings. Heat a large frying pan with a little olive oil. Add the onions and reduce to lowest simmer. Add 1/4 tsp. salt and the juice and zest (yellow part only) from 1 quarter lemon. Finally add 1/4 cup water. Cover tightly and let steam for about an hour until onions are very soft and caramel color. Check on them every 20 minutes or so to make sure they are not getting brown. Add more water if they start to get dry. Remove from heat to cool. The onions get very sweet as they cook.

You can do this in the morning or even the day before. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in fridge until ready to use.

Next, fry the bacon until very crisp. Cool. Cut into 1/2 pieces and set aside. This can also be done ahead.

Sprinkle your counter with a light coating of flour. Coat the pizza dough in the flour by rolling it around in the flour. Roll out pizza dough with a rolling pin (if you don't have a rolling pin, a heavy glass works; just be careful not to break the glass!) until it is only about 1/4 inch thick. One of these days I am going to buy a pizza stone, but in the meantime I use a heavy baking sheet which works just fine. Place the dough in an ungreased baking sheet or pizza stone.
Pizza ready to bake.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Build the pizza by starting with the 2 cheeses (reserve a little of both for topping), oregano, scallops (cut in half if they are honkers), bacon, carmelized onion, a little more of the 2 cheeses and finally the scallion tops.

Drizzle the entire pizza with a liberal amount of olive oil. I am sorry I did not measure this so can't give you an exact amount. I just very slowly drizzled the oil in an even pattern over the entire pizza.

Cook for 12-14 minutes until pizza crust is lightly browned at edges. Yum, Yum, Yummy!


Since this site is about having fun in the kitchen no matter what the outcome I am sharing the Super Bowl dish that was not the best. I have had the most scrumptuous yucca root in garlic at various Cuban restaurants so decided to try to recreate it at home. I probably should've looked up some techniques before starting, but I just forged ahead on instinct. This time they were a little off. The yucca I know and love is crispy on the outside (probably deep-fried) and soft and creamy inside. I started by peeling and chopping the yucca into cubes. This is a very hard root and is usually waxed. I find it easier to peel by first cutting in 3-4 inch pieces.
Some say yucka; others say yooka. Take your pick. I say yucka!

I peeled a whole small head of garlic and chopped finely. Mix both yucca cubes and garlic in a liberal amount of olive oil and let marinate for several hours turning every so often.
This is the raw yucca marinating in garlic and olive oil.
I put the marinated yucca in a preheated 400 degree oven for one hour. One mistake was I did not cut the cubes small enough. 2nd mistake, I think I should've par boiled the yucca until it was soft and then fried in a frying pan with oil and the garlic, rather than baking raw for an hour. I am going to try that method and let you know how it comes out. If any of you have a favorite way of preparing yucca root, please let me know.

I forgot to take a photo of the finished yucca, which looked pretty good, but was not at all creamy, in fact was quite hard, but did taste good.

My friend Ann recently asked me if I walk around the kitchen with a camera in my hand. I thought the question was valid, but the answer is NO. I do walk around the kitchen and most every other place with my crackberry in hand. My phone takes better pictures than my camera and it is so easy to snap away while cooking.

I have so many more food things I want to share with you,
but will save them for next time.
This is in hopes the balloon makes it off the ground on Saturday. I will be with you in spirit as you drift over the Tortolita's. Have fun Diana, Dennis, Robb and Anabel!!
Did you know there are nearly 200 'named' mountain ranges in Arizona?!?
Please tune in again soon for another episode of: