Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Lobster Debate

Sometimes my boss orders the wrong thing.  Like when he is supposed to order 5-6 oz lobster tails, but he orders 15-16 oz tails instead.  That is a 5qt pot with two tails for your reference.  They were bigger than my hand.  They are obscene when you get right down to it.  And at $32.99/lb not too many people are going to line up to buy them.  Which means we have to reduce the price so we can sell them.  At $9.99/lb, yeah, I'll take two.  That would be plenty to feed 4 people, but my husband and I devoured them.

They were Maine lobster tails.  Now, you may think I am crazy, but my opinion holds true, Maine lobster is not my favorite.  I have a few friends that are probably swooning with mental agony at this point.  Don't get me wrong, I won't say no to any lobster, but if I have my choice, I won't choose Maine.  I'll pick spiny every single time.

Spiny (or rock) lobster is the Caribbean species.  They don't have the claws like the cold water variety, but their tails are usually larger compared to body size.  The meat is a little firmer and less sweet.  That may seem like a draw back to you, but I love the flavor that is more similar to shrimp.  Unfortunately, spiny lobster tends to be much more expensive here.

My rock love could probably be contributed to my first trip to Roatan, Honduras.  As soon as we got in the cab at the airport, our driver told us that lobster season had just opened the previous week.  I ate lobster at every given opportunity.  It was this trip in--holy shit!--2006, that my mom and I discovered fried lobster bites at Bite On The Beach.  Perfect, tender chunks of fresh spiny lobster in a tempura batter with an incredible house-made remoulade... to say my mouth is watering right now would be an understatement.  They do not always appear on the menu, but in our experience you can always request them.

It has been two years since I last visited my beloved island that feels so much like home.  But we already have our plane tickets for next summer!  186 days.  To be honest, the mere thought of returning to familiar, smiling, (and incredibly tan) faces and heedlessly slipping beneath the clear, blue, warm water is all that gets me through some days.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Whirlwind

OMG.  Whirlwind of prepping and food.  I didn't take pictures of anything; I had NO time.  Between work, friends, and family, I had three Thanksgivings.  I feel like the only feasible thing to do is list everything I ate over the course of this past week.

Cajun Roasted Goose*
winter sangria*
The most amazing mashed potatoes ever
pumpkin and black bean soup
broccoli rice casserole
glazed carrots
roasted butternut squash and brussel sprouts w/ goat cheese
shells & velveeta
salad w/ bacon maple vinaigrette*
sweet potato casserole
cranberry, spinach, feta rollups
chocolate pie
pecan pie
spiced peach cobbler
turkey and gravy
mac 'n' cheese
potato casserole
green bean casserole
meatballs w/ mushroom gravy
braised peppercorn pork tenderloin
spinach, caramalized onion, goat cheese rollups*
fudge pie
venison bourguignon*
smoked salmon w/ capered cream cheese*
brie en croute w/ blackberry jam
spinach and broccoli casserole
chicken and cornbread dressing*
cranberry glazed carrots
orange-cranberry sauce
apple pie

*-I made/helped my husband make

Whew.  I can't believe all of that went into my body; I am glad that is over.  I am also glad that I can honestly say I didn't eat anything that wasn't delicious!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pumpkin Apple Bread

Ohmehgerd!  The first pumpkin recipe of the year!  And it is pretty exciting.  I am eating right now.  This may be one of the best quick bread I have ever made.  Bonus, it is pretty healthy.  The chunks of apple give it such a nice texture.  I think a sweet apple with a firm texture is the best for this:  gala, fuji, breaburn.  Use whatever your favorite is though.  Stay away from softer apples like delicious, because they will turn very mushy while baking  I threw some chia seeds in the batter, basically because I just needed to use the damn things up.
smeared w/ Bruegger's Pumpkin Cream Cheese

Pumpkin Apple Bread
1 2/3 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 C + 1 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 C sugar
1/4 C honey
1/4 C water
~1 C pumpkin puree (half of a 15 oz can)
1 med apple, chopped
1/2 C pecans, chopped
1/4 C chia seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp clove
1/4 tsp nutmeg

   Combine all ingredients except flour and baking soda.  Slowly work in flour and baking soda.
   Pour into a greased 9x5 loaf pan.
   Bake at 350 deg F for 60-70 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
   1 loaf.  Serves about 10.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Butternut Squash & 1K Day Aged Gouda Gratin

I don't want to think about how my future as a young, educated, relatively poor woman is in total jeopardy today, and that this is the most important election of my short voting life so far.  So let's think about something happy.

Like cheese!

Delicious, salty, bubbly, melting cheese.

My local grocery store does not have the most amazing cheese selection.  But, they do try to have a decent variety for a non-specialty grocer, like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's who probably have it on hand at all times.  While I would happily spend butt loads of money on fine cheese, my bank account is not (yet) fit for that, so I often troll the counter looking for specially marked down cheese.  That is how I came across this beauty of funk.  You may not think of Gouda as a generally offensive cheese with its mild, but distinct flavor and pleasantly firm texture with a creamy mouth-feel.  But, let it age for 1000 days before shipping it out to cheese purveyors and it transforms into something else!  It is denser and dryer that its young counterparts with a texture more similar to Asiago.  The flavor concentrates and matures to become delightfully pungent.

The second I tasted it I knew I wanted to pair with earthy, sweet butternut squash.  It was so rich and satisfying!  Bonus, I got to use my lovely new piece ceramic bake wear that I found on clearance at World Market.  I am absolutely making this for holiday get together this year.

Butternut Squash & 1K Day Gouda Gratin
1 med butternut squash, peeled and cubed into small chunks
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 Tbsp flour
3/4 C 2% milk (room temp)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp sage
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 C shredded 1000 day aged gouda (reserve 1/4 C)
1/2 C panko
1 Tbsp shredded parmesan
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

   Melt butter into olive oil over med heat.  Whisk in flour to create a roux, stir for about 1 minute and make sure there are no lumps.  Slowly whisk in milk.  Add salt, pepper, sage, cayenne and nutmeg.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until thick.
  Add 1 1/4 C gouda.  Fold in butternut squash.  Pour into a lightly greased baking dish (8x8 is roughly the size you will need).  Cover.
   Bake at 350 deg F for 30 minutes.
   Mix 1/4 C gouda, parm, panko and extra virgin olive oil.
   Uncover.  Sprinkle panko topping evenly over the dish.
   Bake uncovered for 15 min at 350 deg F.
   Serves 4-6.  (6 is more likely because it is so rich.)

Order at Murray's Cheese or Di Bruno Bros.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Venison Bourguignon

I was lucky enough to be given a venison roast a few weeks ago.  A guy I work with was cleaning out his freezer in preparation of this year's regular deer hunting season which opes very soon here in Tennessee.  He said he usually gives the roasts away after making some jerky and keeping only a couple for himself.  I was excited to receive any sort of venison since my husband and father-in-law haven't shot a deer in a few years even though they say they will every year....  They better get one in the next couple of weeks because we are planning on making this for Thanksgiving.

Venison Bourguignon
2 lb venison roast, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
3 slices thick cut bacon, chopped (4 regular)
1 lrg onion cut into wedges
3 lrg carrots cut into chunks
2 C + 1/2 C dry red wine (Pinot Noir, Merlot, etc.)
2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp herbs de Provence
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp butter, diced
~2 tsp flour
salt and pepper

   Liberally salt and pepper meat.  Dust with flour.  Sear in a little oil over med-high heat.
   Place seared meat, bacon, vegetables, herbs, garlic, and 2 C wine in slow cooker*.  Cook on low for 8 hours. (High for ~4 hr).
   Add butter, 1/2 C red wine, and ~1 tsp flour to slow cooker.  Stir to melt butter and break up lumps of flour.  Cook on low another 1 1/2-2 hours.  (High ~45 min-1 hr.)
   Serves 6.

*You can add potatoes at the beginning of cooking and mushrooms when you add the butter if you would like.  I served it over mashed cauliflower so I didn't feel the need to add any starch to the pot, and my husband doesn't like mushrooms. =(