Archive | December, 2009

New Year’s

31 Dec

AT NEW YEAR’S, we especially think of lobster although the mere thought of  this recipe makes our jeans feel tighter. Damn you lobster spaghetti. Damn you!

We have been hoarding saving two versions of this famous Montreal recipe. We have both the restaurant’s offering and a home version from Bonnie Stern. We are thinking that Bonnie’s might be the winner, as she goes the extra step of steeping lobster shells in the cream for more flavour. Also, peas? Really? We’ll stick with Bonnie’s version below.

JOE BEEF’S LOBSTER SPAGHETTI

3 lobsters, cooked, meat and shells reserved

3 cups (750mL) whipping cream

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 tbsp (25mL) cognac or brandy

1 sprig fresh tarragon

½ tsp (2mL) Tabasco sauce

4 oz (125g) thick bacon, cut into 1″ (2.5cm) pieces

1 pkg spaghetti

1 tsp (5mL) salt or more to taste

½ tsp (2mL) freshly ground coarse black pepper

2 tbsp (25mL) chopped fresh chives or tarragon

Cut lobster in large chunks. Reserve. Place cream in a large saucepan and add garlic, bay leaf, thyme, brandy, tarragon and Tabasco. Bring to a boil. Add lobster shells. Cook very gently about 1 hour. Strain cream into a deep wide skillet or wok. Cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Just before serving, cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling, salted water until almost tender. Add lobster pieces to cream and gently reheat. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup (250mL) pasta cooking liquid. Add spaghetti to cream. Add bacon. Cook gently until sauce coats noodles well. Season to taste. If mixture is too thick add some reserved cooking liquid. Serve in a mound with fresh herbs and additional pepper sprinkled on top. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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LOBSTER SPAGHETTI Recipe from Joe Beef’s

2 4 1-1/4 lb. lobsters, cooked, chilled and cracked

1/2 lb. spaghetti 8 slices bacon, diced

1/4 cup brandy

1 cup peas

3/4 cup 35% cream

3/4 cup half-and-half cream

Salt and pepper

Chopped chives Remove meat from lobster tail, claws and knuckles. Chop into large chunks. Reserve. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling, salted water until tender. Drain and reserve. Meanwhile, sauté diced bacon in large frying pan over medium-high heat until crispy. Remove all but 1 tbsp of fat from pan. Add brandy and boil 15 seconds. Add peas and sauté until tender, about 1 minute. Add cream and bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute. Add half-and-half and lobster meat and cook until heated through. Add pasta and combine well using tongs. Season well with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped chives.

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Not so crabby now

27 Dec

It wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without this molten pleasure: photo-3

It’s a secret weapon at our family cocktail gathering. Not much to look at, (as you can tell!) so you’d better have a worthy vessel to serve it from. Perhaps it’s time for a Le Creuset mini cocotte or two?

UPDATE! Thanks to a generous and thoughtful friend who gave us this for Christmas, we now have a delightful tiny crock to serve in. Many thanks.

Something about seafood, silver serving dishes and cocktail forks makes us very happy. We adore our Christmas Eve ritual: a seemingly endless buffet of hors’ d’oeuvres and wine, followed by a sit down dinner with sherried French onion soup, good greens with chevre, pecans and pomegranate gems, and, of course, our newest favourite: la buche de Noel.

IMPERIAL CRAB DIP
Chevre
1/2 pack MacLaren’s Imperial Sharp Cold Pack Cheddar Cheese 250g
1 can crab meat (picked over)
2-3 minced garlic cloves
2 minced green onions
1 tsp dijon
2 tbsp mayo or cream cheese to loosen
2 tsp hot sauce
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Blend ingredients and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until bubbling. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon just before serving.

Cool Yule

24 Dec

Growing up, we were a fruit cake and goodie family at Christmastime, so we’re a little late getting to la bûche de Noël. Oh, but it’s never too late to start new traditions. The elegant French and Belgian city bakeries are offering gorgeous versions of the traditional sponge and mousse cake. Pricy, to be sure, but deadly good.

We had already ordered weeks in advance and forked over our credit card when brilliant and lovely Dinner with Julie proposed the idea of transforming an old fashioned wafer roll into a quick yule log. We nearly died of happiness. So simple! So fast! So next year!

Mousse insides can span all sorts of flavours: spiked with Baileys Irish Cream (!), espresso, hazelnut, gingerbread spice, peppermint, or any combination of fruit (raspberry, apricot, passionfruit, etc.).

UPDATE: We did it!

Raspberry on the inside, Bailey’s and marscapone with whipping cream on the outside. Our raspberry cream was a little too loose (too much water from the frozen berries we pushed through a seive.
But that’s easy to fix next time. Also, we ran out of time to sprinkle cinnamon or cocoa on the finished log, which has a ghostly naked appearance:

We like the idea of a raspberry filling and frosting made with 1 cup whipping cream, 1/2 tbsp brown sugar, and then folding in 1/2 cup Irish Cream mixed with 1/2 cup of mascarpone.

Chocolate wafer cookies, graham wafers and god knows whatever other biscuits will work.
Our version may not be as swank as the one above (designed by Alexis Mabille for Angelina Salon de The in Paris).

But jeepers. Pinch us. We’ll try.

Bark versus Bite

19 Dec

We are simply mad for chocolate peppermint bark a la Williams and Sonoma. It is a serious addiction. And we love the darling tin and tempting glass stand with matching dome. But it’s so bloody expensive. This year, we are tempted to cheap out and make our own.

How hard can it be? The key here is good quality chocolate. A base layer of melted chocolate, topped with cooled white chocolate laced with peppermint extract and sprinkled with crushed peppermint candy. This is the flavour of Christmas — see Gourmet’s peppermint bark cookies below this recipes.

Peppermint Bark

12 oz good chocolate chips
1 pound white chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup peppermint candy, crushed

Preheat oven to 250. Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper, letting it hang over the sides. Pour the chocolate chips in an even layer on the parchment paper. Place in oven for 5 minutes or until almost melted. Remove from oven, smooth with an offset spatula or knife. Place in refrigerator until cold and firm, about 20 minutes.

Melt white chocolate chips in a double boiler or in a metal bowl over simmering water (don’t let bottom of bowl touch water), until chocolate is almost melted. Remove bowl from water and stir until completely melted, stirring in extract. Let cool a little bit so it doesn’t melt the chocolate layer when you pour it on top. Pour this over chocolate layer, and, working quickly, spread to cover. Sprinkle with crushed candy.

Chill until both layers are firm. Lift parchment out of pan and shake off excess candy. Break into pieces. Chill in covered container. Makes about 2 pounds.

Tips from the internets: Don’t make the layers too thin as this can cause the layers to separate.
Take the bottom layer out of the frig a few minutes prior to spreading the top layer. Sometimes if the bottom is too cold, the top will set but may not bond completely with the bottom.
If there’s condensation on the bottom when you remove it from the frig, sometimes this prevents the top from sticking to it, as well.Let the bark sit out a few minutes before you try to cut or break it apart.

Psychosemitic

17 Dec


Since it’s Hanukkah, we’re thinking about latkes. We’re also dreaming about Zabar’s cinnamon rugelach. Since we are neither Jewish nor in New York, we scraped up three recipes.

We’re certain that the Barefoot Contessa will give Zabar’s rugelach a smackdown.

And City Bakery’s Maple Butter Baked Seckel Pears look too easy to be true.

Rugelach
Barefoot Contessa

•8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
•1/2-pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
•1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 9 tablespoons
•1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
•1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
•2 cups all-purpose flour
•1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
•1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
•3/4 cup raisins
•1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
•1/2 cup apricot preserves, pureed in a food processor
•1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash
Directions
Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until just combined. Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board and roll it into a ball. Cut the ball in quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make the filling, combine 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the raisins, and walnuts.

On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle. Spread the dough with 2 tablespoons apricot preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling. Press the filling lightly into the dough. Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges—cutting the whole circle in quarters, then each quarter into thirds.

Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge. Place the cookies, points tucked under, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush each cookie with the egg wash. Combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle on the cookies. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.

Maple Butter Baked Seckel Pears
City Bakery’s Ilene Rosen likes to slice them in half and bake them—stem, seeds, and all—with maple syrup and butter for a simple fall dessert that’s even better paired with creamy Camembert from Old Chatham Sheepherding Company.

1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup (preferably grade B or dark amber)
6 to 10 medium to larger-size seckel pears, stems on
Salt and pepper
Instructions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut pears in half lengthwise. (1) Brown butter in a small saucepan, and combine in bowl with the maple syrup. Mix well. (2) Toss pears in bowl to coat with mixture, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. (3) Place pears on sheet pan, cut side down, and bake 20 minutes, until pears are soft and cut side is very soft and caramelized. Let cool briefly before serving.

Cozy Shack Job

10 Dec

Amanda Hesser brought white bolognese and rigatoni to our radar in her book Cooking for Mr. Latte.

This is everything good Italian food is: rich, cozy and deeply flavourful.

We find the hearty comfort of these luxurious tastes mingled with wine and pasta utterly romantic.

The recipe also takes us back to a dreamy getaway at the elegant Palazzo in Las Vegas where the Mister declared himself over a gorgeous plate of turtei con aragosta (lobster and leek ravioli with shrimp, diced tomato and lobster-cream sauce) at Il Fornaio. The rest of the week was so, um, celebratory, we missed an opportunity to dine at Mario Batali’s CarneVino. Perhaps the recipe for Pappardelle Bolognese from The Babbo Cookbook will soothe our pining; perfect for digging into together on a cold night.

Another keeper is this Turkish variation of deconstructed lamb and eggplant dumplings, substituting farfalle for wrappers. It’s just as cozy and romantic to cook and share.

Similar to another amazing Batali recipe: Mint Love Letters with Spicy Lamb Sausage

So here are four — count ’em, four — recipes for staying warm on a cold night with the one you love…

White Bolognese with Rigatoni
Recipe from Amanda Hesser, Cooking for Mr. Latte

Unless we really effed up on proportions, we found this excessively meaty. We would happily up the veggie quotient, but still have plenty of sausage and beef.

Also, we should have tossed it together harder and smothered it with more cheese.

We expected the sauce to look a little more stroganoff-ish. It’s a rich dish to be sure, and the pasta does soak up the sauce. It is lovely.

extra virgin oil
1/2 a sweet onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped.
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb mild Italian pork sausage meat, removed from casings.
1 lb ground beef(not lean)
1 1/2 cups dry Italian white wine
1 cube beef bouillon dissolved in 2 cups simmering water
1 1/2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms rehydrated in 3 cups lukewarm water
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 lb rigatoni
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Add enough oil to a large, deep saute pan to coat the base and place over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion, carrots and celery and saute until glassy and just tender, about 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the sausage and beef to the pan, breaking it into walnut-size pieces, and brown well.
Pour in the wine and keep at a rapid simmer until the pan is almost dry. Then pour in 1 1/2 cups beef bouillon and lower the heat to medium. Simmer gently, uncovered, until the bouillon is nearly gone, stirring now and then. Meanwhile, chop the rehydrated porcini into small pieces, reserving the liquid.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add mushroom liquid to the sauce to cover the meat halfway(about 1 cup) along with the porcini and continue simmering until the sauce is loose but not soupy, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, it should be highly seasoned. When the consistency is right, fold the cream in. Remove from the heat and cover.
When the pasta water is at a full boil, add the rigatoni and cook until still firm, but not hard, in the center. When the pasta is almost done, scoop out 1 cup of pasta water and reserve. Drain the pasta and then return it to the pot. Pour the pasta sauce on top and fold in with a wooden spoon. The pasta should not be dry. Add a little pasta water or mushroom liquid to loosen it. (It will continue to soak up sauce on the way to the table.) Serve in one large bowl or indiviual bowls, passing the cheese at the table.

Pappardelle Bolognese
Mario Batali’s The Babbo Cookbook

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 lbs veal, ground
1 lbs pork, ground
1/4 lbs pancetta, ground
1 can tomato paste
1 cup milk
1 cup dry white wine
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of pepper
Directions
In a 6- to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic, and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the veal, pork, and pancetta and stir into the vegetables. Brown over high heat, stirring to keep the meat from sticking. Add the tomato paste, milk, wine, and thyme, bring just to a boil, then simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with pappardelle pasta (use Trader Joe’s egg pappardelle pasta).
Grate Parmigiano-Reggiano over pasta and ragu.

Pasta With Turkish-Style Lamb, Eggplant and Yogurt Sauce
recipe from New York Times

1 large eggplant, about 1 pound, in 1/2 -inch cubes
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, more to taste
3 fat garlic cloves, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1 pound ground lamb
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, preferably Turkish or Aleppo (see note), more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or dill, more to taste
1/2 pound bowtie or orecchiette pasta
2 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, to taste
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Bring a pot of water to boil for pasta.
Toss eggplant with 4 tablespoons oil and a large pinch of salt. Spread on a baking sheet, making sure there is room between pieces, and roast until crisp and brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
In a large skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and the shallot and sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add lamb, 1/2 teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper to taste. Sauté until lamb is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in mint or dill and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir eggplant into lamb. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter: the amount is to your taste. Let cook until it turns golden brown and smells nutty, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together yogurt, remaining garlic and a pinch of salt.
Drain pasta and spread on a serving platter. Top with lamb-eggplant mixture, then with yogurt sauce. Pour melted butter over top. Sprinkle on additional red pepper and more mint or dill. Serve immediately.

Yield: 2 to 3 servings.

Note: Turkish or Aleppo (Syrian) red pepper flakes are sold at specialty markets and at kalustyans.com. You may also substitute ground chili powder. Do not use crushed red pepper flakes; they will be too hot for this dish.

Mint Love Letters with Spicy Lamb Sausage
Recipe by Mario Batali
Kosher salt
1 pound shelled sweet peas, fresh or frozen
2 cups mint leaves, 16 leaves reserved for garnish
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1/2 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 recipe Basic Pasta Dough
1 recipe Basic Tomato Sauce
1 pound Merguez (spicy lamb sausage), cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 pound Grana Padano cheese, for grating

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Set up an ice bath nearby. Submerge the peas into the boiling water and cook until tender yet still bright green, 1-2 minutes. Remove the peas with a slotted spoon, reserving the boiling water, and plunge them into the ice bath to cool. Once the peas have cooled, remove them from the ice bath and allow to dry on a plate lined with paper towels.

Using the same water, blanch the mint leaves for just 10-15 seconds. Transfer immediately to the ice bath. Drain well.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the peas, mint, Parmigiano-Reggiano and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper and pulse to form a smooth paste.

Using a pasta machine, roll out the pasta dough on the thinnest setting and then cut the pasta sheets into 3-inch squares. Place 1 tablespoon of the pea filling on each square and fold over to form rectangles. Continue filling and shaping until all the pasta and filling are used. Cover and refrigerate until needed or place on baking sheets between layers of dish towels and freeze overnight. The next day, place in freezer bags and store up to 1 week.

In a medium saucepan, bring the tomato sauce to a boil. Add the sausage, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 1 hour, skimming off the fat as it is rendered from the meat. Remove the sauce from the heat, cool briefly, and pulse it in a food processor until smooth.

Transfer to a 12-inch skillet and keep warm.

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the sauce. Toss gently over high heat for 1 minute. Add the reserved mint leaves, toss 1 minute more, then divide evenly among eight warmed dinner plates. Grate the Grana Padano over each plate and serve immediately.