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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bluefish Fillets with Fennel Mayonnaise

At typically under $10 per pound, bluefish is a relative bargain these days. It's a strong-tasting fish so if you're in the "don't really like fish" crowd, it's probably not for you, but it's a favorite of mine. This is an easy and quick recipe from Epicurious. If you don't get a skinless fillet, this recipe still works fine; just flip it over to crisp up the skin.

Lobster Stock

Based on Gourmet, June 2000.

If you have lots of lobster shells and bodies, it's a pity to waste them. Make stock! (And, if you have the freezer space, you can just save them up over time as well.) As with any stock making, quantities aren't critical but this is roughly what I used.

Ingredients:
Bodies and other leftover parts of 8-12 lobsters
2 roughly chopped carrots
2 roughly chopped celery ribs
2 chopped onions
6 minced garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
Water to mostly cover lobster (about 6 to 8 quarts)

Cut the head off the lobster bodies and split open.

Add all the ingredients to a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Strain through a cheesecloth-lined fine sieve (It may be easier to do a first pass through a coarser sieve). Cool and refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze.

Stilton Cauliflower Soup

Adapted from Gourmet, January 2003 Stilton Cauliflower Soup

An immersion blender is great for this sort of pureed soup to minimize the number of dirty pots.


Ingredients:
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 1 cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
  • 3 TBS unsalted butter
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 oz crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup light cream or half-and-half
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Cook onion, celery, and cauliflower in butter in a 3 1/2- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion and celery are softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add broth and 1 cup milk and simmer, covered, until cauliflower is very tender, about 25 minutes.

Purée cauliflower mixture with immersion blender and return to a simmer. (Alternatively, transfer to a blender or food processor in two batches.)  Add cheese, cream, pepper, and salt and cook over low heat, whisking, until cheese is melted and soup is smooth, about 1 minute.

Lower fat milk and cream can be used as desired.

Pan-Roasted Lobster with Chervil and Chives

Cooking 
LobsterI really enjoy lobster cooked this way. It's based on a recipe that Jasper White popularized in his restaurants. (See e.g. Lobster at Home) It looks complicated, but isn't really so long as you have the right gear assembled. In fact, one of the nice things about this meal is that you can do a lot of the work a couple of hours in advance so this meal can actually involve less last minute mess and fuss than steamed/boiled lobster. (Less mess at the table too.)

The changes I've made mostly relate to some of the preparation details. In particular, I prefer to parboil the lobsters rather than cut them up alive which, in my experience, leads to pieces of lobster thrashing around the cutting board. It's just more drama than I consider absolutely necessary for this dish.

As for equipment, you'll want a large pot for the lobster of course. As for the pan-roasting part, if your oven is large enough to accommodate it, I find a 16-inch Lodge cast iron skillet that I picked up last summer just about perfect. That should handle about four to six lobsters in the chicken to two pound range. If you don't have a big enough skillet or a big enough oven, a workable alternative is to use a baking sheet for the oven part and one or two skillets, as required, on the stove. You will also want a long-necked lighter or some other suitable implement next to the stove to flame the bourbon.

Ingredients for four people:

4 to 6 lobsters (1.25 to 2 lb.)
3 TBS peanut oil
1/3 cup bourbon (can also use Cognac)
1/2 cup white wine
8 TBS unsalted butter, cut into slices and chilled
1/4 cup of chopped parsley or chervil
1 TBS finely chopped chives
White pepper and salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Parboil the lobsters for about 4 minutes. If you don't have a pot large enough to accommodate all the lobsters, you can do this step in two batches. (You'll need one of those big steamer pots or equivalent.)

Once the lobsters have cooled enough to handle, remove the tails, the claws, and the knuckles/arms. Cut the tails in half lengthwise. Thoroughly crack open the claws and the knuckles to minimize the amount of cracking and picking that needs to be done at the table. You'll now have six pieces per lobster plus the body, which you can discard or use to make stock. Weather permitting I prefer to do this operation outside to keep all the lobstery fluids out of the kitchen. If you like, you can prepare the lobster to this point a couple of hours in advance and put it in the refrigerator.

Preheat the broiler. Position an oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Assemble all you ingredients and equipment by the stove. The pan will be hot and you'll want to move quickly. The final preparation only takes about ten minutes so everything else should be more or less ready to go for dinner before beginning.
Place your sauté pan over the highest heat possible. Allow it to heat for a few minutes until it becomes extremely hot. Add the oil and heat it until it forms a film on the surface of the pan. Slide the lobster pieces, shell side down, into the hot oil. Using tongs, move the pieces in order to evenly sear all the shells.

When the shells have all turned bright red,which should take no more than two or three minutes, turn the pieces over.
Place the pan in the oven and cook for about three minutes until the shells are slightly browned. It's OK if they're a bit charred in places. Put it on the stove over high heat. It will be very hot! You can put the plates in the oven to warm at this point.
Add the bourbon and ignite. Add the wine and allow to reduce until it is almost dry; a few tablespoons or so will remain in the pan.

Remove the pan from the heat. Remove lobster pieces and arrange on the plates.

Return the pan to low heat. Add the butter and herbs. Season with some white pepper and maybe a little salt (the lobster will be somewhat salty already) and spoon over lobster pieces on plates.

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I'm in the cloud product strategy group at Red Hat. Prior to Red Hat, I wrote hundreds of research notes, was frequently quoted in publications like The New York Times on a wide range of IT topics, and advised clients on product and marketing strategies. Earlier in my career, I was responsible for bringing a wide range of computer systems, from minicomputers to large UNIX servers, to market while at Data General. Among other hobbies, I do a lot of photography and enjoy the outdoors.