Category Archives: Menu Idea

Lobster Mac & Cheese

I was in the mood for some comfort food and mac and cheese came to mind. I love mac and cheese, but not the greasy and overly creamy versions. This is a four-cheese mac and cheese with lobster meat added to really make it fancy. You can make this exact dish without the lobster too. I used lived lobsters since I live in New England and they are readily available; however, you could use canned lobster or crab meat instead.

Lobster Mac & Cheese (serves 4):

  • 2 1-1/4 pound lobsters
  • 1 cup blanched broccoli florets
  • 8 ounces macaroni elbows or similar pasta
  • 6 ounces mild cheddar cheese
  • 3 ounces Gruyere cheese
  • 2 ounces Fontina cheese
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs

I steeped the lobsters according to Thomas Keller in his book, The French Laundry Cookbook. This way the I could remove the meat from the shell before it was fully cooked knowing it would cook completely while baking in the mac and cheese. I didn’t want to overcook the lobster making it chewy. I used my Le Creuset 5-quart oval French oven to steep each lobster individually, according to Keller’s book.

Once the lobsters were partially cooked, I used my Chicago Cutlery kitchen scissors to cut along the bottom of the shell of each tail. I could then crack it open and remove the tail meat intact.

For the claws, first remove the two knuckles attached to each claw. Just twist them off. You can usually push the meat out of the knuckles with your finger. Sometimes it may take a whack with a hammer though to break up some of the shell.

I wanted the claws to be as intact as possible, making for a great presentation in the finished dish. I carefully removed the bottom pincer of each claw, leaving the meat attached to the rest of the shell. Then, using a meat tenderizing hammer I cracked each claw at the top, about 1/4 of the way in from the base. This allowed me to remove the shell and keep the claw meat intact. It works perfectly every time.

Once you have all the meat from the tail, knuckles, and claws, cut it up into large chunks, leaving the claws as whole as possible.

 

Once you have the lobster meat, you are ready to make the mac and cheese. The lobster meat can hang out in the refrigerator for a few hours on a plate covered with plastic wrap if you want to prepare it ahead of time.

Begin by preheating the oven to 350-degrees and bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil for the macaroni. Don’t add the pasta yet, however. To make the sauce for mac and cheese, begin by heating the milk over medium heat. You want it very hot, but not simmering or boiling. I used my All-Clad 1-quart sauce pan for this.

Meanwhile, in an All-Clad 2-quart sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat. Once it is melted, add the flour and continue to whisk over medium to low heat for about 5 minutes. You are making a basic roux and you don’t want it to brown but still cook long enough to remove the flour taste.

After you have cooked the roux for about 5 minutes, add the hot milk while continuing to whisk. Add a little bit at first, whisk to incorporate, then add more milk. You now transforming your roux into a bechamel sauce.

Once all the milk is incorporated, add the onion, cayenne, nutmeg, bay leaf, and paprika. Whisk to incorporate and allow this to simmer for about 10 minutes. This will give you time to grate the cheeses and cook your macaroni. Cook the pasta so it is truly al-dente. You want it to be a bit chewy as it will cook more in the oven during the next steps.

After the sauce has cooked for about 10 minutes remove the bay leaf and add 3/4 of the grated cheese to the sauce pan. Stir to melt and incorporate.

Once the sauce is smooth and the pasta is cooked, mix them in a bowl. Carefully fold in the lobster meat and blanched broccoli florets. Transfer the mixture to a Pyrex 3-quart baking dish.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese then the bread crumbs over the top.

Bake the dish in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. The top should turn golden brown and the entire dish will be bubbling.

Let the dish cool a bit before serving.

Cohogs, Sausage, Potatoes, and Garlic On The Grill

After a long day of bicycling, there is nothing better to come home to than a shower, cold beer, and great grilled food. Start the charcoal in your grill with a chimney charcoal starter. Lighter fluid smells and tastes bad and can be dangerous. Hop in the shower, pour a cold beer and your are ready to start cooking.

Cut the top 1/4 off several heads of garlic. Place them in a foil pan and add olive oil until it is 1/3 the way up each head of garlic. Season with salt and pepper and set them on the grill. Grill, covered, until the garlic is soft and falling apart. At that point it has all the flavor of garlic but additional sweetness and none of the garlic bite.

While the garlic is cooking, wash a bunch of new potatoes, slice them in half, and toss with smashed garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Place them on the grill, cut side down. Grill them, covered, until they are soft and slightly blackened. When you remove them, toss with a bit more salt and pepper.

If you have any sausages now is the time to put them on the grill. Cook them until they are done and remove to a serving platter.

Now is the time to grill the Cohog clams. Wash the outsides of the clams and put them directly on the grill. Leave them uncovered and they will open in about 5 minutes. When they open, remove and pile into a serving bowl.

Squeeze the roasted garlic out of each clove into a small serving dish. This is great for both the clams and especially the roasted potatoes. Melt some butter for the clams, and serve some whole grain mustard for the sausages. Make sure there is plenty of cold beer to go around.

Roast Chicken and Potatoes with Sauteed Spinach

I often make a citrus and thyme roasted chicken. It is easy, quick, and requires little attention. I like to have the chicken in the refrigerator for sandwiches or a quick snack. If friends drop in, pull out cold chicken and serve it with some sharp cheddar cheese, bread, and perhaps some pickles. It makes the perfect picnic material too.

The other evening I was looking for a good dinner that wouldn’t take a lot of time. I roasted the chicken in my All-Clad Stainless Petite Roti Pan with Roasting Rack. After starting it at 425-degrees for 20 minutes, I turned the oven down to 325 for the remaining time. At the same time I turned down the oven, I added a few washed red potatoes to the roasting rack, right alongside the chicken. This way they wouldn’t soak in all the drippings and be too greasy.

Just before the chicken was done, I heated about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in my Calphalon5-Quart Sauté Pan. When the butter was melted, I added 10-ounces of fresh spinach. Turn it frequently with stainless steel locking tongsuntil it is just wilted and soft. For the last minute of cooking toss in 2 finely chopped garlic cloves and 1 teaspoon of fresh ground nutmeg. I often use nutmeg in savory foods, especially leafy greens. It is so easy to add fresh nutmeg to any food with the Microplane Grate and Shake Nutmeg Grater.

Classic Margarita Cocktails on a Road Trip

When on road trips throughout the country you may, unfortunately, encounter areas where quality classic cocktails have not yet been rediscovered. Or, perhaps, you’d like to show off to your friends, or mix up wonderful libations in your hotel room. In these cases, I use a basic 3 Piece Cocktail Shaker Kit setup that lets me mix up great classic cocktails at friend’s homes or anywhere on the road. It is perfect for travel.

On this particular trip, a friend and took the airlines from Boston to Florida and drove back, seeing friends and collecting possessions along the way. The first stop was at a friend’s with a fairly well stocked bar; however, she had no makings for classic margaritas which my traveling companion loves. We picked up some Reposado tequila and Cointreau at a local liquor store and we were all set.

The next afternoon we stopped out at a place that touted classic cocktails. I am always leery of places claiming to know how to make classic cocktails. It is really hit-or-miss.  We sampled their version of the classic margarita. Sometimes I learn great tips or recipes from bartenders; however, that was not the case here. The margarita contained lots of mixes and no fresh lime juice. It was served in a pretty glass, though.

Later that day we stopped at a restaurant with an impressive-looking bar. Unfortunately, they had no orange bitters for a traditional martini. They didn’t have any fresh juice for a margarita either. Sometimes you just have to give up on the classic cocktail path and return to beer and wine.

On the final evening of our road trip we had a late stop in a hotel. I again brought out my 3 Piece Cocktail Shaker Kit and set to work. I had to cut the limes with my scuba diving knife, but it all worked and we had tremendous margaritas in a small-town hotel. Sometimes small sacrifices must be made on the road to enjoy a great beverage. For my next road trip I am going to bring some plastic cocktail glasses.

Anchovy and Onion Tart

I love tarts that can be thrown together anytime during the day and served at room temperature. This anchovy and onion tart scream summer and works perfectly for any dinner and is great to pack on picnics. Serve it with a sparkling wine or Belgian Tripel Beer. The dough is quick and fun to make too.

For the basic tart dough:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup warm water

To make the dough, first mix the flour and salt together in bowl. Then add in the egg, olive oil, and water. Mix it either in a KitchenAid stand mixer or by hand. Knead it until you have a uniform ball of doug, about 3-5 minutes. Let the dough rest for about an hour at room temperature in a covered bowl.

For the tart topping:

  • 3 pounds yellow onions thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 8 anchovies rinsed and pulverized
  • 1 cup black olives sliced in half
  • salt and pepper

The topping is quick and easy to make while the dough is resting. First, slice the onions thinly. You can use a knife; however, will probably shed too many tears. I love my OXO Good Grips V-Blade Mandoline Slicer and it will slice the 3 pounds of onions very quickly. Cleanup is a breeze on the slicer too. Use the included holder to protect your fingers. The mandoline slicer is extremely sharp.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over low heat in a large skillet, such as the All-Clad Stainless 6-Quart Saute Pan. Add the onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and let the onions sweat for about an hour. You don’t want them to brown, just soften. Stir occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once the dough has rested for about an hour, roll it out with a rolling pin adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking. It should be about 1/8-inch thick and large enough to cover a baking sheet. I use the Anolon cookie sheet and love it. I’ve never had anything stick to it and the rubberized grips cool quickly and provide a secure grip with a towel or hotpad.

Prick the dough all over with a fork. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs from the onions and mix in the mashed anchovies. Spread the mixture over the dough. Place the olive halves decoratively on top.

Bake the tart at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and crisp. Let the tart cool to room temperature and serve. You will love it.

Cool Summer Yogurt and Eggplant

Yogurt dishes are great in the summer. Here is one that adds some eggplant for added texture.

  • 1 eggplant
  • 3 cups plain yogurt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

Peel and cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Steam the eggplant cubes in a steamer basket over a pan of boiling water.  Cover the pan and steam for 10 minutes. I use a Norpro Stainless-Steel Expandable Vegetable Steamer in my Calphalon One Infused Anodized 5-Quart Sauté Pan with Lid. The basket works in so many of my pots and pans. In this case the wide saute pan is perfect to keep the eggplant all in one layer.

After steaming the eggplant, let it cool so it won’t curdle the yogurt. Meanwhile beat the yogurt with the salt, black pepper, mint, and cayenne until it is creamy. Once the eggplant has cooled mash it with a fork or potato masher and mix it into the yogurt.

Serve cold. This mates perfectly with barbecue or Indian food.