Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lobster and Shrimp Bisque For Two

Lobster and Shrimp Bisque
Doesn't look exciting but man, it's good!

Believe it or not, I found myself with some leftover lobster meat. What? Our local Tom Leonard's Market in Richmond, had lobster tails on sale, 2 for $10, and my husband, being in a rather expansive mood, bought 6 of them. Yes, SIX. They weren't very big, as he explained it. We ate 4 on Saturday night, along with a small fillet that he also purchased on sale there, but I had 2 of them leftover. I mean, unless you live in Maine and have lobster traps, who had leftover lobster? Just sayin'...
So, yesterday, I researched lobster bisque, lobster pot pie and lobster mac-n-cheese. Many of these recipes included fennel and I don't like fennel. Or anise. Or licorice. Period. My husband doesn't love pot pie. I mean he'll eat if but he's not crazy about it. The mac-n-cheese recipes looked SO rich, with the lobster, butter, gruyere cheese and cream, I decided against that. 
We love She Crab Soup, so I modeled on that and came up with this. It was delicious! Don't omit the Kitchen Basics Seafood Stock, which I purchased just for this dish, unless you happen to have your own homemade seafood stock. I wouldn't sub chicken stock in this dish. This soup would make a wonderful treat for your sweetie on Valentine's Day! OR just for you, two nights in one week? And it's only a little extravagant, right? It can easily be made up to a day ahead, and I am thinking it would be even better if it sat in the frig for a few hours to bring the flavors together even more harmoniously. However, we were hungry and the soup was ready. Don't rush cooking the veggies or reducing the liquid. Think low and slow for optimum flavor. It's creamy, rich and just a touch spicy from the Old Bay and cayenne pepper. PERFECT on a cold winter night, or anytime for that matter! Bet you are going to LOVE this one!

Lobster and Shrimp Bisque
2/3 c. cooked lobster meat, chopped                                  
Chopped Lobster Meat
6 - 8 large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, cut in half
2 ribs celery, split in half and sliced thinly (2/3 c. total)
1/2 c. minced onion
3 baby carrots, halved and thinly sliced (about 2 T.)
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 T. Land o' Lakes salted butter
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 c. Kitchen Basics Seafood Stock
1/2 c. Pinot Grigio
1 c. light cream
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 grindings black pepper
1/2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
a pinch of cayenne pepper (or a little more to taste)
Melt butter with oil in the bottom of a smaller stock pot over low heat.
Small stock pot

Add celery, onion, carrots and garlic to the butter. Cook over LOW heat until the vegetables are very soft, about 15 min. Watch it and stir occasionally, you don't want it to brown. Add the fish stock and wine and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and let this simmer uncovered for 20 - 30 minutes, or until it's reduced by 1/3 in volume. Remove 1/2 the vegetables with a slotted spoon and puree them in your blender or get out your immersion blender and puree the soup for a minute until it's a little thickened. I like a little texture, so don't overdo the blending! Add the light cream, salt and pepper. Turn heat to low and allow this to cook together over barely simmering heat, for 10 more minutes. Next, add the Old Bay seasoning and the raw shrimp and cook this for 5 minutes. Lastly add the cayenne, then the lobster and cook for 5 more minutes until everything is heated through and the shrimp have turned pink. Turn off the heat, cover and let stand 5 minutes or refrigerate to reheat later. Sprinkle with a little Old Bay when served. Makes 2 dinner bowl sized servings or 4 c. for a luncheon sized serving. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Pot Roast and More on a Monday Night

Pot Roast with green beans on a Monday night.
I've always held the position that you should serve a good dinner on Monday night. Monday can be a tough day for anyone, whether you are returning to the office, work at home, go to school, stay home with your kids (work at home, I know) or even if you are retired. After a busy weekend, we often start the week out stressed or tired, and I know at least two people who say they have a hard time sleeping on Sunday night, because they are worried about Monday! 

I've written about this phenomenon before, and you can read about it, and check out my recipe for Pork Roast, HERE .

To combat those Monday doldrums, it's nice to have a good dinner to look forward to. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to drag your slow cooker out of the closet and put it to good use. Today, mine is simmering away with a pot roast and vegetables. See how old mine is? It still works really, really well.

My Old Slow Cooker. Still works.
My mother made good pot roast and she always used a chuck roast. We've decide we don't love a shoulder roast. Chuck is better, but try and find one on sale. It used to be a cheap cut, not so much anymore.

 There are many ways to cook a pot roast:  In the oven, on top of the stove or a combination of both cooking methods. The easiest way by far is to dump everything into the slow cooker, turn it on and walk away. The gravy suffers a little, but I'll give you some tips on how to fix it up, so that it tastes very much like the gravy you get when you first sear the roast and then slow cook it. This is a BASIC recipe and you can certainly experiment with herbs that you like. I've thrown in a bay leaf, used summer savory, and added a little fresh rosemary and thyme to this, all with good results. Think of this like a map to get you in and out of the kitchen quickly on a busy day.
At the very end, I'll tell you how to make your leftover roast into the best beef stew ever! IF you've got any leftovers!
Slow Cooker Pot Roast
2 - 2.5 lbs. chuck roast, excess fat removed
1 cup tomato sauce
2+ T. worcestershire sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
4 medium onion
4 medium all purpose potatoes, peeled
16 mini carrots, or 4 whole carrots, cut into 4 - 6 pieces
1/4 c. dry red wine**
3/4 c. beef bouillon, divided usage
2 T. corn starch
kosher salt and coarse pepper

Cut an onion in half and dice one half of it into very small dice. Put that in the bottom of your slow cooker along with 1/2 of the  minced garlic. Take 2 mini carrots or 1 piece of a whole carrot and slice thinly. Place that on top of the garlic and onions and then put your roast on top of that. Sprinkle the roast with salt pepper and the worcestershire sauce. Pour on the red wine and 1/2 c. of the tomato sauce. Put on the lid, turn your cooker on high and go get a shower or throw in a load of laundry and make the bed or all 3 of these. Leave that mixture in there for about an hour, then on top of the roast, layer in the potatoes, alternating them with the rest of the onions that have been peeled and cut in half. If you are using herbs, add them now. Make sure they are distributed evenly on top of the meat, potatoes and onions. Throw the rest of the carrots and garlic on top. Pour another 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce, and the beef broth over everything, and sprinkle once more with salt and pepper. Put the top on, turn the cooker down to low and leave it alone for 6 - 8 hours. 
When you are almost ready to eat, remove the vegetables and the roast carefully with a slotted spoon to a large oven proof platter or big shallow serving bowl. Place this into a preheated 250 degree oven. You'll get a little color on your roast and potatoes like you'd seared them. 
Pour the cooking liquid from the slow cooker into a saucepan. Mash up any big pieces with the back of a fork. Mix the remaining beef bouillon with 2 heaping T. corn starch and enough water so that it measures 1/2 cup total.  Make sure that the corn starch dissolves into the liquid. Pour it into the saucepan, turn the heat to medium high and start stirring. Add a drop or 2 of worcestershire sauce. When it boils and thickens, turn the heat down to low and  cover it. If you want the gravy a little thicker, mix another T. of corn starch with 2 T. of water and add it to the gravy. Let it bubble gently for about 5 minutes and then serve it along with the roast and veggies. Serves 4 amply. We like it with fresh green beans but you could make a salad or heat up some bread)
Pot Roast with Potatoes, Onions and Carrots
If you've got any meat, gravy and vegetables leftover, try this:

Leftover Beef Stew
Leftover pot roast and gravy (you need at least 1 c. beef and 1/2 c. gravy)
+ any vegetables you have leftover, all cut into bite sized pieces
3 1/2 c. beef stock or 1 can Campbells beef consomme' plus 2 1/2  c. water
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. thinly sliced carrot
1 clove minced garlic
3 medium all purpose potatoes, cut into 1/2" dice
8 frozen "pearl onions" from a bag 
1/2 c. dry red wine**
1 T. tomato paste
kosher salt and coarse pepper
1 slice crisp cooked bacon, optional

Place the beef stock or consomme' along with the chopped onion, carrots, garlic and potatoes, into a heavy medium to larger sized sauce pan -- not your huge one, but not the one you heat up soup in either. (Add water until the vegetables are covered by 1" of water, if necessary.) Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Turn the stove on high and bring to a boil. Turn down and let it simmer 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. When the vegetables are tender, add 1/2 c. dry red wine tomato paste and the pearl onions, and bring it back up to a boil. Let that cook about 5 minutes and add your pot roast, gravy and any veggies that were leftover. I like to cook this 30+ minutes over a low heat so that the stew really comes together. Add the bacon for the last few minutes of cooking, if using. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if you need it. 

**You can always substitute beef stock/broth for the wine in either of these recipes.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

What I've Been Drinking: Apothic Red

We love red wine at our house, and we are mostly Cabernet Sauvignon fans. I have a great little, part time job, as a wine demonstrator. I work for a wine distributor, going around to different grocery stores, and sharing wine with the customers. The shifts are short -- only 3 hours -- and it's usually lots of fun, standing around talking wine, food, pairings and life with people. Although I've always loved wine, having this job has really helped me to expand my palate. In keeping with that idea, the expanding your palate one, I'd like to talk about Apothic Red Wine.
Apothic Red Wine

Apothic Red, as the name implies, is a blended California red wine. Your first impression upon pouring it is the deep, ruby red color. This is a pretty wine. Upon first taste, you will taste rich, ripe fruits, cherries and jam. It is fruity and just a little spicy, with a hint of chocolate at the end. It's not sweet, but just a little off dry. Is this a contender for great wines of 2014? No, it's not, but it is enjoyable to drink, especially as an after dinner sipper. That little touch of chocolate or cocoa right at the end, really gives it something special. And since it's a blend, and not a vintage, it is a very reliable wine -- that is, it is very consistent in it's taste. This is a lovely wine to present to your sweetie for Valentine's Day. The deep rich color is seductive and the hint of chocolate is very appropriate for the holiday! As well, it's very reasonably priced, around $12 - $13 at local grocery stores in Central VA and I found it for only $8.59 at my big box retailer! Just had to take it home for that price. There's nothing like finding a decent wine for under $9!!

You can read more about Apothic Red here at their website. They also make a white, of which I am not a fan (too too sweet for me) and a Dark, which I've not had a chance to taste. However, the red is a winner!

Try it, and open your mind. Don't try and drink it like a cabernet sauvignon, with a big red meat meal, just take a taste after dinner. I bet you'll enjoy it.

Here's a link about a wine tasting class I recently took online, and reviews about 2 other wines.