in the kitchen with….me!

Several weeks ago, Kim over at The Stir asked me if  I would participate in their In The Kitchen series. Well, of course I jumped at the chance. It was so flattering to be asked. I stressed and agonized over which photos to send in, and I probably drove my husband crazy.

After all of my stressing out about it, I think it turned out quite nice. Best thing? My family thinks I’m famous. I think I’ll play along.

Click on the photo to go to The Stir and check it out for yourself.

 

Here in Florida, we seem to have had our five minutes of spring and now we’re entering full-fledged summer. For us that means weekend trips to our community pool, using the grill regularly, sitting on the front porch watching the kids play until bedtime, and dinners outside on the back patio.

It also means thunderstorms with lightning. You may not know this, but Florida ranks number one for number of lightning strikes per year, and it ranks in the top ten for number of lightning-strike deaths in the country. And, as some of you who follow me on Twitter know, two weeks ago our house was struck by lightning and we had a bit of damage. Nothing serious, but enough to be quite annoying. When it struck the house, the lightning traveled through the electrical wiring. It blew some fuses (not a big deal),  my husband’s desktop computer (a bigger deal), our outdoor lighting, the internet and cable phone, and our refrigerator (the biggest deal).

I’ve done a lot of whining and complaining about not having a fridge, but truthfully, things could be a lot worse. We have a small fridge in our garage that we bought when I was breastfeeding my daughter over six years ago – mostly to hold the gallons of milk that I was producing. Too much information, right? But seriously, I was  producing like a dairy cow. Buying a spare fridge was a lot more practical than keeping my milk in my neighbors’ refrigerators (which we did for a short time).  I’m very thankful for that back-up fridge. It was a lifesaver for me back then, and it’s been a lifesaver for our family these last two weeks.

On the upside of things, my husband may finally get that Mac I’ve been dreaming about for him (me). Also, we’re getting a new refrigerator next week thanks to that extended warranty we purchased on the old one.

The point of all this? We’ve been trying to prepare meals that don’t leave us with a lot of leftovers and don’t require a lot of storage or purchasing of unusual ingredients. When I saw the cover of Bon Appètit this month, I knew that the cover recipe would be a perfect meal for us. After all, we had most everything already – just needed to purchase the asparagus.

I made just a few changes to the recipe, mostly so that I could use up ingredients we already had. I used orecchiette instead of fettucine and bacon instead of pancetta. I also try to lighten things up when possible, so I used half-and-half instead of cream. I probably needed to add a bit more to make it creamier, but it was perfectly delicious the way it was.

As a bonus – and deserving of a pat on the back, if I do say so myself – was the fact that my daughter loved it. Turns out she thought the asparagus pieces were green beans. Score one for mommy!


Yield: Serves 4.

Orecchiette with Peas, Asparagus, & Bacon

Ingredients:

12 ounces orecchiette pasta
3 ounces bacon, chopped
1 1/4 pounds asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
2 cups frozen peas (do not thaw)
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, white and pale green parts separated from dark green parts
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
1/3 cup heavy cream (I used half-and-half instead)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Cook pasta in pot of salted boiling water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate to drain. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon drippings from skillet. Add asparagus to drippings in skillet and sauté 3 minutes. Add peas, white and pale green parts of green onions, and garlic; sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add vegetable mixture, 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid, dark green parts of green onions, 1/2 cup Parmesan, cream, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, half of parsley, and half of basil to pasta. Toss, adding more pasta cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if needed. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle bacon, remaining parsley and basil over. Serve, passing additional Parmesan cheese.

Only slightly tweaked from this recipe in Bon Appètit, May 2010.

lobster macaroni and cheese

The first time I ate lobster was at the wedding rehearsal dinner of a friend from high school who was getting married. Lobster tails were served with something, probably steak, but the lobster was so tough and rubbery — and just plain bad — that I don’t recall anything else that was served that night. Of course, that may be pretty typical of wedding rehearsal dinners. I don’t even recall what I had at my own.

I’ve had lobster prepared really well a handful of times, but two stand out in my memory. The first was in the Bahamas when my husband and I spent a long weekend on Green Turtle Cay. I was pregnant with my son at the time, and we had left our then two-year-old daughter with her grandparents. At a beachfront barbecue at our hotel, lobsters fresh from the ocean were grilled and served with melted butter, and they were just perfect. The second was the lobster pot pie on the tasting menu at Michael Mina in Las Vegas, where my husband and I again traveled sans-children for a long weekend of fun and good eating.

Looking back, it’s possible that it was the context that made those lobsters so delicious. After all, both times my husband and I were on vacation without our children, enjoying a weekend of no parenting and all fun. It’s entirely possible.

Regardless, when this month’s copy of Saveur arrived in my mailbox and I saw the Lobster Macaroni and Cheese recipe, I knew that I had to make it. Cooking the lobster – and potentially ruining it – was not something I was keen on doing, however. Plus, I’m not quite up to the emotional challenge of killing a live lobster by shoving it into a pot of boiling water à la the scene in Julie & Julia. I was spared the lobster drama by finding that our fish market sells great lobster and they’ll even steam it on request.

After reading the recipe in the magazine, and then the one next to it for Artisanal Macaroni and Cheese, I decided to blend the two. The recipe below is an adapted version of those two recipes, and the dish was amazing. With the first bite, I was nearly speechless.  But not totally speechless – I think I did utter, “Oh, my God.”

There is just one downside to this recipe — the amount of gym time I’m now going to have to put in to work it off my hips.

For a wine pairing, I wanted something that would be able to cut through the richness of the dish. I was thinking of either a not-very-oaky Chardonnay or a dry Riesling, or maybe even a sparkling wine or rosé. I ended up choosing this 2007 Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay, and I think it was a good choice. It wasn’t very creamy or heavy at all, and it had great acidity and a refreshing quality to it – great for cutting through the richness of the cheese and lobster in this dish.

Yield: Serves 8.

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:

Kosher salt, to taste
12 ounces elbow macaroni
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs, preferably panko
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cups milk
4 ounces grated Gruyère (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 ounces grated Comte (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 ounces grated fontina (about 1 1/2 cups)
8 ounces cooked lobster meat, cut into 1 inch chunks*
1/3 cup minced chives
2 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a 4 quart saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until not quite al dente, about 3-4 minutes. Drain pasta, transfer to a bowl, and set aside.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a 4-quart saucepan over low heat. Add the breadcrumbs and Parmesan, toss to combine, and transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.

Wipe out the pan and set over medium heat. Melt the remaining butter and whisk in the flour until smooth. Whisk in the milk and cook, continuing to whisk often, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Stir in the Gruyère, 1 cup of the Comte, and 1 cup of the fontina and whisk until the cheese is melted and incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove pan from heat and stir in the reserved pasta. Add in the cooked lobster pieces, half of the chives, and half of the scallions. Stir well to combine.

Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and top with the remaining Comte and fontina. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over the top and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

*I purchased lobster from my local fish market and they steamed it for me. If you have a fish market you trust, you can use this method. Alternatively, you can poach or steam your own live lobster. I am not that brave and have not yet tried cooking a live lobster.

Adapted from and inspired by this recipe and this recipe from Saveur, May 2010.