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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lobster Macaroni & Cheese

I made this lobster mac & cheese on my last cooking show.  The theme of the show was cooking new dishes/developing recipes, and this recipe fit in with the theme because I had never tried to make lobster mac & cheese before.

And the reason why I chose this specific dish?  My friend, Trish, was cooking with me and I knew that lobster mac & cheese was one of her favorite foods.  

I didn't come up with this recipe on my own; my brother is a really good cook and he has a lobster recipe for everything so I simply asked him how to prepare lobster mac & cheese.  I only tweaked his recipe a little, using less black pepper (actually, I didn't use any, only white pepper) and adding a bit of milk to thin down the cheese sauce.  

I wish I had thought to record all of the comments that my friends made when we sat down to eat after we had finished taping.  I definitely remember one of them saying, "I just want to sit here and eat this for the rest of my life," and another one saying, "This tastes like something I would order at the best restaurant I ever went to."

If you make this recipe, I hope you like it as much as my lobster-loving friends do!

Today's Playlist--'Tis the Season!!
  • "Jingle Bell Rock"...Brian Setzer Orchestra
  • "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town"...Jackson 5
  • "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"...Michael Buble
  • "All I Want For Christmas Is You"...Mariah Carey
  • "Christmas Of Love"...Little Isadore And The Inquisitors
  • "Mr. Heatmiser"...Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
  • "Sleigh Ride"...Garth Brooks

Lobster Macaroni & Cheese
Printable Recipe

For the cheese sauce:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 8 oz. muenster cheese, shredded
  • 8 oz. mild orange cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1+ cup milk (may need more, depending upon thickness of cheese sauce)
Remaining ingredients:
  • 1 lb. pasta (I used cavatappi)
  • 1 lb. lobster meat, roughly chopped (I use raw, frozen lobster that has been thawed)
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Gather your ingredients.

I had already shredded my cheese when I took this picture.  I always suggest buying blocks of cheese and shredding it yourself, but for this recipe you definitely should shred it yourself!  It melts so much nicer without all of the added ingredients that they put into the pre-shredded packages!

Set a large (8 quart) pot of salted water over high heat to boil.  Cook pasta according to pkg. directions.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Heat cream in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Add the cream cheese, stirring frequently until melted.

Add the muenster, stir until melted.

Add the cheddar, stir until melted.

At this point, my pasta water was boiling so I added the pasta.  One more pot to stir.

Now that the cheeses have all melted...

Add the milk and stir.  I started out by adding one cup of milk.  I still thought that the sauce was a bit thick, so I added another 1/2 cup of milk.  

I think that the sauce should appear to be a bit more runny than you would like it, because it does thicken up a bit as it bakes.

1 1/2 cups of milk did it for me, but don't hesitate to add more if you feel that it needs to be thinned down even more!

Stir the white pepper into the cheese sauce.

When your pasta has finished cooking, drain it and return it to the pot that you cooked it in.

Pour in the cheese sauce.  

Hopefully, by looking at this picture, you can get a sense of how runny the cheese sauce should be.  Not watery, just runny.

Stir to combine.

Stir in the lobster.

Remember, I used raw lobster.  It will cook as the pasta bakes; however, if your lobster is already cooked, decrease your baking time!  You do not want the lobster to be overcooked and rubbery.

Pour the mac & cheese into a 3-quart baking dish.

Smooth it so that it's even and level.

Stir the melted butter and the panko bread crumbs in a small dish until combined.
Sprinkle the buttered bread crumbs on top.

Bake in your preheated 375-degree oven for 20 minutes, until the top has started to brown and the lobster is cooked through.

Sprinkle with a little bit of chopped parsley, if you like.


And you can see how the sauce thickens up and is not as runny as it looked before it was baked.

So don't be afraid to add a bit more milk than you think you need when you are preparing the cheese sauce!


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Cooking Show--Trying Out New Recipes!!

Warning!  Long, rambling post right here!  But if you work your way through to the end, there will be recipes for Lemon Drop Martinis, Caesar Salad Dressing, Lobster Macaroni & Cheese, and Churros Poppers!

I promise that all of these recipes will eventually be posted with the usual step-by-step photos!  However, I have been receiving a lot of emails from viewers of the cooking show who would like to have the recipes that I prepared on the last show.  Please be warned that I'm still developing some of these recipes, and my notes will reflect some tweaks that I'm planning for the next time I prepare them!

We filmed another cooking show a couple of weeks ago.

The best way I can describe the theme would be "Attempting to prepare or develop recipes that I've never made before."

We happened upon this theme in a roundabout way.  I went out to dinner with my friend, Trish.  She ordered the house donuts for dessert, and our conversation went something like this:

Trish: Can you cook donuts?
Me: I never have, but I guess I could.  I don't deep-fry's one thing to eat them when you go somewhere and they're already prepared, but to pour all that oil into a deep-fryer...yikes.  I may as well just get a syringe and inject it directly into my thighs.
Trish: Do you have a deep fryer?
Me: Yes, I've never used it, it's sitting in my basement, unopened.
Trish: You should do a deep-frying cooking show!
Me: Only if you'll cook with me!

During the past year, I've asked her a couple of times if she would cook with me on the show, and she always said no.  I'm guessing that on this particular night, her defenses were lowered by the lemon-drop martinis that we had with dinner.  Lower defenses + joy at the thought of more deep-fried donuts in her future = YES!  If only I had figured out sooner that plying her with donuts was the key to getting her on camera.

Rather than a show with a deep-frying theme (I just couldn't bring myself to do a whole show of deep-frying!  Baby steps...), the theme morphed into "Attempting to prepare or develop recipes that I've never made before."

Let's begin with the method to my madness: developing the recipe.  

Basically I google what I want to make, compare a bunch of recipes and decide on the ingredients I want to use.

Here are my notes for the Lemon Drop Martinis and the Caesar Salad Dressing.  The page on the left is for the martinis.  I wrote down the ingredients for three recipes (on the left side of the page).  The second recipe has three check marks because there were three websites that had that exact recipe.

The right side of the page has my notes (in ink).  Most importantly, Lemon Drop!!

None of the recipes I found had a lemon drop in the drink!  How can you call it a Lemon Drop Martini if there's no lemon drop?  Wouldn't it just be a Lemon Martini?
And the recipe that you see (in pencil) on the right side of the paper is the one I came up with in a dream that night.  That's right, I solve all my problems in my dreams.  And the Lemon Drop Martini of my dreams not only has a lemon drop candy in it, it also has Limoncello.

(click to be taken to printable recipe)
NOTES:  This drink is very strong, but then again, a Martini IS strong!  Shake (or stir) with plenty of ice, use simple syrup to dilute.

We also made Caesar Dressing.  I have never made Caesar dressing from scratch before.  I've always been too intimidated by the raw eggs and anchovies needed for this recipe.  I didn't totally conquer those fears--I coddled my eggs, and wimped out and used anchovy paste instead of anchovies.

Click HERE to be taken to the printable recipe for Caesar Dressing.

Oh. Wow.  This was good!  I had heard Trish mention many times that she like lobster macaroni & cheese.  Since she was cooking with me, I decided to try to make it for her.  Luckily, I knew that my brother had a recipe for this dish and I know that he's a really good cook so I felt pretty confident that it would be good!  

NOTE 1:  I used raw, frozen lobster tails (which I thawed), and the lobster cooked as the macaroni baked.  If you use lobster that is already cooked, I would suggest shortening the baking time so that the lobster does not overcook.
NOTE 2:  The next time I prepare this recipe, I'm planning on thinning the cheese sauce with a bit more milk.

Instead of donuts, Trish & I decided to deep-fry churros poppers.  

A friend of mine had brought these to a bbq at my house this summer and I promptly asked her for the recipe.  And then I just as promptly filed it away, because of my aversion to deep-frying...until now!  

Coated in cinnamon and sugar, these churros disappeared before they even had a chance to cool down!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Every time I use my crockpot, I can't help but wonder why don't I use this more often?

Is there anything better than doing a little bit of prep work in the morning, throwing it all into the slow cooker and having it ready at dinner time?

This recipe is a bit of a riff on the Maple-Mustard Pork Chops that I've made in the past.  I like the combo of sweet maple syrup and the savoriness of dijon mustard, and I couldn't help but wonder how it would work with a pot roast.

I'm happy to say that it worked out just fine!

Today's Playlist
  • "Come Fly With Me"...Frank Sinatra
  • "American Pie"...Don McLean
  • "That's Amore"...Lou Monte
  • "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay"...Otis Redding
  • "L-O-V-E"...Natalie Cole
  • "All Of Me"...John Stevens

Slow Cooker Pot Roast
  • 3 lb boneless beef chuck roast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 large onions, sliced
  • 1 14-oz can beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper, to taste
For gravy: 1/4 cup cornstarch or flour, 1/4 cup beef broth

Gather your ingredients.  

Despite my best efforts, I always forget something.  The beef broth is missing from this picture.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle the roast with salt & pepper on both sides.  Sear the roast on both sides, about 7 minutes per side, until well-browned.

While the beef is browning, prep your onions.  Cut the ends off and peel them.

Slice them in half from top to bottom, and place them (flat side down) on your cutting board.

Slice them into half moons.

When the meat has browned, remove it from the pan--

--and place it into your crockpot.  (I used a 5 1/2 quart crockpot.)

Place the sliced onions into the pot that you just browned the roast in.  Adjust the heat to medium.

Stirring often, cook the onions for about 5-7 minutes, until they are softened and just starting to brown and caramelize.

While the onions are cooking, prepare your cooking liquid for the crockpot.  Put the mustard, maple syrup and almost the whole can of beef broth (you'll want to save about 1/4 cup to deglaze the bottom of the pan when the onions are done cooking)..

Don't forget to keep stirring those onions!  You don't want them to get crispy.

Add a splash of balsamic vinegar to your mustard/maple syrup sauce.

Whisk to combine.

Pour the beef broth that you set aside into the onion pan.  

Stir and scrape up all of the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.  Do not skip this step.  The bottom of the pan is where all the flavor is!

Pour the onions and the pan liquid over the roast.

Add the mustard/maple syrup mixture.

Put the lid on the crock pot and cook on low for at least 8 hours, until the meat is tender and separates easily when shredded with a fork.

And here we are 8 hours later.

It passes the fork test!

I put the meat and the onions into a shallow dish and covered it with the crockpot lid (or aluminum foil) to stay warm.

And then I went to work on the cooking liquid.  I did my best to get all of the onions out.

Then I let my gravy separator strain out the few onions that remained.

Now some people will tell you to make a gravy with all of the liquid that is left.

But what's left also includes the fat that has rendered during the cooking process.  I just can't.  Let's try to only use the fat-free liquid.

If you look at the liquid in the gravy separator, you can see that there is 3 cups of liquid. There is obviously a thin layer of oily liquid on the top, then there is a cloudy layer about 1/3 of the way down, and the bottom two thirds is the smooth, fat-free stuff.

It's that bottom layer that we want to make the gravy with.  A gravy separator will easily pour the bottom liquid out, or you can try to spoon the top liquids out or use a turkey baster to draw them out.

Or if you're not as squeamish as me, go ahead and use the whole shebang.

To make the gravy:

Put the liquid into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Mix 1/4 cup corn starch (or flour) with 1/4 cup cold (to prevent lumps) beef broth.  Pour about 1/2 of this mixture into the liquid in the saucepan.  It's hard to predict how much you will need, it all depends upon the amount of cooking liquid that you are using, and the fat content of that liquid.  It's best to only use 1/2 of the cornstarch/beef broth mixture, adding more if necessary.

Heat until thickened, whisking constantly.  Add more of the cornstarch/beef broth mixture if you think the gravy needs to be thicker.  Add salt & pepper to taste.

Uncover the dish with the meat & onions.  

Douse it with the gravy!!

Oh, my.

I chopped up some fresh thyme to sprinkle on top.