Sunday, November 20, 2011

Andouille and Lobster Bread Stuffing

 Here on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua, we get excellent fresh fish. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving doesn’t revolve around ocean products. Well, I’m going to change that this year. For this recipe, we use Spiny Lobster. It’s very tasty, but there is no claw meat, and the meat doesn’t shred easily. If you can get your hands on Maine lobster, go for it! This means that the shell number will vary. Basically, to make this recipe to scale, you want one pound of raw meat.
eat me! (little corn island, 2011)

  This recipe is perfect for the Thanksgiving potluck. It takes time: you make a stock. If you want to simply add this to the chaos that you're already preparing as the main Thanksgiving cook, I suggest making the stock the Sunday before Thanksgiving (if you are a 9-5er) and lightly poaching the lobster in the stock and keeping the cooked meat on ice until game day.

Serves 16 as a side dish.
Lobster Stock (the make ahead: you can make it the Sunday before Thanksgiving, but keep the lobster meat on ice:
6 lobster tails, shell only
1 onion, cut in quarters, paper and all
2 heads garlic, cut in half, paper and all
2 Tablespoons black peppercorns, whole
1 packed cup of celery leaves (stalked okay, too... or eat them while you cook)
2 cup white wine
1 gallon water
*bring to a boil and simmer for about 1 hour, until reduced and flavorful. Strain and cool. 
To Make The Stuffing:
2 pounds baguette, cut into 1” pieces, lightly toasted in the oven or left out overnight
1 cup butter
4 medium onion, large dice
2 pound Andouille sausage, casings removed
1 pound lobster meat, cut into 1” pieces (all of the meat taken from said tails above)
1 Tablespoon dried thyme
3 cups premade lobster stock**
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1 Teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
In a large pan or dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cover. Stir occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the onion is wilted and slightly browned. Remove and place in a large bowl. Add the sausage, cooking and breaking up into bite size pieces with stirring utensil. If you are using precooked Andouille, cut into large dice and cook until browned in a bit more butter (yum). When almost cooked through or fully browned, add the lobster meat. Stir together and cook until the lobster meat is just cooked through. Remove and place in bowl with onions.
Stir bread into onion-sausage mixture, toss in time, salt and pepper. Then, 1/2 cup at a time, add the stock and lightly toss with a spoon until it is completely absorbed. Do not add all of the stock at once, nor add all of the stock if the bread won't absorb the last parts. This will create a mushy mess. Lightly pack into 2 greased 9 x 12 baking dishes, or one of those huge aluminum pans (easy clean up!)
Bake for about 45 minutes at 350°F, until the top is browned and crunchy.

 It’s Thanksgiving, baby! Make a lot! This recipe is simply halved for smaller occasions. That means 1 1/2 teaspoon of thyme, for the kitchen math novice.
 HERB NOTE: Dried thyme is great because you don’t have to pay $3 for a bunch and then pick off the leaves that you need in a painstaking fashion, only to have the other half of the bunch dry up in your fridge. That said, dried herbs don’t last forever. It’s like nail polish, or mascara (that you eat?). Buy small jars! When you crumble it in between your fingers, it should smell herbacious, not like dust.
*If you have fennel bulb, please, substitute for 1/2 the onion
** so over bread stuffing? substitute pre-cooked wild rice for bread, and cut bake time to 25 minutes.
***The Lobster stock makes about 2 quarts: use the leftovers for soup. What a way to spice up your Thanksgiving leftovers!
****Not Thanksgiving, but interested in making this anyway? It’s a great side dish to Pan Fried Jumbo Shrimp, Rosemary Roasted Pork Loin or served as a main course with a spicy Arugula, raisin and lemon salad.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

show me your pics!

Social media and smart phones make it so easy to take photos, anytime, any place. It’s pretty ridiculous. Even being abroad, I hear the backlash of nay sayers who get sick of friends and acquaintances posting photos of food. Food. Really? 

 Well, as for me, I love seeing your food pictures! Food is not just nourishment, but a craft, an adventure, and a way to bring people together. The photos you share can be artful, or educational. What you’ve grown, created, or been served... It may be you eating a McRib. I think that counts big-time as an adventurous food. Sometimes they’re blurry. Eh. Work on that one, would’ja?
 But what I love even more than photos of food, are photos of seeing you enjoy it! I’ve been cooking professionally for 7 years. But, although you might not believe it, I’ve been eating for my entire life! And the best part of mealtime is that it brings people together. 
 During the holidays at Club P we sing (in the most awkward “happy birthday”-esque voices; I channel Tina Turner), a song called “We Gather Together,” a sung Grace that acknowledges gratitude for where our food comes from and where it takes us. It’s a cheesy tradition that, more than it’s spiritual aspects, signifies the warmth and joy of the simplicity that is being with loved ones.
 Because more important than your technique, presentation, or how expensive or organic your meal was, 
 is the love behind it. It’s contagious. here’s some of the love I saw during my trip to California; both in human and inanimate form:

Aimee helping mom plate sundaes with the most delicious homemade butterscotch brownie on the bottom
Dickie P searing Rib Eyes for the fam

Zack digging into a meatball and fava green stew 
Mateo wolfing his burger, "animal style"

greens aplenty for daily salads courtesy of Aimee's Best Raised Beds

Will plating up caramelized brussels sprouts

Summer savoring a rich chocolate cake

All American homemade strawberry shortcakes

Erin, Mat and I at Mat's new tapas restaurant in SF, Canela
Buen provecho & Happy Thanksgiving!