So in the last post, I talked a bit about comfort food and why Korean food is comforting for me. Today is different; today I got comfort not from the food (although it was delicious!) but from the act of cooking it (and I even remembered to take pictures this time!).
Today I finally got to try two recipes that I have been begging The Boyfriend to let me do. The first was beets. The boyfriend has a high aversion to these maroon-ie root veggies. “You know what my mom says about beets?” he says whenever I bring up the possibility of making beets. “What?” I say, even though I know what’s coming next. “She says that she eats them whenever she is craving something that tastes like dirt.” Sigh. Some people (like The Boyfriend) think that tasting like dirt is the same as tasting earthy. I tried to explain that while beets are earthy, they don’t have to taste dirty, but until this week, he wasn’t having it. This week I put my foot down and said that I wanted to try making beets. I was able to placate him by pairing the beets with another recipe I have wanted to do: lobster mac-n-cheese. To quote the blogger that I borrowed the recipe from, “We are not talking about the abomination of folding lobster meat into mac and cheese here. We’re talking about using every part of the lobster to layer and accentuate its flavor in a spectacular lobster and macaroni gratin.” and s/he wasn’t kidding! It was definitely an effort (not a quick or easy meal) but it was a labor of love and it was just what I needed to boost myself up today.
The last few weeks, I have had so much work to do that it feels more like I am looking down the barrel of a gun that looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. And unfortunately, the workload is only increasing. So today when I got out of class feeling dejected and staring at the mountain of work piled in front of me, I did whatever any mature, responsible adult would do: I took a nap. Ok, so it wasn’t the most mature or the smartest decision to make, but I was feeling so low that I just couldn’t face it. When I woke up form my nap, I just wanted to do something that I could feel good about and would also give me that feeling of accomplishment. So I decided to tackle my most challenging recipe of the week. It took about 3 hours from start to finish (prep to doing the dinner dishes) but it was way worth it. Not only was it delicious but now I also feel better about the work in front of me; because really, if I can make lobster mac, I can handle 5 chapters of statistics homework, right? Right?
Lobster Mac adapted from the recipe at Zen Can Cook
For the lobster:
3 lobster tails, cooked in a court-bouillon*
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 large white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup bourbon**
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste***
4 ounces whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 bouquet garni (fresh parsley, thyme, and tarragon, tied together or loose)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste
For the gratin:
approx. 6 ounces elbow macaroni
lobster meat from 3 lobster tails (above), roughly chopped
Gruyere cheese, grated
*For my court-bouillon, I used water, lemon juice, salt, parsley, bay leaf, tarragon, and thyme, but feel free to adjust the seasonings to your taste.
**The original recipe called for Cognac but I didn’t have any so I used Maker’s Mark. Use whichever one is most convenient for you!
***It is super annoying to buy a whole can of something only to use 1 tbsp of it, so I froze the rest of the tomato paste in 1 tbsp increments in an ice cube tray. In the future if I need just 1 tbsp, I can pop an ice cube out and throw it in the pan.
For the lobster broth and meat:
Make sure you have everything prepped, so chopped all of your veggies and boil your lobster tails.
After your lobster tails have been boiled in the court bouillon for approximately 5 minutes, remove from water and cool. Once cooled, separate meat from tail.
In a deep enough stockpot, heat the olive oil over high heat and add the lobster tails. Brown for a few minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the chopped carrots, celery, onion and garlic and keep cooking until translucent, about 5 minutes.Remove from pot and set aside.
Deglaze with the bourbon or Cognac and carefully set aflame with a match. When the flames die down, add the white wine and reduce. Add the tomato paste and the crushed whole peeled tomatoes and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the bouquet garni and the heavy cream. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes at a very gentle simmer. Turn off the heat and let it cool for 15 minutes.
At this point, if you have a hand held blender you can remove and discard the tough lobster part and blend the mixture until roughly blended before straining it through a chinois or strainer. If you don’t have a hand held blender, strain the mixture making sure to push hard on the solids to extract all the juices. You should obtain a lobster ‘cream’ more or less the same consistency as a cheese sauce. Reduce if too thin to concentrate the flavors. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the gratin:
Cook the macaroni ‘al dente’ and add it to the lobster ‘cream’. Adjust seasoning and toss the chopped lobster meat with the macaroni and lobster ‘cream’.
Scoop the mixture into buttered ramekins or a casserole dish. Sprinkle the shredded Gruyere over the top in an even layer.
When ready to serve, broil for a few minutes until a nice crust has formed and bubbly on top.
Ok, so the beets aren’t as exciting but they are a nice complement to the mac-n-cheese because it is tart and sharp and crunchy where the mac is soft and gooey and rich. And beets are really good for you, where the mac is only good for the spirit.
10-minute Beets, adapted from the recipe at A Doctor’s Kitchen
- 3 beets, without greens, scrubbed and peeled
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive, plus more for drizzling, if desired
- 1 minced shallot
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 to 2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar, or to taste
- Shred the beets in a food processor fitted with a disc for medium shredding or fine julienne.*
- Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shallots and garlic; cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add the beets and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper. Cook, stirring and tossing, 3 to 5 minutes, until the beets have given up their water and are crisp-tender, or longer to desired doneness. Take pan off of heat and stir in 2 teaspoons of the vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve immediately.
*I don’t have a food processor that can shred beet so I just chopped them with my Pampered Chef Chopper and that worked out fine
So here is my first official post with pictures of the food that I actually made! And about those pictures… I’m sorry if the color/angle/clarity is not always good. I’m not terrific with a camera and I have a basic shoot and point. But hopefully it gets the idea across.
Until next time!