Posts Tagged ‘seafood’

I have not forgotten about my Good Eats blog project. Rather, I was waiting for Ted to feel good enough, after finishing chemo and radiation, to truly be able to enjoy Alton’s recipe for lobster. Exactly two weeks after completing treatment, he felt up to sitting down to a lobster dinner. This was to be my first time eating lobster… and it was to be prepared by me. Yep, I had waited 34 years to try lobster. How? I don’t know. I had eaten lobster macaroni and cheese, but never had I tried a whole lobster, or even a tail. The opportunity had just never really presented itself.

Stuffed Lobster

This past Friday, Fed Ex arrived at our door with two live hard shell lobsters from Maine; our lobsters were 1.5 pounds each. Living in the Inland Northwest, live lobsters are not particularly abundant, so having them shipped to our door was the easiest way to get them. In the episode, Alton explains that you really want to get hard shell lobsters, rather than soft shell lobsters, because they contain more meat and have a firmer texture. Soft shell lobsters have shells that are partially full of water, which you end up paying for. Our lobsters spent the day in the crisper drawer of our spare refrigerator, covered with damp newspaper. I was tempted to name them, but Ted said we shouldn’t name critters that we were later going to consume.

Ingredients for stuffed lobster:  Ritz crackers, onion, lemon, thyme, rosemary, parsley, scallions, and butter.

Ingredients for stuffed lobster: Ritz crackers, onion, lemon, thyme, rosemary, parsley, scallions, and butter.

When you are ready to cook your lobsters, stick them in your freezer for 15-20 minutes. An uncovered roasting pan works fine for containing them.

Live lobsters heading into the freezer for 15-20 minutes.

Live lobsters heading into the freezer for 15-20 minutes.

Our live lobsters.

Our live lobsters.

Putting them in the freezer serves to numb them sufficiently before they are cooked. If you feel up to it, the other way to kill your lobsters is to cut their heads in half with a knife. I opted for the less gruesome former method. While the lobsters are numbing in the freezer, fill the bottom of a large, wide, lidded pot with a layer of river rocks and an inch of water.

Pan with rocks and water.

Pan with rocks and water.

I used rocks from the front landscaped area of our yard. Bring this water to a boil over high heat. The rocks help to evenly distribute steam and also can prevent the lobsters tails from curling under. You want your pot to be ready to go when you pull your lobsters from the freezer.

Steaming pan, ready to go.

Steaming pot, ready to go.

When your pot is ready, throw some sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme, and parsley on the rocks, and carefully/quickly place your lobsters on top.

Numbed lobsters, ready to go in the pot to steam.

Numbed lobsters, ready to go in the pot to steam.

Place the lid on the pot and set your timer for two minutes. Alton says your lobsters will be dead within ten seconds.

Lobsters in the pot.

Lobsters in the pot.

I forgot to throw my fresh herbs in, so I tossed them on top of the lobsters and let them steam for an additional minute. When your two (or three, in my case) minutes are up, place your lobsters immediately in an ice water bath to halt cooking. I used my kitchen sink for this.

Ice bath to halt cooking.

Ice bath to halt cooking.

Par cooked lobster in the ice bath.

Par cooked lobster in the ice bath.

Both lobsters in the ice bath, along with the claws that broke off of the one lobster.

Both lobsters in the ice bath, along with the claws that broke off of the one lobster.

You want to let them sit in the ice water for 10-15 minutes. Essentially, you are par cooking your lobsters, as they are not fully cooked at this point. Somehow, one of my lobsters lost its claws in the steaming pot, but that turned out to be no big deal, and I just threw them in the ice water too. After their chilly dip, it is time for the gross part of the preparation. Placing a lobster on your cutting board, and using a large chef’s knife, you want to cut the lobster in half lengthwise, from the midpoint to the head.

Lobster ready to be cut in half and prepped. This one's claws fell off during steaming.

Lobster ready to be cut in half and prepped. This one’s claws fell off during steaming.

Next, flip the lobster onto its back and cut again from the midpoint to the tail. Use your hands to pull the lobster apart at the midline. The tail portion of the shell will still be intact on the back side of the lobster, so you will sort of have a lobster bowl, with all of the meat exposed in the center. There will be some very obvious organs and such in the cavity that you want to scoop out with your hands and discard. Essentially, the top half of the lobster will be an empty cavity after you remove the organs. Next, pull off the lobster’s legs, and roll over each leg with a rolling pin to push the meat out. I was skeptical of how well this would work, but it worked like a charm. Set the leg meat aside.

Legs pulled off of lobster.

Legs pulled off of lobster.

Meat from legs using a rolling pin.

Meat from legs using a rolling pin.

In a saute pan, melt 1 T butter per lobster and sweat 2 T of onion per lobster. Add 1/4 t lemon zest (I added a bit more) and 1 T scallions.

Melted butter.

Melted butter.

Onion, scallions, and lemon zest added to butter.

Onion, scallions, and lemon zest added to butter.

When the onions are translucent, add the lobster leg meat, breaking it up with your hands, and toss the mixture over low heat for about a minute.

Leg meat added to onion mixture.

Leg meat added to onion mixture.

Add some grinds of black pepper and five Ritz crackers, crumbling them with your hands. Turn the heat off and toss this mixture until all of the liquid is absorbed by the crackers and the mixture looks dry. You may need to add more crackers, which I did.

Ritz crackers and pepper added to filling mixture.

Ritz crackers and pepper added to filling mixture.

Set this mixture aside. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and cut the claws off of your lobsters, also cutting the bands off of the claws. Place the claws on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 4 minutes; the claws need a bit of additional cooking time over the rest of the lobster.

Claws into the oven to roast for 4 minutes.

Claws into the oven to roast for 4 minutes.

While your claws are roasting, place your lobsters on a sheet of foil, scrunching it up to make a level platform for them to nest in.

Cleaned lobsters, ready to be stuffed.

Cleaned lobsters, ready to be stuffed.

Loosely spoon the cracker/onion/leg meat mixture into the open cavities of the lobsters, avoiding packing it in, and brush the tail meat with some olive oil.

Stuffed lobsters.

Stuffed lobsters.

Lobsters, ready for the oven. Tails brushed with olive oil.

Lobsters, ready for the oven. Tails brushed with olive oil.

When the four minute head start for your claws is done, add the lobsters to the pan with the claws. Depending on the weight of your lobsters, you will need to adjust the roasting time. For 1.5 lb lobsters, roast them for 14 minutes. In the episode, Alton has a chart of roasting times for respective lobster weights.

Claws after 4 minutes in the oven.

Claws after 4 minutes in the oven.

Lobsters added to claws.

Lobsters added to claws.

When your lobsters are done cooking, remove them from the oven and crack the claws.

Lobsters after 14 minutes in the oven.

Lobsters after 14 minutes in the oven.

You first want to crack the pincher and wiggle it from side to side until you can slide the shell off. Then, crack the other portion of the claw and push the meat out of the joint with your finger. This is easier said than done, but it can be done with some fiddling. Serve your lobsters on a bed of greens with the claw meat placed on top, and melted butter and lemon on the side.

Final stuffed lobster with claw meat on top and lemon on the side.

Final stuffed lobster with claw meat on top and lemon on the side.

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So, how was Alton’s stuffed lobster? Ted and I both thought this was delicious. It was rich and sweet, and the meat was cooked perfectly. The buttery flavor of the Ritz crackers paired perfectly with the lobster meat and the lemon zest cut the richness. We had our lobster with a Chardonnay and that pairing worked nicely. I would definitely make this again, and I already have it on my list for potential holiday meals. For lobster purists who like to pick the meat out of the shells yourselves, this preparation is probably not for you. However, if you want to enjoy the flavor of lobster with minimal work at the table, this is the way to go. It is definitely safe to say that I am a lobster fan after this one.

Mojo Moulies

It was amidst the moving boxes and clutter that I made my first Good Eats recipe in our new home. Continuing with the third season of the show, I prepped Alton’s version of mussels. As with several of the recipes I have made in my Good Eats project, I was again dealing with an ingredient that I had never prepared myself. I fondly recall a delicious dish of moules et frites that I got at a restaurant in Walla Walla, Washington, so I was hopeful that Alton’s mussels would prove to be likewise as delicious.

The online version of this recipe is a little goofy, in that it calls for a total of only 20 mussels, while 10 mussels will be used as part of the sauce. If you watch the episode of the show, however, Alton specifies that you should count on 15-20 mussels per person for an entree portion, while 7-8 mussels make for a great appetizer. Oh, and he recommends that you purchase enough for an extra serving, just in case some mussels need to be thrown away. My store happened to only have about 25 mussels. Rather than waiting for another day, I bought all of the mussels they had, figuring we could always eat more bread if we were still hungry. To store mussels at home, Alton tells you to put them in an open bucket or bowl, covered with a damp paper towel and a bag of ice, and to change the ice daily. I used my mussels within a few hours of buying them, but I still stored them this way.

Mussels ready for storage.

Mussels ready for storage.

Mussels topped with a damp paper towel...

Mussels topped with a damp paper towel…

...and a bag of ice.

…and a bag of ice.

Very few ingredients are needed for this recipe.

Other ingredients for the dish:  garlic, olive oil, leek, tomato, white wine, and Kosher salt.

Other ingredients for the dish: garlic, olive oil, leek, tomato, white wine, and Kosher salt.

Chopped leek.

Chopped leek.

Chopped garlic.

Chopped garlic.

Diced tomato.

Diced tomato.

To begin, you sweat leeks and garlic in olive oil, along with a pinch of Kosher salt. You will want to do this in a fairly large, lidded stockpot, in which you can nest a colander or steamer basket to hold the mussels.

Leeks and garlic sweating in olive oil.

Leeks and garlic sweating in olive oil.

While the vegetables sweat, you can clean your mussels with a brush. You will also need to remove any beards with needle-nose pliers. Many of my mussels still had their beards. Discard any mussels that are open.

Slightly blurry photo of cleaned mussels.

Slightly blurry photo of cleaned mussels.

Meanwhile, once the leeks have softened, add chopped tomato and white wine, increase the heat, and bring to a boil.

Tomato added to the pan.

Tomato added to the pan.

Wine added to the vegetables.

Wine added to the vegetables.

Once boiling, put the colander of mussels inside the pot, add the lid, and set a timer for three minutes. When the timer goes off, make sure all of the mussels are open; if any are unopened, move them around a bit and cook for another 30 seconds. If any mussels are still not open, throw them away, and divide the other mussels among individual serving bowls.

Steamed mussels.

Steamed mussels.

Add the meat of 10 mussels to the pot with the vegetable mixture and cooking liquid, and puree to a smooth consistency with an immersion blender.

Cooking liquid after steaming mussels.

Cooking liquid after steaming mussels.

Ten mussels added to cooking liquid for sauce.

Ten mussels added to cooking liquid for sauce.

Pureed sauce.

Pureed sauce.

Pour this sauce over the mussels, sprinkle with parsley (I forgot to add the parsley), and serve with crusty bread.

Mussels in sauce, served with bread.

Mussels in sauce, served with bread.

We ate our mussels as an entree and had a large proportion of sauce to mussels. The mussels themselves had the fresh taste of the ocean; I always think they taste exactly like the ocean smells. The sauce was, to me, the best part of the dish. It had a great balance of sweetness and acidity, along with a hint of brininess from the mussels, and it was great to dip good bread in. The mussels were really good, but Ted and I agreed that we really think we would prefer a bowl of clams, if given our choice of shellfish.

The Shrimp Cocktail

I had to make a decision here with my blog, as to whether to continue with the episodes in production order or in order of how the episodes aired. I chose to continue with the episodes by air date, which put my next episode as the shrimp episode. Shrimp, while I think they are okay, are not my favorite thing. I will almost always opt for other seafood over shrimp. This probably explains why I had never prepared shrimp prior to making this recipe from Good Eats.

To begin this recipe, Alton shows you how to clean and devein your shrimp by cutting along the back of each shrimp with small scissors. He gives a helpful tip to remove the veins (which are really the intestinal tracts) under water, as they tend to stick to everything. Alton really emphasizes the need to keep your shrimp very cold throughout every step of the shrimp cocktail process, so the shrimp are kept in a bowl of ice water while you devein them.

Cleaned shrimp.

Cleaned shrimp.

Once the shrimp are all clean, you combine Kosher salt, sugar, water, and ice cubes to make your brine. Alton says he makes his brine by running through one cycle of a coffee maker. I just dissolved my salt and sugar on the stove, let the brine cool slightly, and added my ice cubes. I poured the brine over my shrimp and put them in the refrigerator for 25 minutes.

Kosher salt and sugar, ready to be dissolved in some water to make a shrimp brine.

Kosher salt and sugar, ready to be dissolved in some water to make a shrimp brine.

While your shrimp sit in their brine, you make the cocktail sauce. You combine a can of drained tomatoes, chili sauce, horseradish, sugar, pepper, and Kosher salt in a food processor. I used my mini food processor that came with my immersion blender (Alton did this in the episode too), and it worked perfectly.

Canned tomatoes, chili sauce, horseradish, sugar, pepper, and Kosher salt.

Canned tomatoes, chili sauce, horseradish, sugar, pepper, and Kosher salt.

Finished cocktail sauce.

Finished cocktail sauce.

The sauce goes into the refrigerator while you finish your shrimp. After the brining period, you drain and rinse your shrimp. Alton tells you not to brine your shrimp for more than ~25 minutes. You then dry your shrimp in paper towels while you preheat your broiler with a foil-coated pan IN the oven.

Shrimp after brining.

Shrimp after brining.

Shrimp, drying in paper towels.

Shrimp, drying in paper towels.

For this recipe, you want to place your oven rack in the position that is second closest to the broiler. Once the broiler is preheated, you toss your shrimp with some olive oil and sprinkle them with some Old Bay Seasoning. I love Old Bay Seasoning. Both my parents are from Maryland, and my grandma made the best crab cakes on the planet with a sprinkle of Old Bay.

Shrimp coated with olive oil.

Shrimp coated with olive oil.

And a sprinkle of Old Bay.

And a sprinkle of Old Bay.

Shrimp with oil and Old Bay.

Shrimp with oil and Old Bay.

Once your shrimp are well-coated, you toss them, in a single layer, onto your hot pan in the oven, and they go under the broiler for two minutes. My shrimp were turning a nice shade of pink after two minutes. I flipped them over and threw them back into the oven for their additional one minute of cooking.

Shrimp into the oven on a pre-heated pan.

Shrimp into the oven on a pre-heated pan.

Shrimp after 2 minutes under the broiler.

Shrimp after 2 minutes under the broiler.

Shrimp after being flipped for an additional minute under the broiler.

Shrimp after being flipped for an additional minute under the broiler.

As soon as your shrimp come out of the oven, you want to put them into a freezer-cold bowl and toss them around. The bowl then goes back in the freezer for 5 minutes, and then is transferred to the refrigerator.

Frozen bowl.

Frozen bowl.

Hot shrimp into the cold bowl.

Hot shrimp into the cold bowl.

Once the shrimp are thoroughly chilled, you recreate the classic shrimp cocktail presentation, filling a martini glass with cold cocktail sauce and placing shrimp around the rim of the glass.

Completed shrimp cocktail.

Completed shrimp cocktail.

Shrimp Cocktail.

Shrimp Cocktail.

My blogging helpers.

My blogging helpers.

We ate this shrimp cocktail for dinner one night last weekend. We loved the spicy kick of the cocktail sauce, though I am sure some people would find it to be too spicy. I found the heat of the horseradish to contrast nicely with the sweetness of the tomatoes and chili sauce. The shrimp had a nice texture that was far from the rubbery texture I have come to dislike in shrimp. Alton says dry heat methods are the best for cooking shrimp, and this recipe seems to confirm that. My husband thought this shrimp cocktail was delicious, and said this was the best cocktail sauce he had ever had.