Monday, December 31, 2012

Lobster Bisque

I've been waiting and waiting for a good time to make lobster bisque and New Year's Eve turned out to be it! My husband and I decided to make it a tradition to have a seafood meal each New Year's Eve and the grocery store was having a sale on lobster tails (a rarity in this land-locked land of Utah) which looked fairly decent. We don't get lobster enough to be snobby about it, so I took a few home to experiment.

Wow, was it a hit! We loved it. My husband could not stop raving about the bisque it during dinner. I have to say it was even better than most restaurant lobster bisques I have ordered in the past. If you like seafood or creamy soups, you will LOVE this.

I did spend the time to make my own lobster stock from the shells, which was amazing, but you could probably use lobster base or seafood stock if you have access to it. You could also easily substitute 2 cups half-and-half for the cream and milk)

I served it with an artisan garlic bread and spinach/pomegranate salad. We also had lemon-butter lobster tails and crab-stuffed mushrooms. How's that for a 3 course meal? The lobster bisque was our favorite part.

Lobster Bisque
1 TBSP olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 TBSP chopped shallot
1 large green onion, chopped
1/2 cup clam juice
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp tabasco sauce
1 tsp paprika
1 cup lobster stock (see below)
3 oz. tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup lobster meat, cut in chunks (meat from 2 lobster tails)

Heat olive oil in bottom of pot. Add garlic, shallot and green onion and saute for 1 minute. Deglaze pan  with 1/4 cup clam juice and reduce liquid down for a few minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce, tabasco, paprika, and thyme and saute, stirring constantly. Deglaze again with other 1/4 c clam juice. Add bay leaf, lobster stock and tomato paste and bring to boil for 10 min. Whisk in heavy cream and milk. Add lobster meat and bring to a simmer. Serve and Enjoy!

To make lobster stock:
Saute 2 garlic cloves, 1 stalk celery, and 1/4 cup onion (all roughly chopped) in a little olive oil in pot and then add lobster shells, stirring for a few minutes until shells start to turn brighter red. Add bay leaf and a couple peppercorns. Pour in enough water to cover the shells (I probably put in about 3 cups) and simmer for 1-2 hrs. on low heat. This yielded ~1 cup stock.

Here's what my stock pot looked like after boiling for a couple hrs.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sweet Potato Soup

For this end of autumn and beginning of winter, sweet potatoes fit the bill.  What they call "yams" in the grocery store are actually just an orange version of sweet potatoes. Call them what you may, they are delicious. This recipe (adapted from the recipe in Bon Appetit a few years ago) has undertones of a traditional Thanksgiving dish of yams, albeit not half as sweet-which I really liked.

Sweet Potato Soup
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 1/2 orange sweet potatoes or yams, chopped
4 cups stock or broth
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup milk
1 TBSP maple syrup
salt and pepper
leafy tops of celery

Saute onion and celery in olive oil for a few minutes, then add garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
Add in yams, stock, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg and simmer for 20 min. Remove cinnamon stick.
Use hand blender and puree until fairly smooth. Stir in milk and maple syrup and heat through (doesn't take more than a few minutes). Taste and add a little salt and pepper.
Garnish with leafy tops of celery.  Serves 2-3.

I served it with a grilled brie, gingered pear, arugula, and fig paninis. It was fantastic. We had a guest for dinner and all of us cleaned our plates.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Vegetable Stock

I know I neglected posting the last couple weeks, which, as my friend pointed out, is unusual given the time of year. There are many reasons but I won't go into those right now. I'll make it up somewhat by posting two this week! Sorry guys!

I kind of cringe at paying quite a bit of money for canned or boxed broths since I use broth so often in cooking. I don't often have a chicken or turkey carcass lying around, even close to the holidays, nor do I have a lot of time to necessarily make my own chicken broth but I DO always have lots of vegetables parts and pieces. Vegetable stock is also much quicker and much more tasty than any vegetable stocks/broths you can buy in the store. You can replace vegetable stock in recipes that use chicken broth fairly easily.

Here's the great thing, the complexity of flavors in a vegetable stock comes from all the different things you simmer in it. So, I just save all my vegetable trimmings for several days (this includes the ends, skins, peels, etc. of any hearty vegetables). This usually includes anything from a root vegetables (like potato, parsnips, turnips, onions and carrots) but also peppers, winter squashes, mushrooms, garlic, celery, tomatoes or anything else I may have used that week. I would only just stay away from any bitter skins (like on cucumbers, eggplant, or radishes).

1 whole large onion
1/2 bunch celery
1/2 bunch big carrots or small bag of mini carrots
1 4 oz. can of tomato paste
1 oz. dried Shiitake mushrooms
3-4 cloves of garlic (crushed, but leave skin on)
other vegetable pieces, parts, skins
1/2 bunch of parsley
fresh sprig of thyme or 1 TBSP dried
4 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1-2 TBSP salt

When you are ready to start, get your dried mushrooms and soak them in very hot water for at least 30 min.
Get out your biggest stockpot. You do need to use a whole large onion, celery bunch and carrots as the base. Chop them roughly-they don't need to look nice, they are just going to be boiled to death to give up all their flavor.
Caramelize them in the bottom of the pot with a little olive oil. Stir them often and be patient since it may take a little longer than you would expect to get them browned. It will take about 15 min.
Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir until it turns a rusty color.
Add everything else and pour water over everything until it is about 3 inches from the top.

Bring to boil, then turn heat down to low medium and simmer for 1.5 hrs.
Scoop out all the large vegetable mush with a big spoon or strainer.
Take clean mason jars and put a strainer on top, lined with paper towel and pour the liquid through into the jar. You may need to replace the paper towel several times when it gets sludged up.

This broth is not shelf-stable like canned goods (it's not acidic enough), so I keep a jar or two in the fridge and then freeze the rest. I usually get about 4-5 quarts out of my big stockpot.