Cousin Jeff’s Bermudian Lobster Risotto

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Cousin Jeff’s backyard view.

So, a few months ago my cousin Jeff moved to Bermuda. I know, right? He keeps posting all these ridiculous photographs on Facebook (see above), and talking about all the delicious, fresh seafood. Apparently, Bermuda also has avocados the size of eggplants.

Since I’ve been on a bit of hiatus here since starting grad school, I asked Jeff if I could post his lobster with pesto and risotto recipe. The lobsters show below were from his local fish truck, and went straight home and into the pot. The result sounds amazing. Test it yourself, and tell me what you think in the comments! I’ll pass them on to the cook, if he’s not too busy soaking up the Caribbean sun and being a gourmand.

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The very same lobster. Well, one of ’em.

Here are Cousin Jeff’s instructions:

Take a whole lobster (mine was a spiny, so I broke it down out of the shell and cut it into cubes), poach it in olive oil and Irish salted butter. [Here’s an overview of how to boil a lobster, if you’re not experienced.] I used the whole shell for the lobster stock, boiling it for about 2 hours with the lobster water and additional water. Meanwhile, Dice a small onion (tangerine size), 3 cloves of garlic (minced), 3 cups of finely chopped kale. Sweat these vegetables in about a table spoon of olive oil. Mix in about a cup of white wine (I drank the rest of the bottle), then added 2 cups of risotto and covered it with the stock. Cooked it down 3 times, adding more water each time, along with some cayenne and grated parmesan to taste. Finally, whip up a fresh basil pesto with chopped onions, olive oil, and garlic butter. Put the pesto into a baggie and chill it, then cut the corner and use it as a pastry bag to garnish.

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Cousin Jeff’s Bermudian Lobster Risotto

Images courtesy Cousin Jeff.

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The Great British Food Series: Part Three, Edinburgh

Third in a multi-part series. Read Part One: London and Brighton, and Part Two: York.

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Edinburgh New Town and the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh Castle.

I’d been to Edinburgh several times, but always in the winter, but Eric had never been, and I knew he was going to love it! Imagine my surprise when we arrived on June 27, and it was about 55 degrees and pouring rain! (I wasn’t surprised.)

Luckily, our bed and breakfast was only a fifteen-minute walk from Waverley Station; on the way, we stopped in to the first decent-looking pub we passed to dry off, grab a bite to eat, and kill some time until check-in.

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The Theatre Royal Bar.

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Leek and onion soup!

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The Royal Mile.

After checking in and dropping off our bags, we walked back across the park to the Royal Mile, and walked the entire thing. After peeking into Holyrood, we doubled-back and, still near the bottom of the hill, popped into another pub, the No. 1 High Street Bar, for dinner.

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The starter: focaccia and delicious dippings.

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Eric ordered… more fish and chips! Haddock, this time.

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And I had… more bangers and mash! This was the best plate of bangers and mash of the whole trip: prime Scottish sausage from award-winning local butcher Crombies of Edinburgh, served with onion gravy, mashed potatoes, and market vegetables.

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The malt of the moment!

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Just because.

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Our bed and breakfast, Adria House, was amazing. Not just the immaculately restored, quiet, neoclassical New Town digs, but the attentive and friendly service! Our hosts made us packed breakfasts for the two mornings on which our schedules necessitated an early departure: yogurt, cheese, clementines, apples, granola bars, and juice! I highly recommend this B&B!

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Of course, a leisurely breakfast in the dining room was even better!

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I turned 34 while we were in Edinburgh, so we went out for a nicer-than-usual dinner. Our Scottish friend Alan recommended Rose Street, and so off we went!

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Look, it’s my tattoo! Made of pebbles! On a street! In Scotland. Wait, what?

We went to The Rosehip and had a lovely, lengthy, decadent meal.

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First course: prosecco!

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My main course: Local lambshank served with a leek and savoy cabbage mash and coated in a red onion, rosemary and onion jus. It was so, so good.

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Eric’s dinner: Scottish venison steak with mashed sweet potatoes! YES.

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Did I mention they also had an impressive whisky collection?

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I toasted the Blair ancestors with a wee dram of 1997 Blair Atholl.

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The dessert course: chocolate cake and cappuccinos.  Mmm.  It was actually a bit too cold outside—on June 30!

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Window display, Royal Mile.

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We also went on quite the pub crawl in Edinburgh.  We went to three folkie pubs recommended by KUT‘s Ed Miller (who hosts our favorite radio program, Across the Water).  We visited several pubs on the Royal Mile, in the heart of the touristy center of Edinburgh.  We got lost in Canonmills and wandered into a pub packed with spaniels, showing Wimbledon live, and serving real ale.  We went on the aforementioned Rose Street walk.  We drank the pint above at The Doctors, next to the University of Edinburgh, on graduation day; the place was packed with be-robed graduates in white tie, happy families, balloons, and crusty British professor types.

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And we bought obscure local brews to take back to the sitting room at our B&B!  So relaxing.

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Butchers’ window, Canonmills.

One of the pubs recommended by Ed Miller was the Canons Gait on the Royal Mile. We’d also hear they had good food, so we decided to go there for dinner.

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Eric had the fresh salmon and scalloped potatoes with salad. It was really good. But what I had was even better.

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I ordered haggis!

I’d never had haggis before; I had enjoyed an amazing, lentil-based vegetarian “haggis” at the George Hotel in Inverary, when I went there with my mom in 2004 (in fact, it was so good, I ordered it for every meal!). I calculated my chances at the Canons Gait: 1) recommended by Ed Miller; 2) reassuringly short, obviously seasonal menu; 3) the Scottish lady at the next table over ordered the haggis. I decided to go for it.

And I’m glad I did! This was one of the tastiest meals of the entire trip. The haggis was flavorful and decadent. The neeps and tatties were creamy and addictive (especially the tatties—I think they were half butter, to be honest). Washed down with a pint, it was a meal to remember. I’d even eat it again.

I think that’s a great note to end on, don’t you?

Check back next week for part four: Northumberland and Liverpool (I’ll explain!).

Third in a multi-part series. Also see Part One: London and Brighton, and Part Two: York.

Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

Check out this habanero-infused olive oil we threw together after our recent, massive chile harvest. Spicy! I’m hooked!

~2 cups extra virgin olive oil
4-6 fresh habanero chiles, washed

1. Wear latex gloves.

2. Choose a cutting board that is not super-absorbent (such as glass), or, even better, have a dedicated chile-cutting board. You could also line your cutting board with a plastic bag, being careful not to pierce the bag when cutting. Slice habaneros as desired and set cutting board aside.

3. Fill a glass container (Mason jar, recycled and washed olive oil or salad dressing bottle) half full (or so) with olive oil. Add the peppers to the olive oil, leaving some room for air at the top.

4. Wrap a paper towel or cheesecloth around the mouth of the jar and secure with twine (don’t use a rubber band!). Microwave the oil on high for a few seconds, watching closely, or until it comes just to a near-boil—just bubbling. Do not let the olive oil boil, or you will have a huge mess on your hands.

5. If you used a paper towel for the cover, remove it and replace with a fresh one. Turn the bottle or jar upside down and drain the oil into another container (any material will do—I used a Martha Steward plastic fridge containers!). Place in the refrigerator upside-down and allow the oil to cool until it’s solid. Discard chile hulls and seeds; we use ours for compost.

6. Remove the container and pour off any water that has separated. Allow the olive oil to return to liquid form at room temperature. Pour the infused oil back into the glass container and put the lid on. Eccola! Habanero-infused olive oil!

Mmm.

Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

I added a couple more slices to this, for extra kick and pretty presentation!

Austin Coffee Guide 2013

Coffee

Welcome to my 2013 Austin coffee guide, part of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance 2013 Austin City Guide.

Austin City Guide

Best Coffee Shops

1. Caffe Medici

Caffe Medici on West Lynn
1101 West Lynn
Austin, TX 78703

The original location of this amazing coffee house is still a favorite with discerning coffee aficionados. Not only do the use Austin’s own best-of-the-best Cuvée Coffee, they have their own blend! Knowledgeable, dedicated baristas making near-perfect coffee. Adorably situated in a renovated house in the historic and quaint Clarksville neighborhood.

Caffe Medici on the Drag
2222B Guadalupe Street
Austin, TX 78705

Hip little spot with the best coffee in town, full hot breakfast menu, and some excellent people watching.

Caffe Medici
Iced coffee with hazelnut, Caffe Medici on the Drag

2. Cherrywood Coffeehouse

Cherrywood Coffeehouse
1400 East 38th 1/2 Street
Austin, TX 78722

Cherrywood is a funky spot on the East Side with ample outdoor seating (a large patio, plus an even larger yard with palm trees!) and intimate indoor tables and booths. Not only do they serve some of the best coffee in Austin (try the Cuban Con Leche), but they also have some amazing food and a great atmosphere. I could stay here all day (and sometimes I do)!  I can’t believe I don’t have a picture, because we go here all the time!  I’ll rectify this soon.

3. Thunderbird Coffee

Thunderbird Coffee on Koenig
1401 Koenig Lane
Austin, TX 78756

Thunderbird
Ridiculously delicious vegan chocolate truffle, Thunderbird Coffee on Koenig.

Thunderbird is, for my money, the best coffee shop in the Brentwood Neighborhood. Truly at the forefront of Austin’s coffee scene, they serve Cuvée, they buy direct trade, and the place is just super comfortable. Oh, Thunderbird also has some amazing snacks (see above).

Thunderbird Coffee on Manor
2200 Manor Road
Austin, TX 78722

Thunderbird’s Manor location is every bit as great as the Koenig shop, and is also a great spot to catch some live music (see their Facebook page for updates).

4. Bennu Coffee

Bennu Coffee
2001 East Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard
Austin, TX 78702

BennuBennu is tucked away in the dip of a steep valley on East MLK, and it’s a very snug spot! Their coffee is excellent, but the real draw for me is their gourmet mochas menu! I tried The Raven, above (“a luscious dark chocolate mocha topped with home-made whipped cream and drizzled with dark chocolate sauce – go, Ravens!). Delicious.

Honorable Mentions

Houndstooth Coffee
4200 North Lamar, Suite 120
Austin, TX 78756

When telling people that I was writing a guide to Austin coffee shops, Houndstooth is the place that was mentioned the most! These folks take coffee seriously, and this place is the epitome of Austin’s burgeoning upscale hipster cool. Situated on North Lamar amongst our favorite hip establishments and next to a Ferrari dealership, Houndstooth is small, crowded, and always abuzz. Their baristas are true professionals, and coffee is the main draw here. Their original location will soon be joined by a downtown shop, too!

Jo’s
1300 South Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78704

Jo's
Eric at Jo’s on South Congress.

This happening coffee dealer is among the most beloved in town, not only because of their gourmet roasting abilities, but because the main, South Congress location includes some famous Amy Cook graffiti. Jo’s has a sister shop downtown on 2nd Street, which also serves up their very, very good sandwiches in addition to coffee. Jo’s is a must-visit, practically an institution.

Flipnotics
1601 Barton Springs Road
Austin, TX 78704

Another Austin institution, Flipnotics will always have a place in my heart as the place where Luke Wilson once held a door for me. No lie, he held the door for me, and then proceeded to silently sip a large cup of coffee while reading a book, mere feet away. Beyond potential Wilson-spottings, though, Flipnotics is an amazing coffee shop on Barton Springs road that serves up some of the strongest midnight coffee I’ve ever had in addition to an array of locally-produced foodstuffs (like Hoboken Pie!). They also have live music daily. Now that’s Austiny, y’all.

J.P.’s Java
2803 San Jacinto
Austin, TX 78705

J.P.'s Java
Hazelnut latte, J.P.’s Java.

Wonderful, warm coffee shop near The University of Texas (north campus). Cozy indoor seating and a large, sunny patio.

The Hideout
617 Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701

Latte at the Hideout
Latte, the Hideout.

Cozy little coffee shop affiliated with the Hideout Theatre (which is upstairs) on Congress Avenue. You can even take your coffee into the theater! Good people watching, great coffee, funky atmosphere.

Espression Lavazza
914 Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701

Espresso at Lavazza
Espresso, Espression Lavazza.

One of only ten Lavazza retail coffee shops in the USA, the Austin location is a sensory overload of very strong espresso, Italian pastries, gelato, IKEA-like modern decor, and ridiculous artwork (see below).

Lavazza artwork

Spider House
2908 Fruth Street
Austin, TX 78705

A north campus institution, Spider House is just as funky as it was when I was a wee undergrad in the late 90s. They serve an impressive selection of colorfully-named sandwiches (Sam-I-Am-Wich, anyone?) and have a full bar as well as quite a few excellent imported beers, but their coffee is nothing to sniff at, either. A brightly-painted, converted house, this place is a real mecca for students, and is usually very busy during term time. And, trust me, f you get a table, you’ll want to stay a while.

East Village Cafe
1111 Chicon Street
Austin, TX 78702

East Village Cafe
Eric enjoying an americano at East Village Cafe.

East Village Cafe comfortably inhabits an old, renovated storefront in the Rosewood neighbhorhood, and makes a lovely cup of coffee! Friendly baristas, two patios, JFK art, and a great sunset view make this small place extra special.

Austin Java
1206 Parkway (12th & Lamar)
Austin, TX 78703

Now at seven locations, including the Austin Bergstrom International Airport, Austin Java has been serving up great coffee and hearty meals for years. The all day breakfast is good, but I have to recommend the Thai One On Salad and Spicy African Peanut Soup. The front patio is another great spot for people watching, situated as it is on Lamar Boulevard.

Mozart’s Coffee
3825 Lake Austin Boulevard
Austin, TX 78703

Mozart’s is just a treat. It’s a great place to hang and study or read, but it’s also a bit romantic. Right on Lake Austin, they regularly schedule live music shows and serve some truly decadent coffees, pastries, canoli, and homemade cheesecake. Especially intimate after dark.

Bouldin Creek Cafe
1900 South First Street
Austin, Texas 78704

Long a hole in the wall on South First, vegetarian hotspot Bouldin Creek Cafe moved into sweet new digs a few blocks away from their original location a couple of years ago. Famous among vegans for their amazing scrambled tofu with nutritional yeast (I still order it, even though I now eat two dozen eggs a week), Bouldin Creek has preserved its funky charm while moving a bit upscale. This is a place you could hold an anarchist book club or take your out-of-town parents. Serving locally roasted Black Velvet Coffee, Bouldin offers both cow’s milk and vegan options including rice, soy, and almond (mmm!). This place is plain addictive.

Halcyon
18 West 4th Street
Austin, TX 78701

When I told Eric I was writing the City Guide post on coffee shops, the second thing he said (after, “Cherrywood!”) was, “Oh, good, you can tell everyone about how much better Halcyon used to be.” It’s true. I loved the old (pre-2007) Halcyon. They did a renovation and made the place a lot smaller and less comfortable, but it’s still one of the best coffee houses in Austin, and a day/night chameleon. Alongside expertly roasted standard coffees, they feature brilliant menu items like the chocolate espresso martini and tableside s’mores (complete with fire – and a favorite of mine back in the day). Open till 3:00am on Friday and Saturday nights.

Epoch
221 West North Loop Boulevard
Austin, TX 78751

North Loop. Delicious coffee (especially the iced mochas). Free, reliable wifi.  They’re open 24 hours.  And it’s a good thing, because this is the type of coffee house where you’ll want to hang out all day (and night).

Hidden Gems

Driskill Bar
604 Brazos Street
Austin, Texas 78701

Driskill

Nestled inside the back of the historic (and hyper-Texan) Driskill Hotel, the Driskill Bar is not only one of the very best people watching spots on this list, but they also serve pretty damn cheap Irish coffees alongisde the ridiculously priced happy hour menu (half-price bar snacks, including Angus beef sliders and bacon-wrapped medjool dates, both highly recommended).

Arturo’s Underground Cafe (Yelp)
314 West 17th Street
Austin, TX 78701
Arturo's

Texas Pecan Roast, Arturo’s Underground Cafe.

A real hidden gem between campus and the Capitol, serving up amazing breakfast tacos, sandwiches, and wraps every morning and lunchtime. Basement and sidewalk seating, friendly staff, and amazing Texas Pecan Roast coffee.

Dobie Market
2025 Guadalupe Street, Suite # 142
Austin, Texas 78705

This is going to sound crazy, but my favorite cup of coffee lately is the plain, small, black coffee at Dobie Market, the new convenience store in the bottom of Dobie Mall (enter from the corner of 21st and Whitis). They serve freshly roasted beans from Texas Coffee Traders, and, well, it’s just excellent. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also cheap, they’re always open, the owner is super friendly, and they stock a wide selection of foodstuffs, including Capitol Grill breakfast tacos, the entire Blue Bell range (in pints), Krispy Kreme doughtnuts, beer, and wine. Seriously, go check it out.

For a round-up of Austin coffee roasters, see Eli Catro’s blog, Grubbus!

To see the complete 2013 Austin City Guide, click here!

Stella’s Stuffed Poblanos

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

This isn’t a proper chile relleno recipe, as my poblanos aren’t battered, nor are they served with a typical tomato-based sauce. But they are super flavorful and deceptively easy, and I’m positive you’ll be as hooked as we are if you try this recipe!  We’ve been making these often lately because they’re is so quick and painless; I was prodded by followers on Instagram to share the recipe.

Of course, you can play around with the fillings, but these are my favorites. The rich, mature flavor of the asiago cheese pairs perfectly with bacon and cream cheese, and this hearty, slightly spicy beef transforms humble chiles into a meal.  Feel free to top with salsa or crema mexicana for extra decadence.

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

6 large poblano chiles
4 bacon rashers
1/2 white onion, finely diced; halved
1/2 lb. ground beef
2 Tbsp Cholula or other hot sauce
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
splash Worcestershire sauce
2 cups asiago cheese, grated
4 oz. cream cheese

Also needed:
latex gloves
toothpicks
broiling pan or cookie sheet
aluminum foil

1. In a large skillet (I used a cast iron), cook bacon over medium heat until crispy, turning a few times. Set bacon aside on paper towels to drain. Pour bacon grease into a mason jar and save for future cooking, reserving about 1 teaspoon in the skillet.

2. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about two minutes. Remove half the oven from the pan and set aside. To the rest of the onion, add beef, breaking it up with your spatula, and continue to sauté until cooked through, about ten minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and add spices, Cholula, and Worcestershire sauce. Continue to cook for a further five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

3. Meanwhile, wearing latex gloves, cut the tops off the poblanos and seed them. Cut out the ribs, as well. Rinse thoroughly with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

4. Once the beef is done, drain the juices and set the meat and onion mixture aside in a bowl. In another medium mixing bowl, combine the previously cooked onion, 1 cup of the grated asiago, and the cream cheese. Stir with a wooden spoon, then crumble bacon into the bowl. Continue to stir until thoroughly combined.

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

5. Stuff the poblanos: take one pepper, and stuff it full with the cheese and bacon mixture, compressing the cheese down with a spoon as you stuff. Place the top back on the pepper and secure it with two toothpicks, pushed through the flesh of the pepper’s side and cap (see below). For the other four poblanos, alternately stuff with the plain grated asiago and beef mix until they are also full. Secure tops with toothpicks.

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

6. Carefully move all the peppers to a broiling pan or foil-lined cookie sheet. Set oven to broil and cook on each side for two to three minutes, turning over once (again, carefully) with a large spatula. The peppers will darken and bubble a bit.

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

7. Remove the pan from the oven and allow peppers to cool for a couple of minutes before gently removing them from the pan. Plate as-is and serve immediately with any garnish desired.

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

To eat, simply remove the toothpicks and dig in!

Serves 3 as a main, 6 as an appetizer or side.

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos