Cousin Jeff’s Bermudian Lobster Risotto

bermudabeach
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.

jeffslobster
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.

lobsterrisotto
Cousin Jeff’s Bermudian Lobster Risotto

Images courtesy Cousin Jeff.

Cheesy Chile-Spiced Polenta with Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

Cheesy Chile-Spiced Polenta

We’ve been eating a lot of polenta around here lately.  I thought it was time to expand my ground cornmeal palate beyond my Horseradish Cheese Grits and my Dijon Cheesy Grits (read this if you’re confused about the difference between polenta and grits and masa).

I finally ran out of Henry Langdon’s amazing Sea Salt Rub (as featured in my Shrimp and Grits recipe); my pals Mike and Laura brought a big jar of it back from their trip to Australia a few years back, and it was like magic cooking dust.  I wish I had some more (hint, hint, Shalini).  In the meantime, here’s my attempt at replicating its flavor profile with some rich, cheesy polenta, which, it turns out, is the perfect vehicle for the
Habanero-Infused Olive Oil
we made after our recent, massive chile harvest.

Make a whole big batch of this and then enjoy it reheated for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

2 cups polenta
8 cups water
4 Tbsp butter
1 tsp prepared horseradish sauce
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp red chili flakes
2 tsp fresh cilantro, finely diced
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp dried and chopped kaffir lime leaves
sea salt, or to taste
Habanero-Infused Olive Oil, to taste

1. Bring water to boil in a large saucepan with a little salt.

2. Add polenta. Stir, and reduce heat to simmer. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes, or until water has been absorbed.

3. Remove pan from heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir thoroughly until well-mixed. Taste and salt as desired.

4. Spoon out and serve immediately, drizzled with
Habanero-Infused Olive Oil
, or spoon polenta into a bowl, refrigerate, and serve later in slices. You could also use the firmed-up leftovers for my Fried Polenta with Creamy Mushrooms.

Or you could top it with homemade bacon bits.

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Lemon Garlic Pasta with Grilled Chicken

Lemon Garlic Pasta with Grilled Chicken

We’ve been watching a lot of Giada De Laurentiis lately, thanks to the giant flat screen TV my mother bought us for Christmas, along with the new DVR we’re paying way too much for. I’ve been a fan of my fellow five-foot foodie for a while, but she’s really been on a lemon kick lately. I recently bought a whole bag of lemons at Central Market (mainly with cocktails in mind), so all that sharp footage of lemon sauces, lemon parfaits, lemon chicken, and lemon cookies inspired me to create this simple recipe.

On Memorial Day, we made her Lemon-Cumin Chicken on the grill out by the pool, so we had some of that left over. You could use plain baked chicken breasts, pan-fried chicken, or shredded roast chicken for this recipe; whatever you prefer or have on hand. The added flavor of the grilled crust, marinated in cumin and lemon juice, really added something special to the final dish, though. Try it sometime.

This simple, bright recipe is a good pasta dish for summer; it’s creamy comfort food without being too heavy, and pairs well with chicken, shrimp, salmon, or grilled portobello mushrooms.

4 grilled chicken breasts, sliced
1 lb. capelli d’angelo pasta (angel hair)
olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
zest of two lemons
juice of two lemons
1 cup heavy cream (or sour cream)
1 heaping Tbsp flour
salt, to taste
1 tsp black pepper, or to taste
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste

1. Fill a large stock pot with water, salt liberally, and add a splash of olive oil (about 1 teaspoon). Bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook for approximately five minutes, or until al dente. Test a strand to see if it’s done; if not, boil for an additional minute.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter and add sliced chicken, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for about five minutes, until chicken is warmed through and garlic is fragrant but not burned. Add the lemon zest and juice, and cook for about two additional minutes, stirring constantly. Drizzle in cream, stirring while doing so, then add flour. Mix in with a light hand until flour is well absorbed into the sauce, and a thicker consistency begins to form. Reduce heat to low. Taste and re-season as needed.

3. Drain pasta and return to pan. Lightly toss with a little olive oil (about 1 tablespoon). Using a slotted pasta fork, plate the pasta. Pour the chicken and lemon garlic sauce out over each helping, and serve immediately.
Lemon Garic Pasta with Grilled Chicken

These pictures don’t really do justice to this dish; it’s way tastier than they make it look! I also went a bit nuts with the pasta portions sizes. Anyway, try it, and let me know what you think! If you like lemon infused savory dishes, I bet you’ll love it, too!

Fried Polenta with Creamy Mushrooms

polenta

For the polenta
1 cup polenta
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
olive oil

For the creamy mushrooms
2 cups cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 heaping tsp white flour
1/3 cup rosé wine
1/2 cup heavy cream

To garnish8712933926_6e65cedecf_b
balsamic vinegar (optional)
4 Tbsp finely grated parmesan
2 Tbsp pine nuts
1 handful fresh basil, shredded

Equipment
Large saucepan
Whisk
Rectangular baking dish
Large skillet
Medium skillet
Large knife

1. In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add salt. Slowly add polenta and whisk to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for about ten minutes, stirring frequently, until water is fully absorbed. Remove from heat. Stir in one tablespoon of butter. Pour into a rectangular dish. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes on the counter top, then place in refrigerator. Cool for at least four hours, until polenta has set. To speed the process, you can cool it in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes instead.

2. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-high heat (about five minutes; watch carefully and don’t let them burn!). Set aside.

3. To make the polenta sticks, turn the dish upside down on a plate or cutting board. The polenta should be fairly loose and slide out easily. If it doesn’t, gently loosen it from the sides of the dish with a splatula. Make sure it is completely cooled through. Using a large knife, cut the polenta loaf into half-inch-wide strips, then half again horizontally, so that you are left with nice polenta sticks (see picture).

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sliced

4. Melt remaining butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Place polenta sticks in the skillet and fry on each side until just browned, about ten minutes per side. Flip carefully with a spatula. Each piece of polenta should be ever-so-slightly crispy and golden brown.

frying1

frying

5. Meanwhile, in a smaller pan, melt half the butter for the mushrooms over medium heat. Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Sauté for about five minutes, until mushrooms are just cooked. Deglaze pan with the wine, and continue stirring, allowing the mushrooms to absorb the flavor as the alcohol evaporates. Add the other half of the butter and the flour and stir continuously until a roux is formed. Reduce heat to low. Add cream and stir thoroughly for an additional two or three minutes, until cream is heated through and well mixed. You will now have a very flavorful, creamy mushroom sauce. For a thicker sauce, add flour; for thinner, add water.

6. To serve, splash some balsamic vinegar on each plate (if desired), then add the fried polenta strips, using a slotted spatula to remove them from the pan while draining off most of the grease. Top with a dusting of parmesan, then spoon the creamy mushrooms over the top. Add a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and the shredded basil, and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

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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