SEAFOOD GRATIN FOR A SPECIAL DINNER

Phil’s brother spent last weekend with us to play some golf and relax (forgive the oxymoron). I did not join them because I am a woman of principle and will not set foot on a golf course until the temperature reaches a comfortable level. For the record, that means above 80 F.  With no excessive wind because that messes my  accuracy with the driver, some irons, and the putter. What can I say? My game is one of exquisite precision. Instead of shivering and getting drenched on the course, I stayed in our kitchen preparing a special dinner for the gentlemen.  I chose a recipe from Ina Garten, which is a bit of an unusual move for me, I find most of her recipes overly rich.  This was no exception, but once in a blue moon it’s ok to indulge. Especially when  we have a wonderful guest to share it with!

Seafood Gratin

SEAFOOD GRATIN
(slightly modified from Ina Garten)

1 cup clam juice (I used homemade shrimp stock)
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup plus 3 tbsp. white wine divided (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
3 tbsp. tomato puree
1 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
8-ounces raw cod, cut into 1-inch chunks
16 oz. cooked lobster meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and green parts
1 cup peeled, shredded carrots
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Combine the shrimp stock (or clam juice), cream, white wine and tomato puree in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and add the shrimp.  Let cook 1-2 minutes, until pink and opaque.  Remove to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon.  Add the pieces of cod to the stock mixture until just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove to the same plate with the shrimp using a slotted spoon. Add the cooked lobster to the bowl.

Continue to cook the sauce until reduced by half, about 12 minutes.  Combine 1 tablespoon of the butter in a small bowl with the flour and mash together with a fork.  Whisk the butter-flour mixture with the salt and pepper into the sauce and continue to simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Set aside.

In a medium sauté pan melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat.  Add the leeks and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened.  Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of wine and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes more.

Add the cream sauce and cooked vegetables to the bowl with the seafood and toss to blend well.  Divide the mixture between individual gratin dishes.  If not baking right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

When you are ready to bake the gratins, heat the oven to 375˚ F.  Place the filled gratin dishes on a baking sheet.  Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a small bowl.  Add the Panko, parmesan, parsley and garlic to the bowl and toss with a fork to combine.  Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the prepared gratins.  Bake 20 minutes, until the top is browned and bubbling.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

mixture

Several pointers for success in this recipe: use jumbo or very large shrimp, and cook them briefly in the mixture of heavy cream and white wine.  They will bake later and you don’t want your seafood overcooked. Same is true for the fish, choose a fish with firm white flash, cod or halibut will both word well. If you can splurge, sea bass would be amazing, but when I saw the price of those, I could not bring myself to grab some.  Use any method you like for the lobster tails. I almost went with sous-vide, but in the end simmered them in a little lemony water.  The secret of cooking seafood is to never boil the liquid too hard. They are delicate creatures that will tighten on you and turn rubbery very easily.

I had home-made shrimp stock frozen, and in my opinion that worked much better than bottled clam juice. Great that I remembered having that liquid gold in the freezer. And, what’s even better, it was properly labeled! HA!

This is a perfect dish to entertain, because you can assemble the whole thing in advance and do the final baking while you prepare any side dishes of your choice.  I served it with a bucatini in olive oil with lemon zest, very simple. And roasted asparagus. Dessert was a duo of sorbets, chocolate and raspberry, both recipes should be on the blog in the near future. Ok, near future is a relative term when it comes to my posts. But hang in there, patience will pay off.

😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Cooking Sous-Vide: Sweet and Spicy Asian Pork Loin

TWO YEARS AGO:  Farewell to a Bewitching Kitchen

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen. June 2012

FOUR YEARS AGO: Goodbye L.A.

FIVE YEARS AGO: 7-6-5 Pork Tenderloin

INA GARTEN’S BANANA BRAN MUFFINS

I don’t cook Ina Garten‘s recipes that often because they tend to be way too rich (says she who recently baked a cake with a few hundred calories per bite..  ;-)).   But these muffins have just the right amount of indulgence, well balanced by all their healthy components: unprocessed bran, fruits, and nuts.   I am always happy when I find a good recipe for bran muffins, Phil’s favorite ways to start the day: one of these babies, warmed up slightly in the oven, next to a steaming cup of cappuccino.

CHUNKY BANANA BRAN MUFFINS
(adapted from Ina Garten, FoodTV Network)

1 cup unprocessed wheat bran
1 cup buttermilk (shaken)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 + 1/2 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 + 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup mixed dried raisins, blueberries, cranberries
1 cup large-diced bananas
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place paper liners into a muffin tin.

Combine the bran and buttermilk and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time. Scrape the bowl and then add the molasses, agave nectar, orange zest, and vanilla. (The mixture will look curdled.) Add the bran/buttermilk mixture and combine.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the batter just until combined.  Fold in the dried fruits, bananas and walnuts with a rubber spatula.

Fill the muffin cups to the top and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Most recipes of this type call for over-ripe bananas, all brown and mushy.  In this recipe, Ina used bananas that were good enough to eat as a fruit, ripe, but not falling apart at all.  I was a bit intrigued, but followed her lead.  Verdict:  not only it works, but it’s probably what makes these muffins quite special, the little morsels of concentrated banana flavor.

Phil gave his seal of approval to the recipe, so all you bran muffin lovers can go ahead and give it a shot.  😉

ONE YEAR AGOBeer Bread with Roasted Barley

TWO YEARS AGO:  Tomato Confit with Arugula and Zucchini

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

MY NEW FAVORITE TOMATO SAUCE

Strange things happen in my kitchen.  Countless recipes wait in an imaginary line,  that most will stay in for years, until I finally get around to making them.  But occasionally a recipe casts a spell on me, forcing a menu change, a search for exotic ingredients, the abandonment of seasonal cooking, and my personal resolve to drop everything else and cook it right away, as soon as humanly possible.  I bring this up because it happened last weekend, when the  Barefoot Contessa’s guest chef, Joseph Realmuto,  shared the recipe for his restaurant’s favorite tomato sauce (for the past 22 years).  It involved vodka,  slow roasted tomatoes and onions, and was finished with heavy cream.   I stopped in my tracks, slowly turned, headed  to the kitchen,  and made it.  And that, my friends, was the right move… 😉



PENNE A LA VECCHIA BETTOLA

(adapted from Joseph Realmuto, original recipe from La Vecchia Bettola, Firenze)

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 T dried red pepper flakes
1 T dried oregano
1/2 cup vodka
1 can best quality whole tomatoes (28 ounces)
salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream
fresh herbs of your choice (oregano, basil)
parmiggiano reggiano cheese, grated

Heat the oven to 375 F.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, add the onions, cook for about 8 minutes over medium heat, add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and dried oregano, and saute for a couple of minutes, mixing constantly. Add the vodka and simmer until the mixture is slightly reduced. Drain the tomatoes and add them to the skillet, crushing them slightly with your hands or a large wooden spoon (careful, they will splatter!). Season lightly with salt. Cover the skillet and place in the oven for one and a half hours. Remove the skillet from the oven, let it cool for 15 minutes, then place the contents in a blender. Puree until smooth.

While you cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water, finish the sauce back in the skillet, setting over medium heat, and adding heavy cream. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes, add the cooked pasta, and allow them to gently simmer for a few more minutes. Add fresh herbs and parmiggiano cheese right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: In this day and age it’s hard to believe I’d even bother with another recipe for tomato sauce.   I usually alternate between my two favorites: the first involves a quick saute of onions in olive oil, a can of tomatoes, salt, pepper and some herbs; the second is a   very popular recipe from Marcella Hazan, worth all the butter it calls for.  😉

With the addition of this recipe I have my own tomato trilogy. It’s a breeze to prepare, but the combination of vodka and slow roasted tomatoes makes it taste complex. I reduced the cream  because 1 full cup of heavy cream seemed excessive;  feel free to do as your heart (and palate) desires. The vodka provides a background of heat that’s perfect with the intense flavor of tomatoes, concentrated by roasting.  It’s a delicious sauce that may be prepared in advance and blended right before finishing.