Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lobster Bisque

I recently did something I never do. I sent a bowl of Lobster Bisque back at a restaurant. Sending something back seems pretentious, as well as dangerous when you still have food to come out of the kitchen. Normally I would keep my mouth shut, eat as much as I could, or just leave it and hope the server notices the lack of enjoyment and inquires about it. But it was my birthday, the soup was the reason I had chosen to eat there, and they were charging $9 for a bowl of Lobster Bisque that didn't have a speck of lobster in it. Feeling courageous from a few birthday drinks, I asked the server about the lack of the much craved crustacean. He spoke to the chef and came back with the answer that it was made in the traditional way. I believe I'd call that soup "lobster stock with way too much tomato paste" then! I could not even taste any seafood through the overpowering tomato paste.

Fast forward one month later. That lobster bisque craving never went away. In fact, like a litter of rabbits, it continued to grow and consumed me to the point of researching which restaurants had the best lobster bisque around. So when I was at the seafood counter in the grocery store staring down a frozen lobster tail and the lady asked, "Would you like anything else?" I replied, "A lobster tail, please!"

What was I thinking? I had never made lobster before. It's fairly easy to overcook it and mess it up. I didn't even have a recipe or know if I had the ingredients to make lobster bisque. The culinary courage that has been growing in me recently kicked in and I thought, no matter, I had the most important part, and I'd wing the rest.

After looking up several recipes, and conforming them to the ingredients I had on hand, I finally decided on a cooking method. I boiled 2 cups of water in a stock pot and placed the thawed tail on a strainer out of reach of the water. Most recipes said steam for 7-8 minutes, so I steamed my 4 oz. tail for 5 minutes knowing it would cook a little in the soup as well. After deveining the lobster and chopping it up, I added the shells and 1 cup chicken stock to the water left in the stock pot and let it come to a slow boil.

Having no tomato paste, I found a can of whole cooked tomatoes. I squeezed out the juice of 2, added 2 cloves of raw garlic and pureed.

Then sea salt, parsley and basil joined the party. I added chicken stock to the bowl, and once it was as smooth as it was going to get, I took the lobster shells out of the stock pot and poured the tomato mixture in. I also added 1/2 tsp of worcestershire sauce and 1 tbs butter. After a couple minutes of simmering, I turned the heat to low.

Finally 1 cup of heavy cream, 1 tbs flour, and the lobster meat I had so desperately been craving went into the pot. I gave it a minute or two to heat through, and into the bowls it went.

While it wasn't the best lobster bisque I've ever had, I can honestly say it satiated my craving. The lobster was thankfully not overdone and chewy. The tomato was not overpowering the soup. And I got a good seafood taste from each bite.

My son gave it a 10 out of 10. It was his first time trying lobster bisque, so he apparently likes it now too. His partaking is the reason I didn't add any cayenne pepper. And in the future when I make this, I'll be sure to have some sherry, green onion or chives, and bay leaves on hand. Maybe some fish stock instead of chicken stock too, but I'm not holding my breath on that one.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rugelach ~ BWJ

Ahhhh! That sums up todays baking efforts. First, I of course waited until posting day to make my contribution. Procrastination should come as no surprise at this point. I did choose to read other blogs before starting this morning, and imagine my surprise when I realized I was wrong about the Irish Soda Bread being our endevor this Tuesday. Ahhhhh, mistake #1. That started the day off on the wrong foot. Then I read the recipe and after taking in the very detailed and overwhelming directions with 6 hours of chilling, rolling out dough, and making fillings, I knew I was in for a lot more work than I had bargained for, on a day when I had a lot to do already. Plus, now I had to get a loaf of bread going for the soup I had made for lunch the night before, thinking there would be fresh Irish Soda bread to go with it. Thank you bread machine for doing most of the work! Too bad I didn't have a rugelach machine. You can find the recipe here. HERS turned out beautifully I might add!

Still, I was excited about the rugelach project when I saw the dough had cream cheese. My favorite cookies my grandma used to make were cream cheese kolacky. These had a similar feel with the cream cheese dough and jam filling. I gave the butter and cream cheese an hour to warm because it was all I could give. The dough came together yummily. Isn't it great when there is no raw egg and you can pick at the bowl leftovers? And I searched for possible fillings. I came up with an apple, some raisins, and a peach apricot spread. Those were going to have to do today.

I patted the dough into rectangles and into the fridge for the 2 hour chill they went. After picking up my youngest son, I went to work on the one filling I didn't cop out on. I peeled and diced the apple, put it into a skillet, and added brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter. I sauteed the mixture until the apples were tender and the cinnamon/sugar was gooey and thick. Then I let it cool on the stove.

After 2 hours I took the dough out to roll it. I'm not a great judge of a 1/4 thickness, it might have been a little less, but I wouldn't have wanted them any doughier than they turned out. I put the apple mixture onto the first rectangle. I sprinkled some sugar, brown sugar, and imaginary raisins, since I forgot to put them in until after I had done the work of rolling it up. Ahhhhh, mistake #2.

The next rolled out rectangle of dough got the peach apricot treatment. I took a fork and sifted out all of the fruit chunks that were in there. Then I filled in the rest with what I now know to be a far too thin jam. Ahhhhh, mistake #3. There probably won't be a next time, but if there were, I would certainly use chunks of apricot and a thick apricot butter, which I still would not have faith that it would hold up. I sprinkled the peach apricot spread with brown sugar and omitted the white sugar since the spread was already sweet. I also omitted chunks of nuts because my boys can go either way with them, and I knew I needed them to eat the majority of these for my own sake.

With the second one rolled up, it was time to chill for at least 4 hours, preferrably overnight. Since they were due today, that wasn't happening. Between school, homework, Taekwondo and soccer, they got to chill for 6 hours. They were easy to handle, and I chose to use cream for the egg wash. After brushing on the wash, I rolled the 1 inch pieces into a cinnamon sugar bowl for the apple rugelach. Then I added chopped pecans to the cinnamon sugar and rolled the peach apricot rugelach in that.

At this point they look so pretty! All my effort looks like it was going to pay off. I already had a 375 degree preheated oven from dinner, so in they went. I even moved them around like the directions stated. But everytime I opened the oven door I saw a horror before me. All my filling was leaking out! I wanted to pull them right there to prevent further loss, but I knew the dough wasn't done. I waited out the 25 minutes and sadly took them out of the oven.

The apple fared much better than the peach apricot, which lost most of their filling. I transferred them to a cooling rack begrudgingly. I gave each boy, big and small, one of each kind. They gobbled them up. I tried one of each too, and they weren't too bad, although I knew how much better they could have been.

The hubby came into the kitchen inquiring if he could have another one. I told him to enjoy them now, because I wouldn't be making these (probably) ever again. Too much heartbreak for this girl. I know, Julia, I did not follow the recipe to a tee. I went rouge with the fillings and didn't prepare, and I can blame myself for this literal mess I've made. I'm seriously thinking about throwing one of the pans away instead of trying to scrape off the mess on there.

Alas, I have half of the rugelach dough in the freezer. Perhaps there will be a second try. Or perhaps I will again go rogue, and design a dough container to keep the filling from spilling out. No, it won't have the pretty swirl shape. But it will have all the fruity goodness that should be there!