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Posts Tagged ‘seafood’

The following post is brought to you by my wonderful co-worker Jon.  Thank you for taking the time to write such a great post Jon–next time you should invite me over for dinner!

Over the weekend I had 7 friends over, mostly from my UCLA days, who now live in LA, New York, and Boston. With my 2 roommates, a 10-person dinner meant I needed to make a balanced meal with big time flavors, fresh ingredients, and a variety of proteins (and not to mention a whipped up vegetarian pasta dish for one person).

A friend of mine, who recently moved back to California after graduating from Harvard Law, loved spending his last weeks taking a variety of family and friends, including me, to Toro, where we frequented the fantastic Paella. Eating it so much made me realize that the ingredients, although plentiful, are neither too exotic or unique that I couldn’t try it at home.

So with about 2 hours from prep to table, I decided on the following dinner menu (with the help of some crème fraiche, fresh fruit, and a Petsi’s Fruit Cobbler)

  • Arugula and Heirloom Cherry Tomato on Toasted Baguette
  • Pear Goat Cheese Walnut and Cranberry Mixed Greens with Balsamic Vinegar
  • Two 1.5lb Steamed Maine Lobsters
  • Paella

 

The Arugula

The Arugula Heirloom Tomato recipe came from a botched attempt at making pesto, but is such a great balance of bitter Arugula with salt and the juicy tomatoes on crisp toast.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 bag of TJ’s Arugula
  • Half of a box of TJ Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes (regular works fine)
  • A good amount of salt (to cut the bitter taste of Arugula)
  • Olive Oil

The key to this is to chop the Arugula finely so that you get a pesto-like texture. Mix in a heavy hand of olive oil as well, a heavy hand of salt to taste, and halved tomatoes. Serve on toasted baguette. Feel free to add some garlic powder (I like the powder because it dissolves easier without changing the texture of the dish).

The Salad

A really great texture salad that has sweet and salty profiles – I literally can eat this with every meal.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 bag of TJ’s Sorrento Mix (Baby Spinach and Arugula)
  • 1 shotglass of chopped walnuts
  • 1 shotglass of dried cranberry
  • 1 Bosc Pear
  • 2/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • Balsamic Vinegar & Olive Oil to taste

 

The key is to find sweet Bosc Pears and chop them, not too finely, so that you can really get that surprise sweet texture in the salad. The goat cheese adds a great element to counter the crunchy pear. Adding walnuts and cranberry just gives a good sweet and salty mix that finishes it all off. Add balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing just enough to add moisture to the salad, but trust me, the flavor is already bursting.

The Lobsters

Just steam ‘em and crack them for your guests to take apart with your hands.

The Paella

I used a hybrid recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, Epicurious, and Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and came up with this version. Because Saffron is pretty expensive, I decided to substitute a combination of Paprika and Tumeric, which I think worked pretty well except I could have used more, as some of the rice in the bottom center of the skillet tasted more like Spanish rice. Some other take aways: I wish I had a larger pan, I went with a 10” cast iron skillet; for the amount of people I was cooking for, a traditional 14” paella pan, or just a larger cast iron would have made the flavor spread out a lot better. I also would have added frozen peas and corn, but the pan just would have exploded with too much stuff. Thinking back, I also wished I had seasoned the shrimp a bit more, but one could also do a sauté with garlic on the side then top the paella.  To avoid crispy rice mixed in, you could also cook the whole thing with a lid (like a dutch oven), or just cover it in foil.

What you’ll need:

  • 2.5 cups of long grain white rice (or paella rice if you can find it)
  • 4 cups of chicken stock
  • ¼ teaspoon of tumeric (don’t be afraid to add more)
  • ¼ teaspoon of paprika (don’t be afraid to add more)
  • 2 Bell Peppers (Red or Orange)
  • 1 whole garlic cove (diced and crushed)
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 yellow onion
  • Half box of TJ’s Cremini Mushrooms (chopped)
  • 1.5 lbs of Chicken Thighs
  • 1lb of chorizo or Portuguese sausage (any spicy sausage will work) sliced
  • 1 lb of de veined skin on tiger shrimp
  • Chopped Parsley
  • 2 lemons

 

Trim & cut the chicken thighs into thirds, add olive oil, salt and pepper, oregano, rosemary, crushed garlic, and some paprika. Brown the chicken in a pan, drain the fat, and set aside. In the skillet / paella pan, add butter, olive oil, the shallots, onion, chorizo, and mushroom and cook until the mushrooms are translucent. Add the bell peppers and sautee (adding oil as needed) until most of the liquid is almost burned off. In a separate pot, simmer 4 cups (2 cans) of chicken broth and the tumeric / paprika mixture, keeping it warm. Add the rice slowly into the skillet with the veggie mixture and brown the rice briefly, adding the chicken into the mixture and lowering the heat. When the rice is browned add the broth mixture until the rice is submerged and bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees, while adding the broth mixture whenever the paella looks dry DO NOT STIR, this is NOT a risotto. At this point, the rice should be crisp on the tops, but almost done underneath.

At this point, take out the paella, check that the rice is almost done under the crisp outer layer, and stir everything up. Flatten out the paella again, and add the shrimp on top (or mixed if you prefer). Bake for another 10 minutes or so, or until the rice is done. The key is to really add your seafood, whether it be shrimp or mussels, at the very end because they tend to cook VERY quickly. Like I said, in hindsight I wish I had marinated or dry rubbed the shrimp, or even possibly cooked the shrimp separately in a garlic sauce and served them on top of the paella when it was done.

Sprinkle chopped parsley and a heavy dose of squeezed lemon for garnish. Dig in and enjoy. Best with prosecco or sparkling white wine, preferably served in a Porron.

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We’re huge Lost fans in our house, so when Tuesday at 7:30 hit and we were both still en route home, it would have been easy to order some takeout and call it a night. But we needed to stop at the grocery store for basics anyway. And neither of us were feeling takeout. So we decided to challenge ourselves to see if we could shop for, prep, and cook dinner by the time Lost started.

We worked on our plan of attack on the ride to the grocery store and decided we were both in the mood for something simple and easy on the stomach. Andrew was in the mood to grill. Grilled fish it was. The man at the seafood counter just happened to have a fresh cut of swordfish that he said would be perfect for the grill.  Andrew and him talked shop. I ran around like a mad woman grabbing the basics we needed. Somehow we ended up with scallops in our cart, too. We were in and out in 10 mins.

Once home, we decided to divide and conquer. Andrew was team seafood. I was team rice and veg. Team seafood was out of the gate running with a quick assist from Denny Mike’s Fintastic seafood rub. This stuff is amazing. Full of lemon and garlic flavor. All natural and gluten free.  Andrew rubbed a generous amount on the swordfish and it was ready for the grill. My kind of fast food. His technique for the scallops was even simpler–he just seasoned them with some black pepper and grilled them on a Himalayan salt block we received for Christmas

Team rice had a rough start, mainly because it turns out we ran out of regular rice. I suggested quinoa but Andrew turned his nose up at it. We dug around our pantry and found a bag of arborio rice. Our challenge suddenly became more interesting. Risotto.

“That’s crazy,” you’re thinking. “Risotto is complicated, time consuming, and fussy. You’ll miss Lost!” Risotto is one of those dishes that has a bad rap for being difficult, but as long as you have  patience and a little time, it really isn’t hard to make.

To make the risotto, I started by sauteing some onions. Most receipes call for shallots, but this was a spontaneous risotto and I was lucky to have any sort of aromatic on hand.

Meanwhile, I heated up about six cups of chicken stock in another pot

Once the onions were soft, I added the arborio rice (a little shy of a cup–that was what was left in the bag) and sauteed it until the grains were translucent. At this point, I added some sliced mushrooms and a ladle full of the hot stock. You see, this is the key to risotto, and probably part of the reason why it has such a bad rap. You need to add the stock 1/2 a cup at a time and cook until it is absorbed by the rice, stirring occationally. Once the first 1/2 cup is absorbed, you add another and stir some more. And so on and so forth. It sounds like a lot but it really isn’t that bad. Grab a glass of wine, put on some music, and embrace the process. Trust me, it is not a bad way to spend a 30 minutes and can be quite soothing. If you want, you can add 1/2 a cup of white wine early in the cooking process in place of a 1/2 cup of stock. We happened to have a bottle open, so I did that.

Meanwhile on the grill…

Back to the rice. Keep adding stock until it is absorbed by the rice, then add more. Stir frequently. You’ll notice that the rice will start to get very creamy. The only way I know how to tell if the risotto is done is to taste a small bite. If the rice is crunchy, you need more time. If you run out of stock, heat up some more. This batch took me about 30 minutes.

Once the rice was cooked through, I added two ingrediants we almost always have on hand-frozen peas and jarred roasted red peppers. I also added a 1/2 cup of parmasean cheese.

I suggested we put the risotto on a bed of spinach to get some extra veggies, because that is how I roll. We also enjoyed a glass of Gruner Veltliner while we ate.

I’d be lying if I said we finished cooking in time for Lost. In reality, we finished around 9:15. I guess that is why we have DVR.

{C}

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