July 19, 2010

If This Pan's a Rockin' Don't Come a Knockin'

While visiting Washington, DC, I took the rare opportunity of being near a body of water to eat as much seafood as possible: crab cakes, lobster, and Blue Point Oysters.

Hank's Oyster Bar

I enjoyed it so much that upon my return to landlocked Lubbock, I tried to recreate the lobster roll experience. Step 1: Procure a lobster.

The only way to go is buying a live lobster and boiling it yourself. Apparently the super cheap lobster I'd read about in the northeast ($5/lb lobster) had not made it's way to Lubbock ($17/lb). I wanted to feed lobster rolls to the whole family, so the price made me gulp. I decided to buy one live lobster and a couple of cheaper tails.

So I finished my shopping and drove home with a live, iced-down, lobster in tow. It was a little unnerving. He didn't say much, but I think his styrofoam ride rocked to and fro a couple of times. There was the requisite play time before dinner.

Man vs. Lobster


I put Lobby into the freezer to numb him before cooking. I was glad my brothers-in-law were there, because when the moment of truth came, I was squeamish about dropping a live lobster into a pot of boiling water. The deed was done. Lobby boiled for a few minutes until he turned bright red and started to float.


Into an ice bath, and then Mom and I (mostly Mom) started cracking shells to extract lobster meat. I avoided helping with that arduous task by making homemade mayonnaise, following an Alton Brown recipe.

Alton Brown Mayonnaise Alton Brown Mayonnaise Alton Brown Mayonnaise Lobster Roll

Once the lobster meat was extracted and chopped, it was a cinch to mix it with the homemade mayonnaise and some diced celery. We toasted hot dog buns in butter, filled them with lobster, and plated the lobster rolls alongside a green salad.

Lobster Roll

If not for the high price per pound and time-consuming process of extracting the meat from the lobster, this would be a meal I'd eat regularly! And I guess there's that whole ick factor of boiling a living creature... If that deters you, you might want to try Vegan Lobster (trust me, you want to follow that link).

Watch the video "How To Make Your Own Lobster Roll."

July 18, 2010

The Lova My Life

Scott still enjoys living in the land down under. He tells some great stories in his weekly emails home, but I particularly look forward to hearing what food he's tried during the week. Details are somewhat sketchy, but here are a few things he's talked about:
  • Poly [Polynesian/Islander] food has almost no flavor and it's super starchy. Most islander food is really bland and doesn't have too much flavor, and pepper is not something that you'd find on an islander table haha.

  • We made Tongan chop suey Saturday night which was really good. I'll have to make that and orti (or-tie) when I get home. Lu is my second favorite food after chop suey. Lu is corned beef and coconut milk cooked together in a taro leaf wrapping. We have been eating a lot of pumpkin. I like it. It's got about the same texture as a sweet potato.

  • Beef is always cooked to well done. It instantly sucks all the moisture out of your mouth when you eat it.

  • They have two kinds of cheese here: tasty and light... neither are tasty at all.
Scott also wrote me about a fabulous Pavlova, a traditional Australian dessert (unless you ask a New Zealander, in which case, New Zealand invented them). I remember the first description I read of pavlova said tasting pavlova was like going to the moon with the most beautiful person on Earth, while listening to your favorite band play live as little puppies lick your toes. And still this pavlova didn't fall short of expectations.

Mixed Berry Pavlova

A pavlova is made with egg whites and sugar, baked at a low temperature until the outside is hard and set, while the inside stays gooey like a toasted marshmallow. The taste is over the top sweet! I served mine with whipped cream, berries, and raspberry sauce.

Mixed Berry Pavlova

Recipe from Ina Garten.

Mixed Berry Pavlova

July 1, 2010

The Time I Met Dorie Greenspan

I was in Washington, DC at the end of June for the American Library Association annual conference. It's funny how you can spot a librarian in a crowd. There were definitely some interesting fashion choices on parade. My fashion tastes are always impeccable, of course. My cardigan always matches my sneakers and grocery tote bag.

The ALA conference is huge. This year's attendance was over 26,000. There were some relatively famous names there: Toni Morrison spoke at one of the general sessions, and Marlo Thomas, Amy Sedaris, Natalie Merchant, and Fergie (as in the Duchess of York), not even counting library stars like Nancy Pearl, were also there.

There was a "What's Cooking @ ALA?" demo in the exhibits area. Dorie Greenspan was one of the presenters. I've been a fan of Dorie's for a few years. I was on a big NPR kick (okay, still ongoing), and I heard her relate baking tips and recipes on Kitchen Window and All Things Considered. I started following baking blogs and found an entire blogger group dedicated to Dorie recipes, Tuesdays with Dorie, wherein dozens of bakers make the weekly Dorie recipe and blog about it.

At ALA, I attended Dorie's demo with my friend Shelley. Dorie showed the small audience how to make salmon rillettes, a recipe from her new cookbook, Around My French Table. I'll post her recipe here as soon as I find the little recipe card she handed out. If memory serves, her recipe was very similar to this one by David Lebovitz: Salmon Spread Recipe: Salmon Rillettes. I tried a sample and it was quite tasty. Very buttery!

She told a few stories about cooking and living in France. She said people often ask her if she is a cook or a baker. She explained her answer, "Both," the way I often do. With cooking you can improvise and really experiment, but with baking, you have to be meticulous in measuring and using called-for ingredients. Be precise and don't adjust the recipe until you know it well. Cooking and baking are very different. That's why it's fun to do both and not limit yourself to one or the other. She told a story about how she always keeps a tiny plastic tub of fleur de sal in her purse. She was a joy to watch.

Dorie Greenspan Cooking for a bunch of crazy librarians

After the demo, she took questions from the audience. Someone asked Dorie about her recipe for gougères. Shelley turned to me and asked, "What are gougères?"

I said something like, "They're light and puffy - like cream puffs without the cream and with cheese."

Dorie started giving advice about making the recipe correctly, then she stopped and said, "Oh wait! If you don't know gougères are, they're light and puffy - like cream puffs without the cream and with cheese," or something that was basically word for word what I had just said. Shelley and I looked at each other and laughed, and I patted myself on the back.

After the demo, people formed a line to meet Dorie and get her autograph. As Shelley and I stood in line, I tried to think of a question to ask Dorie, or something I could say or a compliment I could give so that I wouldn't sound like a complete idiot. I actually started to get a little nervous about it.

Shelley was in front of me in the line and got to meet her first. She said, "We live in Lubbock and sometimes it's hard to get out of the ordinary ingredients in local stores. Where do you recommend we order from?" Dang, what a good question!

Dorie suggested that people that live in God-forsaken places buy food from Amazon, Penzey's, and Kalustyan's. At that point I piped up, "I love Kalustyan's! That's the first place I go when I go to New York! I have to buy their peppercorns and cinnamon!"

She said, "Isn't it wonderful? You are a good cook if you go to Kalustyan's."

Dorie told me I was a good cook?!?

We chatted for another moment and then I asked if I could get my picture taken with her.

In the Kitchen with Dorie and Kimberly

Dorie invited me to visit her in Paris. Well, she invited everyone at the demo... I have decided to accept. How glamorous that would be! Cooking with Dorie, who's baked with Julia Child and dozens of other cooking legends... in Paris!

As we left the demo, Shelley spotted a poster advertising a book that was certainly more like my status quo:

This is my life.