Just a self-trained home cook in an 8' x 12' kitchen honing his craft…

Archive for December, 2011

‘H’ is for holiday

If there is any season of the year that promotes over-eating, you have to agree that season is upon us. Now, as you know, I’m a great student of Julia Child, and she promoted moderation in everything, even in moderation, so when faced with the holiday that promotes gluttony above all the others, I decided to practice extreme moderation (oxymoron-ish phrase isn’t it?), especially since this was my first year as a pescatarian.

Now for a little history….

From the editor of the winter 2011 publication”Gastronomica” –

“This national holiday(Thanksgiving) was the brainchild of Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book magazine, who campaigned for it tirelessly. Between 1846 and 1863 she lobbied all who would listen- seven presidents, endless congressmen, the governor of all the states – to have the last Thursday in November declared a day of national thanksgiving, an act she believed would help heal the country’s profound social and political rifts.”

My decision was to steer clear of any traditional Thanksgiving food, but thought for the main course I would go ‘hole hog’ and use lobster. However, one particular guest who is ALWAYS at my table doesn’t like anything served in a shell, so whole lobster was off the list. I decided to create a lobster pot pie, even though I had never heard of one, much less had a recipe for such. To go with it, a simple salad of blanched green beans with a chopped tomato garnish and a side of a corn dish that I honestly don’t know the origin of (more about this later).

I began with a bag of lobster knuckle meat from Inland Seafood and simply followed my instincts, my nose, and taste buds.

(Please do click through pictures to see the details!)

The lobster gets sautéed.

Here the lobster gets sautéed with shallots and clarified butter (nothing but the best for lobster!), then flambéed in brandy. If you’ve never flamed food, try it, but read good instructions before your attempt and keep your face well away. It’s great fun and your guests will be so impressed as long as you don’t singe your eyebrows (trust me, this looks odd and smells worse!).

Next, I created a roux with additional butter (did I mention moderation?) and some flour. Cook this for 3 minutes to cook the flour, then add fish stock or bottled clam juice and water. I used crab stock. Now before proceeding, always taste for salt and pepper. If it don’t taste good now, it never will and you don’t want to waste your lobster, chicken or what ever you’re pot-pie-ing.

The roux in progress.

The sautéed lobster goes into the cooked roux.

Now in my mind, no pot pie exists without some vegetables since it is the ultimate comfort food and should need little else besides the pot pie itself for a complete meal. I blanched some diced carrots, peas and potatoes for the vegetable addition.

The vegetable and lobster combined in the roux.

Finally the mix goes into the baking dish(es) which I had decided to make individuals.

The mixture ready for its pastry top.

Nothing wows a diner quite like real puff pastry, and it was, after all, a holiday dish, however homey and comfort food-ish it was, so real puff pastry was mandatory in my mind! I won’t go into the details because there are so many formulas and instructions, you can find them on the internet. Just remember to keep it cold and work rapidly. Here’s the pastry I made on Wednesday.

The block of pastry dough chilled and ready for rolling.

This block needed to rest a few minutes (15) before I could roll it. Keep in mind there’s a ton of butter in this (did I mention moderation?), so when it’s well chilled, it’s like a brick.

The puff pastry rolled out and ready to be cut.

The rounds of pastry are cut, placed atop the pies and then an egg glaze applied.

The final egg glaze before baking.

All this up to the egg glaze can be done well ahead, but wait until you’re ready to go into the oven to glaze it.

Now for the story of the corn dish (and most of you know how I love to tell stories)…..

Several years ago when I was taking french classes at Evening at Emory, one of my fellow students invited us to a birthday party for several of her Aries friends. When we arrived, the house smelled so wonderful and Liz was still hustling around the kitchen. I began asking about the various dishes and nibbles she had on the table and discovered she had made most everything from scratch, including the corn chips and pickles. Wow, was I impressed. A bit later, a most enticing aroma lured me back to the kitchen. When I inquired ‘What is that I’m smelling, Liz?” she said, “You might want to stay close by, because the dish about to come out of the oven always disappears quickly.” What came out was a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish with a slightly puffed yellow mixture that smelled of sweet delicious corn. We swooned over each spoonful and tried not to be too hoggish about the servings, but you know how it goes with a buffet i.e. first come, first served! I asked if she would possible share the recipe. As she grinned sheepishly, she said “I think you can remember this one, Kyle.” Her mother had shared it with her.

Well, it was 2 months before I made the dish, but what a dish it is.
Here’s the recipe:

1 can whole kernel corn not drained
1 can cream corn
1 8 oz. carton sour cream
1 box Jiffy corn meal mix
1 stick margarine (butter will not work, Liz claimed and I have never deviated), softened or melted and cooled.

Combine and put in dish, bake @ 350˚ for 35-40 minutes.

How could ingredients this simple be so delicious you may well ask?

Ready for the oven.

I will recommend if you you if you bake in a soufflé dish as I have shown here your cooking time will increase to 70-85 minutes. You want a skewer to come out clean and cover with foil to keep it from browning too much.
The dish is rich and satisfying. Remember moderation is the keynote here. I did, after all use reduced-fat sour cream.

After 45 minutes, here are the golden brown delicious results.

All the dishes just out of the oven.

(I baked the corn a few more minutes on its own).

While it probably will never take the place of the Norman Rockwell magazine cover depicting a whole turkey presented at the table, my meal was thoroughly satisfying, fully appreciated and no one left the table laden with gluttonous guilt screaming ‘Get your coat, we’re leaving!’

A pescitarian Thanksgiving!

Here’s a close-up of the pot pie with its crispy, buttery delicious puff top.

The finished pot pie

The finished pot pie.

So when you’re planning your upcoming holiday feast, try to moderate yourself and your diners by keeping the meal balanced and satisfying. We all should tell the story of Thanksgiving and it’s crusader, Sarah Josepha Hale to those who gather around our table- or simply do as the British do and take everything for granted!

Toujours, bon Appetit et Joyeux Noël!
© Kyle A Nelson