Lobster Roll

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Recipe: Modified "Boiled Lobster" from "The Art of Simple Food" by Alice Waters. We used the "Crab Sandwich" from "Tartine Bread" by Chad Robertson as our recipe for the lobster sandwiches.

Rating: Great.
Status: William made twice.
Yield: 4.5 pounds of lobster gives about 1 lbs of unshelled meat and makes 4 sandwiches.

This isn't a true Maine-style lobster roll. Let's call it a California version of a lobster roll since it is served on a toasted croissant and has diced cucumber (we used 1 Persian cucumber, since it is seedless and small), tarragon, lemon zest, mayonnaise, and whole-grain mustard; we left out the chervil and poppy seeds that the recipe suggested. The tarragon adds a nice bright unexpected herb flavor--we really liked this herb in this sandwich.

We bought our 2 lobsters from Sun Fat Seafood Company in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco.

4.5 pounds live lobster
1 small cucumber
a few tarragon stalks
zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp whole-grain mustard
(optional) 1 tsp toasted poppy seeds
4 croissants

Find a very large pot which is large enough to hold a lobster. Fill with salted water and bring to a simmer (a rolling boil will toughen the meat). Immerse one lobster at a time, head first, into the water and let cook for at least 7 minutes (large lobsters will need more time). Use tongs to remove the lobster and cool under cold running water to stop the cooking. Repeat with the remaining lobsters.

Shell and remove the lobster meat once the lobsters are cool. Set lobster meat aside. Optionally you can save the shells to make stock.

Peel, seed, and finely chop the cucumber. Remove the leaves from the tarragon stems; discard stem. Mix the mayonnaise and mustard in a large bowl. Stir lobster meat, cucumber, tarragon, lemon zest, and (if using) poppy seeds into the bowl with the mayonnaise mustard mixture. Taste and if the salt and seasonings aren't flavorful enough add more to taste; if the lobster salad is too mild and under flavored, you can squeezing in a small amount of lemon juice to add some bright acidity. Sometimes the lobster can taste mild at first; if you give it some time in the refrigerator (an hour or more), it will absorb the flavorings. You can refrigerate the salad for up to 1 day.

Split croissants in half. Heat a cast iron or other heavy pan on medium. Melt enough butter to lightly coat the bottom of the pan (1 Tbsp or so). When the butter bubbles, toast the croissants in the heated pan.

Spoon the lobster mixture onto the bottom half of each croissant and cover with the top half. Serve immediately.

To make stock from the lobster shells:

This process is very similar to making shrimp stock.

Reserve the tail shell, head shell, claw shells, legs, and white fat after picking out the meat for another usage. Discard the lungs and the green colored tomalley (insides). Lobsters are to be a lot cleaner than crawfish; the shells only need to be rinsed if they look dirty (most likely they don't need rinsing).

Add the reserved shells and some aromatics (e.g. bay leaf, thyme, a few garlic cloves, shallot or onion). Cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer. Keep at a bare simmer for 1 to 3 hours.

Shrimp Stock

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Recipe: My own recipe, based on generic recipe available from many sources.
Rating: Good. Easy and quick.
Status: Made many times.

If you buy shrimp with their heads and aren't going to cook them whole, then you should make shrimp stock. You can also make shrimp stock with just the tail shells, if you don't have the heads, though the stock will be less rich.

Shrimp heads (amount is variable)
Shrimp tail shells (amount is variable)
cold water, enough to cover ingredients
(optional) aromatics, such as onions, parsley stems, garlic cloves, bay leaf, celery, carrots, etc

Lightly rinse the shrimp before cleaning them. Save the heads and tail shells when you are cleaning shrimp (don't re-rinse). Discard the intestines. The stock should be made immediately after you clean the shrimp, so that the shells are fresh. Add the shells to a heavy soup pot which holds them comfortably. You can add all of the same aromatics and flavorings that you can add to chicken stock, if you have them (they are okay to omit). You can also use many of you vegetable peelings (onion skins, garlic skins, celery ends, tomato skin, etc). Cover the ingredients with cold water.

Bring to a boil, and keep at a bare simmer for 20 minutes to 1 hour (I usually simmer for 30 minutes). Skim any foam that rises to the top.

Strain through a fine meshed strainer and discard the solids. Let the strained stock sit on the counter top for at least 10 minutes so that any remaining particles settle on the bottom. Pour off the clear part of the stock and discard the cloudy portion on the bottom containing particles. If the stock isn't as strong as you like it, you can simmer it down until it is the concentration you want.

The shrimp stock can be frozen until you want to use it. The stock is unsalted, so you should adjust salt to taste any recipes that you use it in.

Shrimp, Okra, and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

Recipe: "Shrimp, Okra and Andouille Smoked Sausage Gumbo" from "Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen" by Paul Prudhomme
Rating: Good.  Roux-based gumbo is still my favorite though.
Status: Made once.

The recipe is listed on LaDivaCucina.blogspot.com.

Ever since we got back from New Orleans, I've been learning to make the three major styles of gumbo.  Earlier in the week, I made one thickened using roux and one that are thickened using filé.  This the third type--is a gumbo thickened with okra.

One surprising thing about this recipe, is that he suggests making it in a cast iron pot.  I've always heard that cast iron makes okra darken and discolor, and that acidic ingredients like tomatoes aren't good to cook in cast iron since they will strip the seasoning away.  Searching the Internet shows that many people do cook gumbos in cast iron, however just to be on the safe side I avoided my cast iron pots for this dish.

The recipe makes twice as much gumbo as the other two recipes in the book, so I halved the quantities. Similar to my experience so far with this book, I reduced the oil and butter by quite a lot.  I used just enough grapeseed oil to coat the pan for the vegetables, and added a little bit extra just before the onions were added since it was looking dry.  And I added just 1.5 Tbsp of butter (instead of 1 stick) to the gumbo.  I also used a much smaller quantity of spices, due to William's spice intolerance and my cayenne pepper which seems to be spicier than the norm.  I added 1/2 tsp of a mix made approximately equally from black, white, and cayenne pepper to the sautéed vegetables, and just 1/4 tsp more of the mix to the gumbo along with the other non-spicy flavorings he suggested.

This is the most time consuming recipe of the three gumbo recipes in Paul Prudhomme's book, since this has lots of ingredients to chop, and the vegetables are sautéed and browned for a 35 minutes, then the majority of stock and the sausage is simmered for about 45 minutes, and a second batch of okra (to give textural variation in the okra) is added and quickly cooked for only 10 minutes.  However, since one usually makes enough gumbo for several people at once, the advantage for William and I, is that it is quick to heat up once it is made and usually feeds us for about 3 meals.

This comes out with a stew-like texture.  I like my gumbos on the soupy side so this needs some extra water or stock added to it to make it more soupy.  Similar to how I've been cooking all of the other gumbos, I add the raw shrimp (and the green onions), only when I heat up a small portion so that the seafood stays fresh.  Next time I would also consider waiting to add the second addition of okra until I heat up the gumbo, so that the fresh okra keeps its bright green color and crunch.  Served with converted rice.

Seafood Filé Gumbo

Friday, June 07, 2013

Recipe: "Seafood Filé Gumbo" from "Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen" by Paul Prudhomme
Rating: Good but I like roux-thickened gumbo better.
Status: Made once

Go to community.cookinglight.com for the recipe.

This gumbo is thickened with filé. When I first made this gumbo it had too little water in it and too much vegetables (perhaps it cooked down or perhaps the recipe needs more stock in it)--it had the texture of a gravy with lots of chopped vegetables in it, rather than the texture of a soup. Adding some extra water fixed the problem.

The spice mix for this gumbo is milder than some of the other spice mixes in the book, since it contains a lot of paprika, so William can tolerate much more of the spices (though not quite the full mixture). However, the recipe does suggest adding 1 Tbsp Tabasco--I only added a small dribble to account for William's heat tolerance. I didn't crumble the bay leaf, and instead I added it whole to the gumbo. I also followed some of the general guide lines I outlined here (e.g. I left the salt out of the spice mixture so that I could salt to taste and finely ground the leafy dried herbs).

The recipe suggests sautéing the filé and vegetables in margarine and then simmering this with tomato sauce and seafood stock for an hour. It strongly urges you not to replace the margarine with butter since margarine is oilier and conducts more heat. Besides the usage of margarine which is disfavored today, the other reason this is surprising is that all of my other cookbooks say that filé must be added at the end of cooking because long boiling times make it stringy. Since I didn't want to use margarine, I decided to follow the advice of the other cookbooks and add the filé at the end of cooking. So I sautéed the aromatics and vegetables in just 1 Tbsp of butter and in no filé, and followed the rest of the directions. Instead of tomato sauce, I added tomato puree since I had some leftover in my freezer.

I used slightly less seafood than specified in the recipe--about 2/3 lbs shrimp (they were actually really large gulf prawns, so I cut them into bite sized pieces), 7 oysters and their liquor, and 1 cup crab meat*, though I have one more gumbo serving left over which didn't have seafood. As suggested in the recipe notes, I didn't add the seafood when I was cooking the dish. Instead I brought however much gumbo I was serving to a boil, adjusted the saltiness, added a bit of the leftover spice mixture, and filé to thicken it. Then I added the shrimp and let them cook through (it takes approximately 2 or so minutes). Then I added the oysters and their liquor and let the mixture return to a boil and immediately turned off the heat so the oysters were warm but barely cooked. Rather than adding the crab to the gumbo, I preferred topping the converted rice with cooked lump crabmeat and then spooning the gumbo over. It kept the crab in bigger chunks. Stirring the crabmeat into the gumbo directly made a less appealing texture, since the small particles of crab got dispersed in the gumbo and it made the crab almost unnoticeable since there were fewer large pieces.

Since this gumbo doesn't have roux in it, it doesn't retain heat as well as the roux based gumbos. So it should be served in preheated soup bowls so that it stays as hot as possible.

* I was able to buy some lump crab meat by the pound--I think this was about 1/4 lbs.

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