As most of you already know, we were blasted with an arctic storm this week. Schools and businesses all over our area were closed and state emergencies were declared. As a result, I had a snow day on Wednesday, and while it was lovely to have a day off midweek, I paid a hefty price the day before….
Is anyone else (overly) excited for this year’s Oscars?
I’m such a nerd about these things. The glamour, the gowns, the celebrities. Gah! Love it. I don’t know what it is about this year in particular, but I am SO looking forward to the show. I have seen a handful of the nominated movies, and I have to say, it’s anyone’s game this year. During my holiday break, I was able to see “American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and both films were phenomenal…in very different ways. I just watched “Captain Phillips” last night and it was also terrific – gotta love Tommy Hanks. I have yet to see “12 Years A Slave,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” or “Philomena,” but I can’t wait to cross them off the list. The acting in the movies I’ve seen so far was fantastic, and I have no idea who will take home the awards this year, which is kinda fun.
One of my favorite things to do for the awards show is to mix up a fun cocktail and a delicious meal to enjoy while we watch. This spicy lobster noodle bowl would be absolutely perfect for that (or for a freezing snow day like we’re having today). It’s hearty and full of flavor and has that “fancy-schmancy” lobster thang going on. Totally apropos for the Oscars.
This dish was inspired by another meal that we ate out years ago. The original dish was a lobster pasta that called on several flavor notes: sweet, sour, spicy, and savory. It was so tasty. This is my attempt at recreating it. The sauce is a spicy-sweet roasted red pepper mixture that is rounded out with the saltiness of fish sauce and sweetness of agave nectar. Oh, and heavy cream and cheese. Let’s not forget those. It’s a complex combo of flavors all wrapped up in a velvety sauce.
There is habanero chile in this dish, which is a BIG departure for me. I chose to go with the habanero because the original dish was served at a Latin restaurant and made with rocoto chiles (an ingredient I could not get my hands on). After much online research, I determined that the closest I could get to a rocoto was a habanero. I wanted to try to get as close to the original as possible, so I went for it. I was nervous about the heat, but it actually was quite nice. It mellowed out during the cooking process and served more as a background note than anything. I love spice in creamy pasta dishes – sometimes I think it makes the entire thing! This one turned out like a spicy, more complex, red pepper carbonara. With lobster. Yum.
After making and eating this dish, I realized that it is pretty versatile. If you aren’t into lobster (or its hefty price tag), this could definitely be made with shredded chicken, lump crab, or even shrimp. The flavors would definitely still work!
In fact, I might try one of those renditions for our Oscars viewing party. Only six more weeks to go! Can’t wait!
Spicy Lobster Noodle Bowls (makes 2-4 servings)
2 lobster tails
4 slices bacon, diced
2 lobster tails
1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup roasted red peppers, chopped (I used jarred)
1 habanero chile pepper, seeds removed and finely diced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon agave nectar
½ cup dry white wine
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 lb pappardelle pasta
1 cup frozen peas
Chopped chives, for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the Lobster:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water and set aside. Cook the lobster tails in the boiling water for 5-6 minutes, or until pink and slightly curled. The meat should be opaque and white. Immediately remove from pot and submerge in ice water. Allow to sit until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the shells and coarsely chop. Set aside.
For the Sauce:
Heat a medium saucepan and add bacon. Cook until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. To the bacon drippings, add the butter. When melted, add the shallots, garlic, roasted peppers, and habanero. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until everything is very soft and fragrant. Add the fish sauce, agave, and wine and cook until the liquid is mostly evaporated.
Remove the mixture from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree using a standard or immersion blender. Return to pot and add in the heavy cream and parmesan cheese. Stir until smooth, checking seasonings, and keep warm over very low heat until ready to serve.
Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until el dente. Add to pot with the warm sauce and throw in the peas and the lobster meat. Toss until everything is well coated in the sauce and warmed through. Divide the mixture between bowls and garnish with the crispy bacon, chives, and additional grated parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
I am off from work today in honor of MLK day, and I’m celebrating with muffins. Fluffy, spicy, and nutty muffins.
I adore pistachios. They are one of the best nuts, in my opinion. I usually just eat them plain, simply roasted and salted…but lately, I’ve been trying to come up with ways to incorporate them into meals. Pistachio ice cream, by the way, doesn’t count as a meal…in some people’s books. I, however, could eat it every day for dinner and never get sick of it. It’s one of those ice cream flavors I didn’t come to appreciate until I was an adult. As a kid, it was rainbow sherbet, mint chocolate chip, and cookie dough. All the way.
I also adore Chai tea. It’s SUCH a comforting combo of flavors. I thought it would pair perfectly with the nuttiness of pistachios. Spicy and nutty. Yes.
I am normally an absolutely-no-nuts-in-my-baked-goods person. I mean, there is NOTHING worse than nuts in brownies or cookies. Blech. They just don’t belong. I don’t like walnuts or pecans anywhere near my banana muffins, either. So, these muffins are a bit of a departure for me. I have to say, the pistachios are not at all obnoxious in these muffins. They just work so perfectly with the spices of Chai and they are actually pretty tender as far as nuts go. I was pleasantly surprised.
These muffins bake up so fluffy and moist, they almost remind me of a cupcake. They are the perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of coffee or tea. Which is exactly how I’m going to enjoy them this morning. I suggest you do the same.
Pistachio Chai Muffins (makes 12 muffins)
For the Muffins:
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 Chai blend tea bags, opened
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup pistachios, finely chopped, DIVIDED
1 stick of butter, softened
⅔ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk
For the Glaze:
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup powdered sugar
For the Muffins:
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Grease a muffin pan or line the cups with paper liners.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, tea, flax, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest, and ½ cup of the chopped pistachios in a large bowl.
Using a stand or hand mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract.
Alternately add in the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, mixing after each addition. Do not overmix the batter.
Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of pistachios over the top. Place the muffins in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375°F. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes and then remove to cool on a wire rack.
For the Glaze:
Whisk together the lemon juice and sugar until smooth. Lightly drizzle the glaze over the cooled muffins.
I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to share a recipe for risotto. I’m in L-O-V-E with the stuff.
I also can’t believe we’re more than halfway through January already! What is happening!?! Time is FAH-LYING by these days. I don’t like it. Not one bit. I mean, I am not the biggest fan of January, generally speaking. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, it’s just a dreary, dull month full of post-holiday gloom. So I’m happy that it isn’t dragging on…but jeez! I can’t believe Christmas was already 3.5 weeks ago! What the what!
I can blame this mostly on work. It has been a whirlwind lately, which is wonderful in some ways and a curse in others. The workweeks have been flying by, which is great, but before I can catch my breath – it’s Friday again! I know, I know. Who complains about it being Friday?! I guess I just feel like time is going too fast, and I don’t have time to process it. It’s overwhelming. At least this weekend is a three-day one for me. Maybe that will help.
Anyway. Back to the risotto…
It’s perfect for when you need some rejuvenation (or soothing because you are getting old and time is going by too fast. Ahem). Risotto is one of my most favorite things to eat and make. It’s a default for me when I get in a cooking rut. It’s warm, creamy, and comforting and can be customized to your tastes/desires in countless ways. Plus, people tend to think it’s impressive…but…shh…it’s actually pretty easy to make! It takes some patience (not one of my strong suits), but the technique is pretty straightforward. And the result is totally delectable.
This rendition has the sweetness of pears, the saltiness of prosciutto, and the warmth of sage. It’s incredibly complex in flavor…but simple at the same time. These flavors just GO together. The key to making great risotto is to keep it simple. Pick ingredients that pair together nicely. And put on your Patience Pants. Seriously. Mine always seem to be dirty in the hamper….or just flat-out missing. But they are a requirement when making risotto. Sigh.
Start by sautéing onion/garlic/shallot/etc. in butter. Add your rice (short-grain rice is best) and allow it to toast for a bit. Add some wine. And then slowly (SLOOOOOOWWWWLLLYYYY) add WARM chicken or veggie broth to the pot. Let it incorporate and then add more. Keep going until the rice is soft and the mixture is thickened and creamy. Grate in some cheese, throw in whatever else your heart desires, and voilà! You’ve got risotto.
See? It’s not that complicated. Just takes some time. Hence the Patience Pants.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go reheat a bowl of this for breakfast. Yes. Breakfast…followed by a full day of medical editing. At least it’s Friday. Again.
Pear Risotto with Crispy Prosciutto & Fried Sage (makes 4 servings)
6 slices of prosciutto
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
6-8 large sage leaves
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
2 pears, peeled and finely diced
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, warmed
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
Grated parmesan cheese (I used about 1 cup)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Lay the slices of prosciutto flat on the sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the prosciutto is beginning to crisp. Remove from oven. The prosciutto will continue to crisp as it cools. Break up the crispy prosciutto with your hands and reserve.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter together in a pot or deep-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the whole sages leaves and cook until fragrant and crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from pot and reserve.
3. To the same pot, add the onion and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, chopped sage, and rice. Stir to coat the rice in the oil and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine and cook until mostly absorbed. Add in the pears and sugar. It’s also a good time to add a hefty pinch each of salt and pepper.
4. Add ⅓ cup of the warm broth and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stirring frequently, cook the rice mixture, gradually adding the broth in ⅓-cup increments until all the broth has been absorbed. The risotto is ready when the grains of rice have puffed and softened and most of the liquid has been incorporated. The entire process will take roughly 20-25 minutes.
5. During the last few minutes of cooking, stir in the parmesan cheese. Serve the risotto garnished with the fried whole sage leaves and crumbled crispy prosciutto.
Adapted from here.