Thursday, December 28, 2006

All cooked out......

It's official. I'm all cooked out. And my sinuses are all clogged up and making me feel muddle-headed.

Last night we had our very scaled-back version of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. More like Feast of the Four Fishes. Some year I may get brave enough to try 7 fishes, but instead of 7 different courses, I'd be more likely to combine one or more fish into one dish.

The food all turned out quite well, but it was a hard meal to get to the table - very little could be made in advance. Frying and sauteeing the calamari and crab cakes is a last minute thing, as is the risotto. We just plugged away at each course, stopping to eat and then getting back to the cooking. It was also hard to spend much time on the photography, so I did the best I could and just hoped that everything was in focus (sometimes it looks in focus on my LCD screen, only to be completely blurry when I upload it to the computer).

Crab Cakes
First up were DH's "famous" crab cakes and the calamari. The crab cakes are only famous in our family, but they are better than just about any crab cake we've ever had. Our take on any crab dish is to let the crab shine through which, for crab cakes, means very little filler. I don't have the recipe posted yet as I need to get DH to write out exactly what he does, but I hope to have it posted soon. The recipe is based on one by Martha Stewart, but he's evolved it over the years and I'm not sure how much it really resembles the original recipe.

Fried Calamari

Along with the crab cakes, we served up some fried calamari. I was able to find a nice package of rings and tentacles in the frozen section at Wegmans, otherwise I probably would not tried it. I've never cooked calamari before and I very, very rarely fry, so this was definitely a stab in the dark. I had read several recipes that called for simply dregging the calamari in rice flour and then frying at about 350ยบ. I realized after I plunged the calamari in the hot oil, that I hadn't taken notice of how long to fry! I just winged it and they turned out pretty well. Such small pieces - I knew that all I really needed to do was cook long enough for the coating to crisp - which was about 5 minutes or so. After frying, I drained them on a paper towel, shook on some salt and pepper and that was it. The only problem was that I fried them in a very shallow pool of oil - this caused the loose, overly-browned pieces of flour at the bottom of the pan to get all over the fresh pieces. Next time I'd have to buy a tool for removing the bits of flour or use a deeper pool of oil. I served this with some homemade marinara.

Lobster Bisque
(no photo)

Our next course was the Lobster Bisque. I went with a recipe from Epicurious that sounded yummy. The original recipe calls for cooking live lobsters and then making a stock with the lobster shells. Um, I don't do live lobsters and lucky for me, Wegmans had frozen lobster tail meat, already out of the shell. This is very convenient, but it meant that I had no shells to help add flavor to the stock, so I used the tails (only tails because I get the peeled, deveined shrimp from Sam's Club) from the shrimp I thawed for the risotto.

This bisque was delicious. Rich, but not all that fattening considering there was only 1/2 cup of cream and we served small portions to 7 people. This bisque is reminiscent of a Lobster Newburg with the tomato paste, brandy and sherry. Sorry, no picture. I was running out of time and it also was not a soup that would photograph well anyway.

Shrimp Risotto
I had planned to serve the salad next, followed by the risotto and roasted asparagus. Unfortunately I forgot to buy the asparagus, so we served the salad as the vegetable. The salad is an old favorite, but I tried it with a slightly different dressing, based on a different poppyseed dressing we've also enjoyed. I'll post the dressing recipe soon.

For the risotto, I scoured the internet for recipes, got a few ideas and then just made it up as I went along. I think that once you get the basics and mechanics for risotto down, it's a pretty easy dish to wing - you cook it slowly which gives you plenty of time to make adjustments. I was quite pleased with the results. It's a subtle risotto - the flavors complement but do not overpower the shrimp and it's one of the first risottos I've made that had no cheese at all, but the risotto is so creamy, that you don't even miss the cheese. To give this dish a slightly different twist, instead of a dash of truffle oil to help boost flavor, I think that a touch of lemon would be a nice addition.

All in all it was a lot of work, but well worth it. Today, however, I'm worn out and have a cold that keeps getting a little worse instead of better. Mom has graciously offered to take us out to dinner for a break and we're happily taking her up on the offer, so it's Japanese and sushi for us tonight.

Next up, hopefully some panini so I can play with my new Griddler!

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