Category Archives: 30 Before 30

The First in the Nation Lobster Caucus

Soooooo…..yeah. I’ve been absent.  Basically, real life crept up on me and then hogged all my time.  Real life can be very demanding. Damn, Real Life…lighten up.

BUT- I’m back and with a LONG overdue post.  The culmination of my 30 Before 30 List: a live lobster.  I mentioned the lobster to some friends (who had already sampled Beef Wellington and Duck L’Orange) and they requested to be present there.  Over drinks the event turned into a “BYOL” party.

Yes, BYOL means Bring Your Own Lobster.

Our friends arrived….lobsters in tow:

You're the guest of honor!

We're so excited to have you for dinner! I mean, err....

For those of you who have seen “Julie/Julia” you’ll remember that Julie Powell was haunted by the idea of “offing” a crustacean.  I was significantly less put off by the task, but my dinner guests were practically gleeful about it:

No sign of a guilty conscience.

Not batting an eyelash.

You're enjoying this, aren't you?

Captivating

We boiled 13 Lobster.   Sidenote: Is the plural “lobster” or “lobsters”?

It was a lot of boiling and plunging of lobsters. I think at one point my kitchen was turning into the set of a snuff film, but we pulled through:

Dinner is served!

UNFORESEEN BONUS: Boiled lobster “hold” well.  The first few in the water were still tender and warm by the time we sat down at the table.   We had plenty of first time lobster caucus goers, so I laminated  instructions to help everyone.  But again, there was no hesitation:

15 gallons of boiling water later....

So, 1 pound of butter, 13 lobsters, 8 bottles of wine, and 3 bottles of champagne later….

I. Was. Thirty.

Lobster. Champagne. Friends. Maybe this 30 thing isn't so bad afterall.....

The pictures don’t do it justice.  Our BYOL party was christened with a new more official title and secured itself as an annual tradition.  It even made it onto this year’s Christmas card!

If you forgive my long absence, you might even get a invite for next year.

More soon,

xoxo Flyover Foodie

Estupido

“There is no untrue proverb” – Don Quixote

Dear Spain,

You are one of my dream destinations.  I already have a travel book all about you!   I would like to pre-apologize for the following account because I pretty much butcher your national dish.  Can I still come visit?  Maybe you could teach me a thing or two.  xoxo, FF

So, yeah.  Paella is harder than I thought.  My research lead me through dozens of different recipes.  Some cook over an open fire.  Some on the grill.  Some with seafood.  Some with chorizo.  Some with eel or rabbit.  And almost all requiring a paella pan.  Uh oh.  We are officially sans paella pan in the Flyover house.

I should have been further concerned when I realized paella was not one of the 28,442 recipes in The Joy of Cooking. ie. Not an average home meal.   I did find one recipe for paella that used a baking method and had made an appearance in Bon Appetit magazine.  Somewhat comforted, I made up my mind that this would be the best option with my lack of fire and pans.

I was buoyed further when Handsome Husband (who had a flirtation with Spain in his younger years) spotted this in the grocery store:

 

Mariscos Mixtos!!

 

FANTASTICO!  This would be my seafood mix for the recipe.   I would still have to cut the recipe since I was making it for two, but this amount of mixed seafood would be almost perfect.

Start by cooking the bacon in your pot, then remove and cook the chicken.  In goes the onion, the rice the pimentos (I also added roasted red peppers), and the saffron.  This will smell delicious and be full of potential:

Next I added the liquid and bring it to a simmer.   This mixture gets poured into a baking dish.   Rinse the seafood…..

 

Cuttlefish, shrimp, mussels, squid, and clams..........OH MY!

 

…and add to the rice mixture with the chicken.  Finally, the peas and the bacon pieces get sprinkled on top.  Cover the dish with foil and pop it into a 450° oven.

 

Pre-Oven

 

The recipe uses clams and mussels in their shells and requires cooking for 45 minutes or until the shells open.  Obviously, I was editing/reducing the recipe so I reduced the cooking time slightly so it wouldn’t be totally dry….maybe 30 minutes total.  And….

 

Post-oven

 

It was still kind of dry.  The reviews of the recipe on Epicurious noted that the seafood tended to get dried out and that the rice could get mushy.  Check and check.

Do I get sympathy points for plating?

 

A poor representation of Spain

 

True Spanish paella should have a crusty bottom and seafood that retains its flavor and texture.  It has a little bit of heat, but also the exotic warmth of the saffron and pimento.   Notsomuch for my paella.

UNFORESEEN BONUS: I learned two things.  1. Those marsicos mixtos would be great in a fun pasta dish.  I fully plan on purchasing those little guys again.  2. Some dishes require special equipment to fully realize their potential.  I have a feeling paella is one of those dishes.

I hate to say it, but I think this was probably my least successful dish of the list.  But I will not hold that against Spain.   And hopefully, Spain will not hold it against me.

I should probably just go there and learn what TRUE paella should taste like.  What do you say, Handsome Husband?  (hint, hint)

xoxo Flyover Foodie

p.s. Our FINAL 30 Before 30 post is coming up asap!!!

A Bowl of Nostalgia

“Only the pure of heart can make good soup.” – Beethoven

A few years ago I was lucky enough to spend a summer studying in France.  I like to think of this as the summer I ate my way around Europe.  And like most adventures in eating, I stumbled across something I loved and will forever associate with that summer: soupe de poisson.

It’s basically a French fish soup very similar to bouillabaisse.     It’s thick and garlicky, with a fish flavor that’s hearty but not heavy. There are dozens if not hundreds of versions, but I was hoping to find one close to what I remembered.  But first I had to track down a recipe…

Handsome Husband bought me a vintage copy of Larousse’s Gastronomique (first English version!) which had about 25 versions of fish stew/bouillabaisse in it.  Then I found this recipe from good ol’ Martha.  And this guide from, of all places, Country Living.

The methods and main ingredients were the same in all three of these sources.  So I figured I could follow that and tweak the ingredients to get the flavor I was looking for.   Annnnd, we’re off:

 

Tomatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, and bay leaf

 

The first round of ingredients go into the pot: tomatoes, leeks, onions, garlic, fennel, pepper, and saffron.  Let them soften and sweat for about 5 minutes.  Next add the fish, wine, and water to the pot and bring to a boil.  Let it simmer and make your kitchen smell delicious.

While the soup is simmering and reducing, slice up some thin slices of baguette and toast just slightly.  Prepare the rouille.  Rouille is a mixture of mayo, garlic, red pepper, and saffron.   Can I just mention that I LOVE that the French have multiple versions of “fancy mayonnaise”?  Genius.

The next step involves straining all the solids out of the soup.   You have to really push the soup through a sieve to get all the liquid out:

 

Straining out all the solids

 

I then did a quick mix with an immersion blender, to ensure it was really smooth.

 

Immersion blender....Best. Tool. Ever.

 

Now we’re ready to serve!   Ladle the soup into bowls, smear a little of the rouille on a slice of baguette, and float it on the soup.  Sprinkle a little Parmesan and VOILA!

 

Ahhhhhh! Just how the French intended!

 

A little chilled white from the Loire Valley and you’re all set. The soup is filling, without being heavy and it does have a fish flavor, but its not “fishy”.  I think for most of us in flyover country, its a really unexpected “seafood” dish and not what most poeple think of when they imagine French food.

UNFORESEEN BONUS: The recipes seemed much more surmountable that than making bouillabaisse!  Which, most aficionados will tell you takes hours if not days to make properly.    And you get to eat rouille (aka fancy mayonnaise)…which is DELICIOUS.

The best compliment

Plus, during dinner, you can regale your fellow diners with the tale. of the night in Nice when you got ketchup on your post-bar kebab and began a tradition called “The Throwing of the Kebab”.

I’m pretty sure they still celebrate it in France.

xoxo Flyover Foodie

Another #FAIL

“Give me yesterday’s bread, this day’s flesh, and last year’s cider.” – Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac

My Uncle came for a weekend visit this summer with my Dad.  They are great house guests because they like to have drinks, and eat, and watch The Masters.

While on their visit, my Uncle mentioned that my aunt bakes her own bread and has several “levains” she has begun and uses to make sourdough bread.   One of those involving grapes from a Napa Valley vineyard.  I know…awesome.

So, to my Uncle and Aunt….I apologize.  You have a gift I do not.

Using this guide as well as this guide and the advice contained in The Joy of Cooking I attempted my own sourdough levain.  More commonly called a “starter”.  I’m no Alton Brown, but the process involves letting yeast, water, and flour ferment while “feeding” it with additional flour and water.  When the levain develops the proper flavors, its ready to be used as a base for bread.

At least that’s how it’s supposed to go.

Attempt #1:

Okay...let's try this again

And yes, I do own a trout shaped spoon rest.

Attempt #2:

Good so far....

Then….

Annnnd...nothing is happening.

Nothing.  Attempt #2 did not change.  Nothing happened.  No bubbling, so frothing, no expanding.  Huh. (scratches head)

Attempt #3:

Attempt #3 started well.  On day 2 it had a little bit of a yeasty smell….and then another day or two, it started to smell sour…sort of like booze (which according to my Facebook friends,  is what you’re going for).  Then….

It turned black.  No seriously.  The “hooch” portion (the liquidy stuff) turned a dark bluish black.  It. Was. Nasty.  I think that a freakishly hot day made it too hot in our kitchen….

…or something like that.  It was too gross for a photo.  Trust me.

So,  after three valiant tries, I felt entitled to cross “Sourdough Bread” off the list.  A girl can only endure so much.

But I’m still curious as to what I was missing.  Part of me thinks that I simply lack the patience to give the starter the attention it needs.   Any tricks I missed?  Anyone out there had trouble with this?

In the meantime, I will stick to the lovely sourdough at my local bakery.  They  have the process down pat.  Well, the bakery and my Aunt.

xoxo Flyover Foodie

p.s. Only 3 items left on the list!! Get ready to make suggestions…we have a new list to form!

Prepare to walk the plank!!

“Salmon are like men; too soft a life is not good for them.” –  writer James de Coquet

So me hearties, we have run aground at the next item on our list: salmon on a plank.   And it’s easy and beautiful…smooth seas ahead.  Arrgghh!!

Annnnnnd that’s probably enough pirate speak.

The main prep for this dish involves acquiring a plank.  I’ve seen planks for sale at cooking stores, but got a tip from a friend that you can just get a scrap of cedar cut at your local lumberyard.  I tried to do this, but was ignored by men working (but that’s a rant for another time)  I actually found pre-cut planks in the grilling section at that lumber store (insert rant here).

Of course after this ordeal, I realized they actually sell planks AT the seafood counter of my local flyover grocery.  Which is impressive.  See them stacked on top of the case?

Planks....no lumberyard required.

Your plank gets soaked in water for at least 30 minutes before use.  This keeps it from charring too much on the grill.

Walking, er, soaking the plank

Now onto the salmon.  I went with a sustainably caught wild salmon, which most agree has better flavor and is better for you than farm raised salmon.    Also, I think it was the single most beautiful thing I have ever bought at the grocery store.  I mean, look at this:

Check out this watery maiden!

GorgeousContinue reading