Friday, December 19, 2008

Links for 12-19-2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pan-Roasted Lobster with Chervil and Chives

I really enjoy lobster cooked this way. It's based on a recipe that Jasper White popularized in his restaurants. (See e.g. Lobster at Home) It looks complicated, but isn't really so long as you have the right gear assembled. In fact, one of the nice things about this meal is that you can do a lot of the work a couple of hours in advance so this meal can actually involve less last minute mess and fuss than steamed/boiled lobster. (Less mess at the table too.)

The changes I've made mostly relate to some of the preparation details. In particular, I prefer to parboil the lobsters rather than cut them up alive which, in my experience, leads to pieces of lobster thrashing around the cutting board. It's just more drama than I consider absolutely necessary for this dish.

As for equipment, you'll want a large pot for the lobster of course. As for the pan-roasting part, if your oven is large enough to accommodate it, I find a 16-inch Lodge cast iron skillet that I picked up last summer just about perfect. That should handle about four to six lobsters in the chicken to two pound range. If you don't have a big enough skillet or a big enough oven, a workable alternative is to use a baking sheet for the oven part and one or two skillets, as required, on the stove. You will also want a long-necked lighter or some other suitable implement next to the stove to flame the bourbon.

Lobster is inexpensive right now, so go for it!

Ingredients for four people.

4 to 6 lobsters (1.25 to 2 lb.)

3 TBS peanut oil

1/3 cup bourbon (can also use Cognac)

1/2 cup white wine

8 TBS unsalted butter, cut into slices and chilled

1/4 cup of chopped parsley or chervil

1 TBS finely chopped chives

White pepper and salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Parboil the lobsters for about 4 minutes. If you don't have a pot large enough to accommodate all the lobsters, you can do this step in two batches. (You'll need one of those big steamer pots or equivalent.)

Cooking LobsterOnce the lobsters have cooled enough to handle, remove the tails, the claws, and the knuckles/arms. Cut the tails in half lengthwise. Thoroughly crack open the claws and the knuckles to minimize the amount of cracking and picking that needs to be done at the table. You'll now have six pieces per lobster plus the body, which you can discard or use to make stock. Weather permitting I prefer to do this operation outside to keep all the lobstery fluids out of the kitchen. If you like, you can prepare the lobster to this point a couple of hours in advance and put it in the refrigerator.

Preheat the broiler. Position an oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Assemble all you ingredients and equipment by the stove. The pan will be hot and you'll want to move quickly. The final preparation only takes about ten minutes so everything else should be more or less ready to go for dinner before beginning.

Place your sauté pan over the highest heat possible. Allow it to heat for a few minutes until it becomes extremely hot. Add the oil and heat it until it forms a film on the surface of the pan. Slide the lobster pieces, shell side down, into the hot oil. Using tongs, move the pieces in order to evenly sear all the shells.

When the shells have all turned bright red,which should take no more than two or three minutes, turn the pieces over. Cooking Lobster

Place the pan in the oven and cook for about three minutes until the shells are slightly browned. It's OK if they're a bit charred in places. Put it on the stove over high heat. It will be very hot! You can put the plates in the oven to warm at this point.

Add the bourbon and ignite. Add the wine and allow to reduce until it is almost dry; a few tablespoons or so will remain in the pan.

Remove the pan from the heat. Remove lobster pieces and arrange on the plates.

Return the pan to low heat. Add the butter and herbs. Season with some white pepper and maybe a little salt (the lobster will be somewhat salty already) and spoon over lobster pieces on plates.

Links for 12-17-2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Links for 12-16-2009

Monday, December 08, 2008

Links for 12-08-2008

Friday, December 05, 2008

Links for 12-05-2008

Great Review of the Grinch Musical

I have not and, barring unusual circumstances, will not see the Grinch musical but I too love the original and hate the Jim Carry movie so this review by Louise Kennedy of the Boston Globe seems spot on:
Every Who down in Who-ville likes "Grinch" shows a lot. But the critic, who lives just north of Who-ville, does not.

The critic hates "Grinch" shows! The whole "Grinch" show season! Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

Oh, all right, I'll tell you.

First of all: I love, truly love, the original "Grinch" show, by which I mean the 1966 Chuck Jones cartoon based on Dr. Seuss' book "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." It is 26 minutes of animated bliss, hilarious and silly and sneakily profound. It is, in fact, even better than the book; it has more (and more baroquely absurd) rhymes, a more satisfying ending, some small but sweet songs along with one very funny one, and, of course, Boris Karloff. Boris Karloff in a Christmas special - sheer genius.

But then came the abominable Jim Carrey movie, a bloated, vulgar exercise in Hollywood excess. And now comes the stage musical, about which the best that can be said is: It's not the Jim Carrey movie. That is, believe me, about as faint as faint praise can get.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Links for 12-03-2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Links for 12-02-2008

Monday, December 01, 2008

Recipe: Lobster Stock

I'm getting my recipe files in order for the first time in ages. One of my objectives is to get them into digestible electronic form so that I can easily put them together into a book. (Not to publish for "real" but because it's a convenient format and so I can give a few copies away to friends and family.)

Anyway, I figured that as part of this process I'd start putting some of the contents online in the form of blog postings. Here's the first.

Lobster is dirt cheap right now so, on the way home from Thanksgiving up in Maine, I stopped at Simpson's Seafood in Wiscasset and picked up a whopping 11 lobsters. The next day, I parboiled the batch, made Pan-Fried Roast Lobster from a few of them, and removed the rest of the meat for lobster rolls or to freeze. This left me with lots of lobster shells and bodies. It seemed a pity to waste so I made some stock. 

(As with any stock making, quantities aren't critical but this is roughly what I used.)

Bodies and other leftover parts of 8-12 lobsters
2 roughly chopped carrots
2 roughly chopped celery ribs
2 chopped onions
6 minced garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
Water to mostly cover lobster (about 6 to 8 quarts)

Cut the head off the lobster bodies and split open.

Add all the ingredients to a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Strain through a cheesecloth-lined fine sieve (It may be easier to do a first pass through a coarser sieve). Cool and refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze.

Different Worlds and the Lori Drew Case

As things currently stand with this cyberbullying case, the defendant has been acquitted of felony charges but found guilty of misdemeanors. What's a bit unusual is that the prosecution used a federal anti-hacking law. As Chris Soghoian writes on CNET:
The specifics of the Lori Drew case are messy and emotional. The important fact is that there is no federal cyberbullying statute, so the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles turned to a novel interpretation of existing computer hacking laws to try to punish the woman. The general idea is that in creating terms of service, a Web site owner specifies the rules of admission to the site. If someone violates any of those contractual terms, the "access" to the Web site is done without authorization, and is thus hacking.
As a result, we're seeing a huge divide between what I'll call the "silicon valley crowd" (even if lots of the plugged-in techies live elsewhere) and "everyone else" in their opinions about the case.

For their part, much of the commentary at places like CNET and Groklaw is apoplectic about the guilty verdict, even as a misdemeanor. The issue (which I'm sympathetic to myself) is that violating a Web site's term of service should not be a violation of the law. As a practical matter, we're not seeing the end of the Internet as we know it; no one is going to prosecute you for shaving a few pounds off your weight in an online profile. But it is a troubling precedent.

However, what's striking to me is the level of outrage of everyone else--even the "everyone else" that's actively engaged enough with online sites to leave comments. But this outrage is at the dismissal of the felony charges. What matters is punishing a person who behaved very badly with tragic consequences, not defending somewhat esoteric legal principles. In a lot of comments, I sense genuine puzzlement (and anger) directed at people who place the right to online anonymity higher than the morally "right" deciusion in this case.

If things remain as they are, this case provides an unfortunately good example of the legal saying that "hard cases make bad law."