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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Thanksgiving Letter

Why do we hate?

There seems to be a lot of hate in the world these days.  Just look at the Middle East.  Hatred has been going on there forever.

Unfortunately, we Americans are not immune to hatred.  This bothers me, especially when we are approaching Thanksgiving.  Look at our political discourse.  The racist venom that has been spewed upon President Obama since he was re-elected has been horrific.  And to my liberal friends, don’t get all high and mighty.  I remember plenty of pictures of President Bush with Nazi symbols spray painted on the picture.

On a smaller scale, why do we seem to feel that we have to bully others?  I suppose, to a certain extent, our brains are wired that way.  Back in the caveman days, the stronger species had to survive, so they killed the weaker.  But have we not learned from our mistakes?  After Columbine, why do so many people still seem to take a casual attitude towards bullying?  Why must we continue to have teen suicide because people think it’s okay to pick on someone who, in most cases, cannot defend themselves?  Why must we pick on someone because they’re gay? 

Is it religion?  My father used to say that, if it weren’t for religion, we would not have had so many wars.  And John Lennon told us to “imagine no religion.”  (Hey, I’m using my dad and John Lennon in the same paragraph…) 

We always hear stories on the news about people coming over from other countries, using our school system to better themselves, yet still hating America.  And we always hear about how so many people hate Muslims, even those who were born in this country and love America.

And what happened to that phrase, “I may not agree with what you said, but I will defend your right to say it.”  Has that gone by the wayside?  I fear it has.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I know that, at some point, I will be asked what I am thankful for.  Of course, I am thankful for my friends and family, especially thankful for an incredibly understanding wife (hey, she does have to live with me, you don’t…), and yet, I feel a bit melancholy.

Because I feel we can do better.  We can do better as a people, and as a nation.  We can dislike whoever is President, and still respect him.  We can talk to our kids about bullying.  And we can try to understand another’s way of life, be they white or black, Catholic, Jewish, or Muslim, gay or straight. 

You know, folks, if you think about it, we are on this earth for a very short time.  We really have very few opportunities for happiness.  Isn’t that what we should be focusing on, rather than hate?
Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean you have to hate them. 


Happy Thanksgiving,


Monday, November 5, 2012

Think Like A Chef - Roast Lobster

The next roasting recipe in Think Like A Chef is Roast Lobster with Bay Leaf.

The first thing that came into my mind when looking at this recipe was, what shall I serve it with?  If you are from New England, I think the first thing that comes into your mind is corn on the cob and new potatoes.  That would have been a bit easy though, and I wondered if I could somehow combine those two flavors.  I wanted some kind of…hash!  Now, I did not know how to put together this hash, so I cheated and found one on line.  It is a Robert Irvine recipe.  Admittedly, this was kind of a fatty dish, and as I looked at it later, I think I could have cut down the fat in the dish, but more on that later.

The recipe called for a whole large red onion, 2 cloves of garlic chopped, ½ pound of corn, goat cheese, dill, a diced tomato, and a pound of potatoes diced.  I used new potatoes.

Knife skills are getting better!

First, I had to sauté the onion, garlic and corn.  Now, I found a mistake in the recipe, as it called for ¼ cup of oil heated over low heat then sautéing the food.  Well, sauté means high heat with little fat, so I only used 1½ tablespoons of oil.  He calls for grapeseed oil, but I just used canola oil.  In the meantime, after having diced up the potatoes, I salted and peppered them, then coated them in ¼ cup of oil.  I think this was where my mistake was.  I should have started with 1½ tablespoons.  I went with the full ¼ cup as he says the potatoes must be completely covered.  I should have remembered, “You can always add more but you can’t take away.”

Next, I put the potatoes in a roasting pan and covered them with the onion, corn and garlic mixture, and put it in a preheated 375 degree oven.  Simple enough.  

Now onto the lobster.

Try as I might, I could not kill the lobsters by just pulling them apart, or putting a knife through the head, so I boiled them first, for just a minute.  After a minute I pulled them out and ran them under cold water to stop the cooking process.  THEN I pulled them apart.  After pulling them apart, I boiled the tails and the claws for 4 minutes, and the claws for an extra 3 minutes.  One of the interesting things Colicchio suggests is double wrapping the tails in plastic wrap, so the tail will cook in its own juice.  Really cool idea, I think. 

Now, after that was done, I removed the lobster meat, and heated up a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil to medium high.  I put the lobster meat in and cooked it for 30 seconds.  Then I turned the meat over and added in a tablespoon of butter.  (I used the butter/oil product that you already know about.)  Then after 30 seconds, I added another tablespoon of butter/oil, the bay leaf, and turned the heat down to medium low for about three minutes.

While that was going on, I took out the hash, which tasted really good, put it into a bowl, and added goat cheese, tomato and dill and mixed it all up.

Regarding goat cheese, I looked to see if I could substitute something else.  Basically, there are things you can do to yogurt to mimic the texture, but there really isn’t anything you can do to mimic the taste.  In any case, goat cheese does contain less fat, than, say, cheese made from cow’s milk.

I took a small Tupperware – about four inches in diameter - filled it up half way with the hash, pressed it down, and then turned it over onto the plate.

Then I added the lobster tail on top of it, and the claw meat around it.  I have to say, this was the first time I thought about how the food would look on the plate.  I think I did ok, but not great.  But, at least I have started to consider how my food looks on the plate.

As for the taste, the hash was really good.  The potato was soft but not mushy, the same with the corn.  The red onion brought a little bit of crunch to offset the creamy texture that the goat cheese brought to the dish, and the goat cheese was actually not overpowering, although I think it was the primary flavor.  The dill cut the flavor back some.

As for the lobster, well, what does lobster taste like?  Does it really have a taste?  Some people say it tastes like a high quality shrimp but sweeter.  I don’t know if I agree with that.  I guess I would say it does have a certain sweetness to it, maybe something in between a shrimp and a scallop?  Hard to say.  The main thing I was worried about was overcooking the lobster, because if lobster is overcooked, just like calamari, it will have the texture of a rubber band.  Luckily, I timed everything just right.  The texture was nothing like a rubber band.  Perfectly tender…even the tail, which can be tough.  This was the first dish that I had so far, where I actually thought the butter/oil product I use brought a significant amount of flavor to the party.

On to the calories:  Total calories = 558.4.  Total Fat = 28 grams.  I would cut back on the amount of oil used to coat the potatoes by half next time. I think that would help a lot.  I used 3 ½ ounces of goat cheese…I might cut back on that a bit as well.

As for the future, once again work and family will be taking up some weekends, so it will be a bit before I can cook some more.  However, I am now moving on to braising.  Can’t wait to get started.  I hope you will all hang in with me.

Speaking of lobster, you can enjoy Maine Lobster or you can enjoy Rock Lobster!