Monthly Archives: July 2014

Incredible Shrinking Seafood Lasagna

It’s Ellen’s birthday tomorrow (Monday, July 28).  It’s also Jen Groff’s birthday (Friday, July 25).  It’s a celebration.  This auspicious occasion calls for something special.  I need to produce a masterpiece.  On several occasions E has suggested that her dream meal would be a seafood lasagna, and I have yet to produce such a dish.

Tonight’s the night.

Jen’s here, and the rents (E’s parents) are here, the girls are here, and something special is required, and I’ve got just the ticket.

I found this recipe at Cooking Light.  As I am wont to do, I can’t leave well enough alone, because I think I know better.  In this case, I think I’ve improved the on the original without upsetting the karma produced by it.  It’s still light, following the dictum of Cooking light, but it tastes rich and creamy WITHOUT THE ADDITION OF BUTTER!

That’s right…no butter in this dish, and if you follow the ingredients list carefully you will find that it is all that it ought to be without the butter.  I’ve got to say, it looks incredible, and we will be tasting it in about an hour.  I expect that I have hit the mark.  I can usually tell if I’ve got it right, and I think I did so here.

Try this recipe for yourself.  Even though there will be several pots and bowls to wash, it’s relatively simple, and the aroma in the kitchen right now is absolutely off hook. Can’t wait to try this.  I’d be interested to hear if any of you try this one, and how it came out for you.  Mine looks like a home run.   And as to the “shrinking” moniker? Just wait until you see how it shrinks in the pan as your guests ask for seconds.

Guaranteed.P1000827

Here’s the rundown:

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 5 cups finely chopped mushrooms (about 1 pound)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 12-16 ounces lump crabmeat (how much crabmeat do you wish?)
  • 1 pound uncooked large shrimp
  • 1 8-0z bottle clam juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) crumbled goat or feta cheese
  • 1 cup 2% reduced-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 (8-ounce) package precooked lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Old Bay or other seafood seasoning, to taste.
  • Spanish paprika to sprinkle

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms, onion, thyme, and 2 garlic cloves and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine, bring to a boil; cook over low heat until the liquid almost evaporates. Remove from heat; stir in the crabmeat, and set aside.

Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving shells. Cut each shrimp in half lengthwise; cover and refrigerate.  Combine reserved shrimp shells, the clam juice and water, celery salt, and fennel seeds in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook until reduced to 1 1/2 cups shrimp stock (about 15 minutes). Strain stock through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids and set aside.

Combine the feta or goat cheese, cottage cheese, basil, lemon juice, and 1 garlic clove; set aside.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Place flour in a small saucepan; gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk. Stir in shrimp stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 5 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Spread 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 4 noodles, slightly overlapping, over sauce; top with one-third goat cheese mixture, one-third crab mixture, one-third shrimp, 2/3 cup sauce, and 2/3 cup mozzarella. Repeat layers twice, ending with mozzarella.   Sprinkle the top with as much seafood seasoning as you like and a light dusting of paprika.  Bake at 375° for 40 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let stand 15 minutes. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley.

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Butterflied Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary

I recently finished reading a wonderful book, one I recommend for anyone and everyone who cooks, thinks they can cook, wants to cook, wants to learn how to cook, or just enjoys eating.  As far as I can tell, that includes provencemost everyone–certainly most everyone who reads my columns or my blogs.  The book is titled Provence, 1970:  M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and The Reinvention of American Taste, and it catalogs that summer, when the named principals and others of the gourmet industry glitterati of the time all found themselves in the Provence region of France at the same time.  The book is abstracted from the daily journal of Ms. Fisher, one of the most most respected food writers in the world at the moment.  It describes literally the moment when gourmet American cuisine stood up and broke free of the traditions and disciplines of classical French cooking and took its place as a separate and exciting style of cooking and life.

I’m not particularly a huge fan of traditional French cooking; I find it fussy and regimented, and I prefer to experiment with ingredients that I like–to mix and match flavors to see what the outcome might be.  I’m not always successful, but I pride myself on technique and on my ability to repeat a recipe exactly time and time again if I find one I like.  I’m also adept at duplicating a recipe I’ve tasted elsewhere and identify the flavors within. That’s not a skill I was able to hone; it is a particular and peculiar talent I was born with, so all the credit for this ability rests with my mother, who patiently explained every thing she was doing in the kitchen as she proceeded through a recipe.  I then learned the rest of my cooking from my mentor, Martin Bettonio, executive chef at my family’s Epicure Gourmet Market in Miami Beach, after a stellar career as the executive chef at The Fontainbleau hotel, also in Miami Beach.

That said, following a reading of Provence, 1970, and at the request of my beloved life partner, Ellen, I decided to make a supper dish on a Sunday evening that reflected the influences of French cooking on American cuisine and took advantage of my strengths as a cook.

And thus was born my most recent personal dish creation, the butterflied grilled chicken with lemon and rosemary.  It is a model of simplicity, using only a few carefully selected ingredients. It takes advantage of the wonderful bounty of local products–the chicken is fresh from a local farm courtesy of Stoltzfus Poultry at Central Market, fresh rosemary from our very own garden, and an amazing rosemary-infused extra-virgin olive oil obtained from my new friends at Seasons Lancaster on the first block of West King Street, a wonderful new source of olive oils, balsamic vinegars, chutneys, and other condiments most interesting.

But this recipe starts with the chicken.  Fresh and not so large as the hormone-laden grocery-store poultry, just over four pounds and beautifully pale–no evidence of marigold petals in Stoltzfus chickens.  First I butterfly the chicken, which is my preferred way to cook a chicken on a grill; it makes for more even cooking and a greatly reduced cooking time.  To butterfly a chicken, take a sturdy chef’s knife in one hand and the chicken in the other. Stand the bird up straight, resting on its wings and neck cavity. Place the tip of the knife firmly on the chicken just aside the tail piece (an Irish friend of mine used to call this “the Pope’s nose).  Holding the chicken firmly upright, quickly run the knife down alongside the backbone, all the way to the cutting board. Turn the chicken and repeat on the other side of the backbone.  Tear the whole backbone away from the chicken and set it aside.  Lay the chicken on the cutting board, breast side down, and run the tip of the knife the length of the breastbone and the breast cartilage to sever the skin layer. Pick the chicken up and quickly and firmly fold it like a book bringing the outsides of the breast together, inside out, breaking the rib bones away from the breast bone. Then firmly pull the breastbone away from the chicken–both the bone and cartilage pieces.  Salt and pepper the inside, flip the chicken to breast side up and lay it on the cutting board. Cut away the wing tips and set them aside with the backbone.  Your chicken is now ready.

Butterflied Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Rosemarychicken

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken, 4 to 4.5 pounds, butterflied

1 whole lemon, sliced very thin

1 whole shallot, minced fine

2 whole sprigs fresh rosemary

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Koshersalt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Place the minced shallot in the olive oil in a small bowl and allow to sit while doing the rest of the preparation.

Butterfly the chicken as described above.  Preheat the outdoor grill of your choice to 350 degrees F., so that the chicken can be placed on the grates away from direct flame.

Run hands and/or fingers between the chicken meat and the skin, including the thigh and leg, if possible, to separate the skin from the meat. Rub minced shallot and olive oil over the whole chicken under the skin. Then place three slices of lemon and a whole sprig of rosemary under the skin on each side of the breast. Rub the remaining olive oil over the chicken skin and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken, breast side down, on the grill away from the flame, and close the top.  Grill 14-16 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken, flip and grill 15 minutes more.  The chicken is done when the juices from the thigh run clear when pierced with a knife.  Remove the chicken from the grill, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.

Garnish with a lemon slice and a sprig of rosemary.

 

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