Recipe Review: Lobster Summer Rolls

Lobster Summer Roll

Lobster Summer Roll

For a different take on lobster rolls, here is a version by David Tanis published in the New York Times that uses lobster meat in a Vietnamese summer roll preparation.  It is relatively simple to make after steaming the lobster and removing the claw, knuckle, and tail meat.  The lobster is tossed with ginger and scallions, then wrapped in a rice paper roll with avocado, cucumber, basil, and cilantro.  There is a dipping sauce with lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, chile, and peanuts.  This is a very light, refreshing lobster roll, different from the richness of the New England-style lobster roll.  Try both!

Cost: market price for lobster

Time: about one hour

Level of difficulty: moderate

Deliciousness: delicious (4 out of five stars)

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.

Recipe Review: Bon Appetit’s Ultimate Lobster Rolls

Ultimate Lobster Roll

Ultimate Lobster Roll

The June 2013 issue of Bon Appetit had a feature written by Michael Paterniti, entitled “Consider the Lobster Roll” and an accompanying recipe, “Bon Appetit’s Ultimate Lobster Roll.”  The title recalls David Foster Wallace’s piece in Gourmet, “Consider the Lobster,” an existential treatise, complete with multiple hilarious footnotes, on the ethics of eating lobster at a summer lobster festival in Maine.  This article contained a history of the lobster roll, all of the considerations – the bun, the dressing, the amount of meat, and a chronicle of the author’s assignment of tasting the many permutations of lobster roll served at seafood shacks up and down the coast of New England.  By the way, where can I sign up for that job?

OK, on to the review of “Bon Appetit’s Ultimate Lobster Rolls.”  I think it’s a great recipe that gets everything right.  The lobster meat is dressed in a light amount of mayonnaise and lemon, with celery for crunch and chives for color.  Bon Appetit knows that the bun is critical.  It has to be a New England style hot dog bun, where there is no crust on the side and can therefore be toasted crispy in butter.  If one can’t get the New England style buns, then cut the sides off of regular hot dog buns.

Cost: market price for lobster

Level of difficulty: One needs to steam, crack, and extract the meat from the lobster, and then the rest is easy

Time: about an hour

Deliciousness: delicious (4 of 5 stars)

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.

Subscribe to Bon Appetit here.

Recipe Review: Chawan Mushi with Shrimp and Spring Peas, Herbed Pea Sauce (Spring is Here!)

Chawan Mushi with Shrimp, Spring Peas, Mushrooms

Chawan Mushi with Shrimp, Spring Peas, Mushrooms

Chawan Mushi is a Japanese steamed, savory egg custard made with dashi broth and eggs.  Bon Appetit April 2013 has a great recipe that adds fresh spring peas, shrimp, and shiitake mushrooms.  Spring peas are now in season, and are worth the extra work compared to frozen peas.  The peas, mushrooms, and shrimp are first individually steamed in a bamboo steamer.  The egg custard is made by mixing eggs with a dashi broth.  Dashi is a Japanese stock made from dried kombu (seaweed) and shaved bonito flakes that imparts a lot of umami.  Instant dashi granules are available in Japanese markets.  When the eggs and dashi mixture is steamed, it produces a very light, flavorful custard, punctuated by the shrimp and vegetables.  Great recipe!

Cost: about $5-10 (one needs to buy dashi granules) for six servings

Level of difficulty: not too difficult, but requires bamboo steamer and multiple steps of steaming peas, mushrooms, shrimp, and then the chawan mushi

Time: about 1 hour

Deliciousness: excellent (4 out of five stars)

Health: pretty healthy

Make again: definitely

Link to recipe here.

A good recipe in the accompanying feature on spring peas is the Herbed Pea Sauce.  It is simply blanched fresh peas, sauteed in butter with scallions, parsley, lemon zest, and chives.  It is a nice, easy accompaniment to meat or fish such as sauteed tilapia.   Link to Herbed Pea Sauce recipe here.

Sauteed Tilapia with Herbed Pea Sauce

Sauteed Tilapia with Herbed Pea Sauce

Recipe Review: North African Meatballs (Boulettes), Couscous, Roasted Tomatoes

Many countries serve meatballs as comfort food, as David Tanis explains in the New York Times.  A couple weeks ago he published a French/North African version called boulettes that can be made with ground beef or lamb, chopped parsley and cilantro, and  an exotic mixture of spices: turmeric, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, ground ginger, paprika, and cayenne.  The meatballs are dusted with flour, browned in a saute pan, and then simmered in a tomato-saffron stock.  He pairs it with Israeli couscous and roasted tomatoes.

I am going to try a new format with my recipe review.  These are the factors I consider for the bottom line if a recipe is worth doing.  How delicious is it?  How long does it take?  How much does it cost?  There are so many recipes out there that I haven’t made yet – would I make this one again?  If readers have any other suggestions for what they would like to know, please let me know.

Total time: about 2 hours active time

Complexity: multiple steps for the boulettes, including making the tomato-saffron broth beforehand, but nothing too technical.  The roasted tomatoes and couscous are very easy.

Cost: about $10, but I already had all of the spices on hand.  Buying new spices for this dish would be expensive.

Deliciousness: good (3 of 5 stars).  The boulettes are soft, juicy, and aromatic with spices.  They go well with the roasted tomatoes and couscous.

Worth making once: yes, to try this flavor profile

Will I make again: no

Link to recipe here.

Recipe Review: Old-Fashioned Blueberry Coffee Cake

Blueberries are almost out of season now, and this blueberry coffee cake is a great way to use the last bounty of the summer.  It has a moist crumb, ribbon of cinnamon sugar, luscious blueberries, and a golden pecan crumble topping.  The recipe comes from pastry chef Eric Wolitzky at The Bakery at Cakes & Ale in Decatur, GA, which was chosen as one of the ten best new restaurants of 2012 by Bon Appetit magazine in the September issue.  Also included in the issue are chef Wolitzky’s take on American classics such as Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Citrus Glaze.

I also like another blueberry cake published in Bon Appetit in May 2010, from Huckleberry Bakery and Cafe in Santa Monica, CA.  Their Blueberry Cornmeal Cake has a cornmeal crumb and is incredibly moist due to ricotta cheese and yogurt in the batter.  Try both and compare for yourself!

Link to Old-Fashioned Blueberry Coffee Cake recipe here.

Link to Blueberry Cornmeal Cake recipe here.

Recipe Review: Soba Noodle Soup

This recipe for Soba Noodle Soup by Mark Bittman appeared recently in the New York Times.  Soba noodles are a Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour that cooks quickly and yields a uniquely flavorful noodle.  The broth is quite easy to make with a few specialty ingredients: bonito flakes, mirin, and soy sauce, all of which can be found in a Japanese grocery store.  I cannot comment on the authenticity of this recipe, but the flavors are a light, well balanced mix of savory, briny, and sweet.  A beaten egg is cooked in the broth and becomes light and fluffy and absorbs the broth flavor.  The scallions are essential for flavor and texture contrast.

Link to recipe here.

Recipe Review: Tsukune (Grilled Chicken Meatballs with Tare)

Japanese yakatori shops are famed for their grilled meats served on skewers.  Bon Appetit May 2012 recently ran a feature on preparing tsukune, or chicken meatballs, at home.  Ground chicken, miso paste, sesame oil, and scallions are the simple mixture that is loaded onto bamboo skewers.

Tare is a basting sauce made with soy sauce, sugar, and in this case, chicken broth.  The chicken broth replaces the roast chicken drippings that are usually used to prepare tare, as in David Chang’s Momofuku tare recipe.  While it obviously does not provide the same depth of flavor, the chicken broth is a convenient substitute. After initially grilling the meats, the basting sauce is then applied and caramelizes nicely on the barbecued meat.

Link to recipe here.

Subscribe to Bon Appetit here.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Grasshopper Pie

Chef Christina Tosi’s Grasshopper Pie, from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, is is a delicious variation on the already-decadent Brownie Pie and a great St. Patrick’s Day dessert.  There are four separate components: Graham Crust, Brownie Pie, Mint Cheesecake Filling, and Mint Glaze.  First, Graham Crust is pressed into a pie tin.  Then a Mint Cheesecake Filling made of cream cheese, white chocolate, peppermint extract, and green food coloring is spread on the bottom of the pie.  Brownie Pie filling is added next, topped by mini chocolate chips and marshmallows that become toasted as the pie bakes for about 30 minutes.  Mint Glaze is made of white chocolate and peppermint extract.  The technique of melting white chocolate with neutral grapeseed oil, used in making both the Mint Cheesecake Filling and Mint Glaze, transforms the white chocolate into an easy to work with glossy liquid.  Once the Brownie Pie is cool, the Mint Glaze is dripped on the pie, Jackson Pollock-style.  This is one of the most visually dramatic presentations in a book filled with beautiful desserts, and as delicious as it looks.

One note: Make the Mint Cheesecake before the Brownie Pie filling.  Both require a stand mixer, and the Mint Cheesecake goes in the pie first.  I made the mistake of making the Brownie Pie filling first and had to transfer it to a new bowl while I cleaned out my mixer bowl and made the Mint Cheesecake.

Recipe Review: Grilled Chicken with Pancetta, Sicilian Breadcrumbs, Ricotta Pudding

Suzanne Goin, the executive chef at Luques in Los Angeles, is one of my favorite chefs.  Her sophisticated dishes have multiple layers of flavors and textures.  This recipe is from the Luques cookbook that I use quite often.  This recipe has a couple of sub-recipes, including Sicilian breadcrumbs – toasted breadcrumbs with shallots, parsley, toasted pine nuts, currants, and balsamic vinegar – and a ricotta pudding made with ricotta, milk, heavy cream, and eggs that is baked in a water bath in the oven.  However, once everything is in place, the final assembly is easy – grill the chicken, saute shallots, pancetta, spinach, rosemary, and chile, top with the Sicilian breadcrumbs and serve with the ricotta pudding.  The book calls for grilling quail on a barbecue, but I used skin-on, de-boned chicken leg/thighs in a grill pan.  A really delicious dish.

Link to recipe here.

Cookbook Review: Momofuku Milk Bar

Momofuku Milk Bar is the new cookbook from New York-based Momofuku pastry chef Christina Tosi.  The cookbook delivers recipes for many famous items from Milk Bar bakery including Compost Cookies and Crack Pie, as well as plated desserts served at the Momofuku restaurants.  The cookbook is divided intro ten “mother recipes” like cereal milk, crunch, flavored crumbs, and liquid cheesecake that serve as the basis for many intriguing recipes.

Chef Tosi’s recipes update flavors that recall childhood, most famously cereal milk, and also successfully combine salty and sweet.  Some of the recipes have been published elsewhere, but the majority are revealed in this book for the first time.  Others are updated – for example, the cereal milk panna cotta recipe is substantially different from the one that appeared in the original Momofuku cookbook.  There are gorgeous photos.

Chef Tosi explains a lot of technique, including her method for creaming butter, sugar, and eggs to give Milk Bar cookies such great texture.  A stand mixer is essential as you have to mix for 6-8 minutes at a high speed.  She introduces some new ingredients for baking, at least to me, including liquid glucose and milk powder.   Measurements are given in grams as well as typical American measurements.  I bought a digital scale on Amazon that measures up to 1000 grams with an accuracy of 0.1 grams for around $10 that works great (as an aside, the recent popularity of small digital scales has probably not been driven by cooks alone).

I started by making the cornflake crunch, where cornflakes are tossed with milk powder, sugar, salt, and melted butter and then toasted in the oven.  Super easy, and the sweet-salty cornflake crunch clusters are really addicting and dangerous to have lying around. These can then be used as a garnish for Cereal Milk Panna Cotta or for the crust for Cereal Milk Ice Cream Pie.

I used the cornflake crunch for the Cornflake, Chocolate Chip, Marshmallow Cookies, which came out incredibly good.  Just as Chef Tosi described, the edges have a rich buttery sticky crispiness while the center of the cookies are soft.  Really impressive.

I will be making my way through the book (Blueberry and Cream Cookies, Red Velvet Ice Cream, Carrot Layer Cake) and posting recipe reviews from this outstanding cookbook.  Highly recommended.

Link to Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookie recipe here.

Note on sourcing ingredients for Momofuku Milk Bar recipes in the Bay Area:  Milk powder can be found in a regular grocery store.  Trader Joe’s carries grapeseed oil.  Spun Sugar in Berkeley has the following: Valrhona Dutch-process cocoa powder ($8 for 8 oz), E. Guittard 72% and 55% chocolate in little discs that make it easier to weigh ($7.75 for 1 lb; the book recommends Valrhona chocolate, but the store did not carry the recommended percentages), 5000-count mini chocolate chips ($4 for 1 lb), citric acid, clear vanilla extract (but not McCormick brand recommended in the book), glucose syrup ($8.50 for 18 oz), rainbow sprinkles in a wide range of colors, and gelatin sheets.  Passion fruit puree I found at Crossroads World Market in Palo Alto ($14 for 1 kg).  I checked many places, including Whole Foods, for freeze-dried corn but could not find it and will probably have to order on-line.

Update January 2012: Having now made several of the recipes in the book (five different cookies, Cinnamon Bun Pie, Brownie Pie, Grapefruit Pie, Bagel Bombs), I can’t emphasize enough how on point the recipes are in terms of measurements, directions, and expected baking times.  Follow the directions and you will get something delicious.  They must have tested the hell out of these recipes.  Outstanding.

Amazon link to Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook here.

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