Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Crab Bisque

I have been meaning to post this recipe for a while, but life and work just tends to get in the way.  A few weeks back, we took a little day trip to Annapolis, Maryland to explore a bit.  We loved it there.  One of the best things about living in the DC area is all of the destinations that are within an hour drive from us. 

While there, we found our way to Cantler's Riverside Inn for a good old Maryland crab-fest.  It was a very primal experience.  Butcher paper covered our picnic table and we just went to town on the crabs with a mallet and a side of melted butter.

Well, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs.  We ordered a dozen crabs and only ate six, so I decided to whip up a crab bisque with the leftovers. 

I simply adore crab bisque.  In my extensive history or ordering this soup, I have had some duds. Lack of flavor.  Too thin..  Not enough crab, I have also had some gems.  Perfectly crabby.  Thick enough and creamy.  Large chunks of lump crab.  And this recipe is one of those gems.  All of the aromatics create a complex yet delicious flavor in this bisque.  

Even of you don't have leftover Marylend crabs, get some legs from the store and use those to pick the meat and boil the shells.  You will get the same effect and really create a beautiful soup!  

I just realized that around this time last year, I posted the recipe for the Perfect Crab Cakes.  I guess I subconsciously migrate towards crab dishes around this time of the year!  

Crab Bisque
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
4 carrots, roughly chopped
2 onions, roughly chopped
5 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of cognac
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups seafood stock
3 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
shells from crabs (if applicable)
2 taeasoons whole peppercorns
4 bay leaves
4 small slices of orange peels
6 sprigs of thyme
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup of lump crab meat

In a large stock pot, melt butter in with the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the celery, carrots, onions and garlic.  Cook for about 5 minutes until soft.  Add the cognac to deglaze the pan.  Next, add the flour and stir to coat the vegetables.  Add the tomato paste and again, stir to coat the vegetables. 

Whisk in the seafood stock and turn heat up to medium high.  Add the cream, milk, crab shells, peppercorns, bay leaves, orange peels, thyme and salt.  Bring soup up to a low boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook the bisque over medium low heat, uncovered, for about 20-30 minutes.  This will allow all of the flavors to marry.  

Once soup has simmered, remove large chunks of veggies and shells from the pot and then pour soup through a find mesh sieve.  Return the strained broth back to the pan. Add the lump crab meat and garnish with freshly chopped chives.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Crispy Crusted Halibut with White Wine Beurre Blanc

Happy Hump Day!  Hope you are all having a lovely week.  Since the last time you heard from me, I have been all over the place.  

Last week was spent at The Highland Dallas and lucky me got to stay at this gorgeous hotel Monday through Friday.  It was a lot of hard work; long days trying to uncover new business and the nights were spent catching up on my normal duties.  Attached to the hotel is a restaurant that is renowned with the locals, The Knife.  Holy delicious!  Most of my meals were ate here and I was spoiled all week eating such amazing food!  

I was home for two days and then headed to New Jersey to be with family (my mother-in-law went through a major heart surgery and all went well!) and New York to meet with clients.  I finally made it back home today and my own bed has never been so inviting.  Plus, I am so sick of planes, trains and automobiles.  Can't wait to settle back into my normal routine.  

With all of these fine foods and dinners I've been eating, I can tell you that this Crispy Crusted Halibut with White Wine Burrre Blanc rivals any fancy restaurant out there.  I made it last weekend and the hubs told me it is the best thing I have ever made (I know, he says that a lot).  What made this different is the homemade mix of breading that I whipped up; part homemade breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and cornmeal.  I think it made all the difference.  It really was quite simple to make and the best part is, you have some leftover wine to drink with dinner!   

Crispy Crusted Halibut
2 halibut filets
1/4 cup flour
1 egg
1/2 cup breading (I used a mix of homemade bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and cornmeal)

Salt and pepper the halibut.  Place flour, egg and breading in three separate dishes.  Beat egg with fork.  Season flour, egg and breading with salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.

Dip the top of the halibut into the flour, then the egg and finally, the breading.  Place skin side down on a plate and let sit in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Right before you take the fish out of the fridge, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of of butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Let the pan get hot and then place the fish in the pan, breading side down. Cook until breading is golden brown. Flip fish filet over and cook until skin is slightly browned.

If filet is thick, place in a 375 degree oven for 5-7 minutes to finish cooking.

*To make homemade breadcrumbs, remove the crust off of old bread.  Let sit out on the counter for a day, flipping a few times throughout the day.  Once bread is dry, cut into large cubes and pulse in a food processor until crumbs form. 

For this breading, I used 2 parts breadcrumbs, 1 part parmesan cheese and 1 part cornmeal.*

White Wine Beurre Blanc
2 tablespoons shallots, minced
1/3 cup white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cream
kosher salt and white pepper to taste

Place the shallots, white wine and lemon juice in a pan and heat over medium high heat.  Continue cooking until the liquid has reduced down to about 2-3 tablespoons, a little over half.

Cut butter into 10-12 pieces.  Once liquid has reduced, lower heat and slowly add butter one piece at a time.  Take the pan off the heat frequently so the sauce does not get too hot.  You want to keep whisking vigorously and slowly incorporate the butter, one piece at a time,  into the sauce. Once the butter is all gone, add the cream.  Keep whisking and salt and pepper to taste

Serve over the fish.

This sauce will separate if you let it sit for too long.   Cook the fish first and place it in a 200 degree oven to keep warm while you are making the sauce.  Once sauce is completed, immediately serve over the fish.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Parmesan Thyme Crusty Bread

When I pulled this bread out of the oven, based on my excitement, you would have thought that I had just won the lottery.  I think I might have even exclaimed "I AM THE BREAD MAKING MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE" so loud that the neighbors heard me.  Just kidding.  That was all in my head, but that is how I felt.    

I always thought that baking breads like this at home was impossible and reserved just for the professional bread bakers.  Well, I am here to tell you that you too can make beautiful, rustic, crusty loaves of bread.  And you want to know the best part?  It was so easy! 

This recipe comes from Janet over at Simply So Good.  Her blog is one of my absolute favorite places to get lost in recipes.  She too, posts step-by-step pictures for all of her recipes, making it so easy to follow along.  If you head over to her blog, you will see that this is her most popular recipe and it is there where she has the answers to any and all of the questions you may have about this bread.  

This bread is so flipping good.  Just as good as any bakery bread out there.  Minimal ingredients.  Minimal effort.  Fabulous result.  I'm sold.  

The original recipe calls from all-purpose flour but I used unbleached bread flour.

Dry yeast and kosher salt.  I don't even buy regular salt anymore.  Kosher has milder, non-metallic taste.  

Whisk the salt and yeast in very well.

Chop up some fresh thyme.  This is where you can get creative with what you have on hand or personal preference.  Rosemary, gruyere, lemon zest, seeds, nuts, dried fruit all would work well or plain would be delicious as well.

I always have fresh Parmesan on hand.  Each week,  I buy a block of parmigiano reggiano and grind it up with my food processor.  Put it in an air tight container in the fridge and it will keep for a few weeks.

Whisk in the flavorings.

I used warm water.  No need to get scientific here, just make sure the water is not hot and not cold, but warm.

Mix the water in with a spatula.

Mine was a bit dry so I added about 2 tablespoons of water to bring it all together.  Be very careful not to add too much water or the bread will turn out flat.

Now this is a no-knead recipe, but I like to get in wit my hands to make sure all of the dry bits are absorbed in the dough.

Now cover and forget about it for 12-18 hours.  When you make this, make sure you note when that will be as you don't want to have to get up in the middle of the night to finish the job.

This is what my dough looked like after sitting for 14 hours.  The yeast does all of the work for you!

My Le Creuset is one of the most used things in my kitchen.  I think mine is about 7 quarts. This thing is sturdy and holds heat in like it is it's job.

I  use it as my crockpot for many slow cooking dishes.   And now, it is a bread maker as well!   Preheat oven to 450 and then place pot and lid in oven for 30 minutes.

While the pot is heating in oven, turn dough out onto heavily floured surface. It will stick to the bowl but just use your hands to scrape every last bit out.

Using floured hands, form the dough into a pretty little ball.  No need to make it perfect.  This is rustic y'all!

Once pan has been heating in the 450 degree oven for 30 minutes, take it out and remove the lid.  Drop the ball of dough right into that hot pan.  You will hear a slight sizzle... an indication of the crusty-crust to come! I sprinkled a little more flour on the top for a bakery-like appearance.

Now, bake with lid on for 30 minutes.  The waiting was agony.  I have failed breads too many times and was seeing images of flat or burnt breads from the past in my head.  But when the 30 minutes was up and I removed the lid, this is what I saw...

WHAT?!?!?!  I DID IT!!!  Oh and it smelled soooooo good. I could now breathe a sigh of relief.  Smooth sailing from here.  Just a little bit more time in the oven with the lid off and you are now THE BREAD MAKING MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE!!  Slather with butter and enjoy!

Parmesan Thyme Crusty Bread
3 cups flour (I used bread flour but all purpose works as well)
1 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups warm water

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, yeast, thyme and Parmesan cheese.  Pour water in and mix with a spatula until combined.  The mixture will be dry so try to use your hands to knead all of the dry bits into the dough.  If needed, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water and lightly knead until a ball is formed.  

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit on your kitchen counter for 12-18 hours.  When time has passed and dough has risen, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Once oven has heated, place enamel pot and lid in oven for 30 minutes.  

While pot is heating in the oven, heavily flour your counter.  Pour the dough out onto the floured surface.  Using floured hands, gently form the dough into a smooth ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter until the pan is ready. 

When the 30 minutes is up, remove pan from the oven.  Do not grease the pan.  Drop the ball of dough directly into the hot pot.  I sprinkled a little more flour on top to get that authentic bakery look.  Place lid on pot and return bread to oven and cook for 30 minutes.  

Once the 30 minutes is up, remove the pot from oven and take the lid off of the pan.  Place pan back in the oven without the lid and cook for another 12-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and with pot holders or a kitchen towel, remove bread from pan and place on a cooling rack.  Let bread cool for at least 40 minutes before cutting.  

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