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Squid Ink Pasta with Lobster Cream Sauce

We finally make it to the third course.  After course 1 (ceviche) and course 2 (butterbean and shitake salad) I wanted to follow with a pasta curse that was a little heavier and more substantial.  The squid ink pasta may sound unappetizing to some.  I can assure you that it is delicious.  The truth is that if you closed your eyes and could not see that it is a pure black color, most people probably would not know the difference.  I have to admit that I did cheat a little on this.  I was not planning on buying a cream sauce.  However, when I told the guy at the market what I was doing, he quickly showed me that he had a delicious tomato cream sauce already made.  So, I took my one shortcut of the night and bought it.  I did add lobster and a little sherry to the sauce to give it a little more flavor.  The truth is that I wished that I had made it myself.  If you can find a vodka tomato cream sauce, by all means buy it and follow the directions below.  I bought one lobster (precooked) and made it stretch for 12 people.  You probably want to go a little more lobster or less people if you are not doing 5 courses.  Enjoy.

For the pasta:

2 handfuls of squid ink pasta (could easily substitute any favorite pasta)
large pot of boiling water
2 tablespoons salt

Bring water to a boil.  Add salt then add the pasta.  Cook until the pasta is just barely chewy but still has some bite to it.

For the Lobster Cream Sauce:
1 quart tomato and vodka cream sauce
1 whole lobster
1/2 cup sherry

Heat a large stainless steel saute pan to medium high.  Remove the lobster meat from the shell.  Chop or pull the lobster meat into reasonable sized pieces.  Put the meat in a bowl on the side for later.  Add about 3 tablespoons of oil to the hot pan.  Take the leftover shells and add them to the pan.  Toss around the shells in the pan for 5 minutes.  Add the sherry to deglaze the pan.  Let the sherry cook down for 1 minute.  Add the cream sauce to the pan and simmer for 5-6 minutes on low to medium low.  Strain the sauce, removing all shells.  Return the sauce back to the pan and add the lobster meat.  Stir the meat into the sauce just enough to warm the meat.  You do not want to cook it anymore as it has already ben cooked.  Add the cooked pasta to the pan and stir to combine.  Serve in individual bowls or family style in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with freshly grated parmiggiano reggiano and enjoy.

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Roasted Shitake Mushroom and Butterbean Salad

This was the second course of the five course meal.  I wanted the second course to be light, but a little heartier than the first course of ceviche.  The earthiness of the roasted mushrooms combined with the buttery, soft butter beans was a great light salad to follow the ceviche.  I roasted the shitake mushrooms, simmered the butter beans and tossed them together with balsamic and sherry vinegar, the juices from the roasted mushrooms and a couple of anchovy filets.  Serve chilled on top of two pieces of bitter, crisp belgian endive.  Drizzle with truffle oil just before serving.  This was actually the most popular dish of the night.  Very simple, but extremely delicious.  The combination of the earthy mushrooms and fresh butter beans with the vinegar and truffle oil made for an excellent second course.  We paired this wine with a slighty chilled pinot noir.  It was my favorite wine pairing of the night.  Try this salad for your next dinner party.

For the salad:

2 cups butter beans
6 cups water
2 or 3 country ham chunks (optional)
2 cups fresh shitake mushrooms
2 or 3 anchovy filets
2 heads belgian endive
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
salt
pepper
truffle oil

Start this salad at least 2 hours before serving so the flavors have time to come together and the salad has time to chill.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Toss the mushrooms with 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add to a pyrex or other baking dish, cover with foil and roast in the oven for 30-35 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a medium-sized pot bring the water to a boil.  Add the country ham chunks and the butter beans.  Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the butter beans for another 15-20 minutes.  You want the butter beans to be soft, but with some bite to them.  Drain the butter beans and let cool slightly.  Remove the mushrooms from the oven and let cool slightly.  Pour the pan juices left over in the roasting pan into a medium-sized bowl.  Then add the anchovies, vinegars, olive oil, a small pinch of kosher salt (use more salt if you skip the anchovies), and pepper.  Add the mushrooms and butter beans to the bowl and toss to completely coat.  Cool for at least 1 hour.  To serve, place two pieces of endive on a plate and spoon the salad in the cup of the endive.  Drizzle with truffle oil and enjoy.

Five Course Meal

Scallop and Calamari Ceviche

Recently, while down at the beach, I was given the opportunity to cook for a group of 12 members of my immediate and extended family.  I was given carte blanche on the menu.  Dangerous!!!  That is like offering a 2 year old a carton of ice cream.  Since I was at the beach, I wanted to create dishes that were both coastal and southern in their inspiration.  What is fun for me in a meal like this is the opportunity to serve my food and my creations.  Although I did follow a recipe for the dessert, the other recipes are mine.  I am going to post each course individually.  This is the first of the five.  Even more exciting was that my oenophile uncle was going to be bringing wine pairings for each of the five courses.  Let’s just say it wasn’t Yellow Tail (no offense if you still drink that).  Excellent pairings with each course.  It was a very fun evening for everyone involved.

When you are serving five courses, you really have to think about the progression of the courses and how filling, rich and heavy each coarse is.  So, for the first course I wanted to do a ceviche.  If you have never had ceviche, it is basically any ingredient (typically fish) cooked in an acidic liquid (typically lemon, lime or orange juice).  The acid in the citrus juice actually cooks the fish.  Don’t be scared off.  It is very delicious and a great light summer dish when you can get fresh seafood.  I think that the addition of corn and avocado really make this delicious way to start any meal.  You could easily substitute any fish and increase the portion size to serve as a light dinner.  Serve it on a bed of bibb lettuce with some grilled bread and you have a delicious summer meal.  Or, try it as a first course to your next five course meal.

Note: Although this was very good, it may have been the weakest dish of the night.  One mistake that I made was not adding the calamari earlier.  The calamari needs a little more time to marinate than the scallops.  Mix everything together and marinate the calamari for 1-2 hours longer than the scallops.

Scallop and Calamari Ceviche:

1 pound scallops
1 pound calamari
1 small red onion (halved and very thinly sliced)
2 avocados (diced)
3 ears of corn (kernels shaved off)
juice of 4 lemons
2 anchovy filets
1/2 cup fresh mint (finely chopped)
1/2 cup fresh basil (finely chopped)
2 medium tomatoes chopped
2 anaheim peppers diced (jalapenos could be substituted)

Slice calamari in half lengthwise.  Then slice each half again so that you have 4 strips.  Slice each strip into thin pieces.  Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together to throughly coat everything in the lemon juice.  Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.  Slice the scallops in relatively thin strips.  You should get about 4 strips out of each scallop.  Add the scallops to the bowl and stir to incorporate.  Marinate in the refrigerator for another hour.  Serve chilled with a sprig of mint for garnish.  Enjoy.

Wine notes:  Since ceviche is a very acidic dish, you do want a very light wine to pair with it.  Something like a sauvignon blanc or a sparkling wine would go well.  You would want to stay away from a big chardonnay on something like this.  The acid and the high alcohol content would not pair well at all.

Preview:  The next four courses are as follows
Roasted Shitake Mushroom and Butter Bean Salad with Truffle Oil
Squid ink pasta with Lobster Cream Sauce
Crispy Braised Caw Caw Creek Pork Belly with Carolina Gold Okra Risotto
Chocolate Caramel Nut Tart

Cow Cow Burger

Cow Cow Burger with Basil Pesto Grilled Corn and Basic Cole Slaw

Sometimes I just want  a big, thick, juicy cheeseburger.  Well, if you haven’t had a Cow Cow burger yet, you need to get some this weekend.  This burger is the new creation of my man Emile Defelice at Caw Caw Creek.  They come pre cut a perfect size and thickness for a weekend burger night.  They are 50% pork and 50% beef…and they are absolutely delicious.  You can order them online (www.cawcawcreek.com) or you can go by the All Local Farmers Market on Saturday morning to pick them up in person.  I felt the need to make my burger a little more gourmet than just ketchup and mayo.  I slow cooked onions to make them soft and sweet.  Then I topped it with melted brie and two slices of thick, smoky bacon.  Topped simply with some dijon or yellow mustard.  I have to say it was one of my better burgers.  The meaty pork burger with the sweet onions, buttery melted brie and the smoky bacon work really well together.  If you are in the mood for a big, greasy delicious burger, try this.

For the burger:

4 Cow Cow Burgers
4 slices of bacon cooked and cut in half
8 slices of brie
Slow cooked onions
Kosher salt and pepper

To cook the onions:  Slice 3 onions in thick slices (about 1/2 in).  Heat 3 or 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan on medium to medium high.  Add the onions and about 1/2 a tablespoon or kosher salt.  Cook the onions stirring occasionally for 30-40 minutes.  They should be soft, brown, and sweet.

Preheat your grill to as high as it can go.  Remove the burger from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.  Season the burger with salt and pepper on both sides.  Grill the first side for 5-6 minutes.  Flip the burger and grill for 2-3 minutes.  In the last 2-3 minutes, add two spoonfuls of the onion mixture, then the sliced cheese on top of that and cover the grill.  No one likes a cheeseburger with unmelted cheese.  Serve on a toasted bun and enjoy.

For the grilled corn:

4 ears of corn
2 cups of basil
1 stick of softened butter
1 tablespoon kosher salt

In a food processor, combine basil, butter and salt and puree for about 10-15 seconds.

Pull the husks back from the corn without detaching the husks completely from the corn.  Remove the silk from the corn.  Spread the butter all over the corn.  Pull the husks back over the corn.  Put the corn on the grill and grill for 8-10 minutes.  Enjoy.

Fresh Mahi Mahi

Grilled Mahi with Basil, Mint, Caper and Anchovy Vinaigrette

Summer time at our house is all about grilling.  One of my favorite things to grill in the hot Columbia weather is fish.  A good friend of mine gave me a bag of fresh Mahi Mahi.  Cooking fresh fish is all about restraint.  You don’t want to do too much to the fish, or you will over power the delicate flavor.  For me, the two answers for fresh fish are a charcoal grill and a light vinaigrette.  You may notice that this entire meal was prepared on the grill.  It makes for quick and easy cooking, and an extremely simple clean up.  I made a simple but flavorful vinaigrette to go on the Mahi.  If you are scared by the anchovies…don’t be.  I promise you will not taste them.  They add a salty and nutty flavor to the vinaigrette.  Try it.  Don’t be scared.  I grilled asparagus and squash with the fish.  A perfect, light summer meal all on the grill.

For the Mahi:

4-6 Mahi filets (you could easily substitute any medium density white fish)
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup chopped fresh mint
2 or 3 anchovy filets chopped
2 tbsp chopped capers
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
kosher salt

Heat a charcoal or gas grill as hot as you can get it.  Rub the fish with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.  Grill the fish for 3-4 minutes on the first side and 1-2 minutes on the second side. 
To make the vinaigrette: In a  medium sized bowl, add the basil, mint, anchovy filets, capers, olive oil and lemon juice.  Whisk until combined.  Top the grilled fish with the vinaigrette right off the grill.  Eat it.

For the asparagus and squash:

Bunch of asparagus
2-4 squash thinly sliced (lengthwise)
Olive Oil
Kosher salt and pepper

In a bowl, toss the asparagus and squash in the olive oil.  Spread on a plate and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill the vegetables around 3-4 minutes per side.  Enjoy.

Indulgent Four Course Dinner

Every now and then I have the opportunity to really cook what I want.  This was a night that I got to do exactly that.  I know that my pictures need some work  and that my plating is not 5 star, but this was a fun and delicious meal.  Served al fresco with wine pairings for each course.  It is not often that you get to enjoy this kind of a night with friends, but when you do it is worth all of the effort.  We started off the night with a light and delicious lamb tartare.  I used a recipe from Mario Batali’s cookbook Babbo.  I served the tartare with grilled toast points (one with jalapeno pesto, one with an anchovy, and one naked).  I added a sprinkle of black garlic salt at the end to bring out all of the flavors and paired the dish with a cava brut rose.  The dry, slightly acidic and bubbly rose was perfect with the delicate tartare.  I even had one scotch drinker telling his wife that “this was a wine he could drink”.  The next course was a slice of mustard braised Caw Caw Creek pork belly with grilled corn puree, mustard jus and arugula salad with blood orange and bacon infused vinaigrette.  It was “slap yo momma” good.  The pork belly was rich, succulent and tender with a crispy exterior.  The sweet corn puree, with the slightly acidic and peppery arugula salad contrasted perfectly with the dense, decadent braised pork belly.  A couple of my aunt Way Way’s famous pickled okra on the side and a sprinkle of smoked sea salt rounded out a delicious second course.  The pork belly was paired with a well-rounded, full-bodied chardonnay that could stand up to the fatty pork but not overpower the flavor.  A pinot noir probably would have worked well also.  The third course was a mint and basil pesto stuffed boneless leg of lamb served simply with some roasted potatoes.  I sprinkled some black salt on at the end to make a simple and elegant third course.  The fourth course actually ended up being a bit of a problem.  This was the day that my house lost power for almost 8 hours and therefore my ice cream bowl was not fully frozen.  Unfortunately, I did not realize that until I was about 20 min in to freezing the ice cream and noticed that it was not freezing.  Well, I had made a fresh strawberry ice cream and goat cheese short bread to go with it.  It wasn’t a total flop as the ice cream and the short bread still tasted delicious, it just wasn’t fully frozen.  Oh well…it happens.  The slightly sweet and savory goat cheese short bread went very well with the sweetness of the strawberry ice cream.  An idea that I kind of had at the last minute to minimize the sweetness of the ice cream.  If you don’t want to try all four courses at once, I understand.  Try them one at a time.  If you don’t know how to get pork belly, you can go to www.cawcawcreek.com.  Maybe I’ve said it before, but it is the best pork you will ever buy.  Recipes below.

Lamb Tartare (from Babbo cookbook):

1 lb lamb shoulder
1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small red onion finely chopped into tiny dice
1/2 tsp capers chopped
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp jalapeno pesto (see below)
1 baguette or toast points
4 quail eggs (optional)

1. Run the meat through the second smallest setting of a meat grinder or chop the meat very finely with a sharp knife.
2. In a small bowl, combine the mustard, olive oil, diced onion, capers and lemon juice and stir well.
3. In a large bowl, combine the ground lamb, mustard mixture, and the jalapeno pesto and mix well with very clean hands.
4. Grill or broil the bread slices
5. Divide the mixture into 4 portions and mound in the center of four chilled dinner plates.  Spread the baguette slices with the mint-onion jam and arrange around the tartare (I did not make the mint and onion jam, I used the jalapeno pesto).  I also decided to top one baguette slice with a slice of anchovy.  The saltiness of the anchovy went perfectly with the tartare.  Make a small indentation with your thumb in the top of each mound and crack one egg into each indentation.  Drizzle the plates with da vero oil (I used a high quality olive oil)

If you are scared about raw lamb, I understand.  However, 4 of us ate this dish and none of us got sick.  The meat was handled with care and cleanliness.  The meat grinder was kept very cold and so was the raw meat the entire time…even during serving.  Don’t be scared.  Buy your meat from a reputable source as well. 

For the Braised Pork Belly:

For the Grilled Corn Puree:

2 ears of corn
4 tbsp cream
salt and pepper

Soak the corn in water for at least 15 minutes.  Grill on a hot grill for approximately 5 minutes per side.  Slice the corn off of the cob and add to a small bowl or blender.  Add the cream, salt and pepper and pulse only a few times.  I personally like for it to be a little chunky so that you can see the corn.  Keep warm until ready to serve.

Arugula salad:

Juice of 2 blood oranges
2 tbsp rendered bacon fat
salt and pepper to taste
arugula

Combine all ingredients and blend with an immersion blender or a normal blender. Toss the arugula in the salad dressing to cover.

Dry Brine Mixture:

2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp mustard powder
2 tbsp mustard seed
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp whole black pepper
1 tbsp crushed red pepper

Braise:

1 3-4 lb Caw Caw Creek pork belly
3 carrots cut into 2-3 in pieces
1 large onion cut into quarters
1 orange quartered
3-4 tbsp dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic
2 or 3 bay leaves
1 jalapeno
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups white wine or beer

Cover the belly with the rub mixture, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Remove the belly from the refrigerator and wipe off the whole spices.  Preheat a medium sized cast iron or other heavy bottomed dutch oven or braising pan on medium high.  Sear the belly on both sides for approximately 4-5 minutes per side or until a deep brown color.  Remove the belly from the pan and add the onion, carrots, orange, garlic and jalapeno.  Add salt and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.  Add the belly back to the pan and nestle it in the vegetables.  Add the broth, wine and dijon.  Cover the pan and put it in the oven.  Let the belly cook in the oven for 5-6 hours.  Remove the entire belly from the oven and let cool completely for about an hour.  Then transfer to the refrigerator and let cool for at least 4 hours. While the belly is cooling, remove the bay leaves and half of the vegetables from the cooking liquid.  Using an immersion blender, puree the remaining ingredients to create a smooth and slightly thick sauce.  Cool the sauce in the refrigerator while the belly is cooling.  When the belly has cooled, slice it into 3/4 in slices with a sharp knife.  Sear the belly in a hot pan for 3-4 minutes per side.

To serve, spoon the grilled corn puree on the plate.  Place the arugula salad next to it.  Lay the pork belly on top of the corn puree and spoon some of the reheated mustard jus/sauce next to the pork belly.  Add a few slices of pickeled okra…and dive in.     

Mint and Basil Pesto stuffed Lamb:

1 boneless leg of lamb (butterflied)
1 cup mint
1 cup basil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp salt
2 cloves garlic

Combine the mint, basil, olive oil, garlic and salt in a food processor.  Pulse until the mixture is somewhere between a paste and a blended oil.  Roll out the butterflied leg of lamb (butcher can usually do this for you if you cannot).  Sprinkle the inside with salt and pepper and spread the pesto all over.  Roll up the lamb and tie it up with butchers twine.  4 ties should do it.  Sprinkle the outside with salt and pepper.  Lay the roast on top of quartered, oiled red potatoes and roast at 450 for 1 hour and 15 min to 1 and a half hours.  Let rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing. 

Strawberry Ice Cream (from Foodnetwork.com…Emeril):

Ingredients

  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, washed, stemmed and quartered
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split in half and scraped
  • 6 egg yolks

Directions

In a food processor or blender, combine the strawberries and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Process until smooth. In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the half-and-half and sugar. Bring to a simmer. In a small mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Add 1 cup of the hot liquid to the egg yolks and whisk until smooth. Add the yolk mixture to the saucepan of liquid and whisk until incorporated. Bring the liquid back to simmer and continue to cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the strawberries. Whisk until smooth. Pour the mixture into a glass bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the mixture. This will prevent a skin from forming while cooling. Cool the mixture completely. Process the mixture according the ice cream machines instructions.

 For the goat cheese short bread:

I modified a recipe from Foodnetwork.com…Ina Garten

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4-6 ounces goat cheese, room temperature

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

 In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter, goat cheese and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

 Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.

 

Caw Caw Creek Pork Roast with Blueberry Zinfandel Sauce

If you have not had any Caw Caw Creek pork products yet, go buy some immediately.  I can guarantee you that you have never bought better pork…period.  And I love pork.  Caw Caw Creek pork is not the pork that you are used to.  It is juicy, fatty and flavorful.  Nothing like the store-bought, ultra lean, flavorless pork we usually eat.  Go to the All Local Farmers Market at 711 Whaley next Saturday and buy some pork chops.  You will not buy grocery store pork again.  If you do not live in Columbia, go to www.cawcawcreek.com.  For this recipe I used a bone in pork roast.  I brined it for a few hours, roasted it on 425 seasoned simply with salt and pepper, sliced it into thick pieces and lightly sauced it with a blueberry zinfandel sauce.  The best way to describe the flavor of this pork roast is pork flavored prime rib.  It has that real meaty/juiciness that prime rib has, with the flavor of pork.  The lightly sweet and fruity wine reduction went perfectly with medium rare pork roast.  I served this simply with sautéed cherry tomatoes and asparagus and a roasted onion gratin.  Recipes below.

For the pork:

One 3 or 4 bone pork roast

Brine:
1/4-1/3 cup salt
1/2 gallon warm water

Mix the water and salt together.  Put the mixture in the refrigerator to cool down.  When cool, add the pork to the brine and return to the refrigerator.  Leave the pork in the brine for at least a few hours or up to overnight.  Take the pork out of the refrigerator and the brine an hour before you’re ready to cook and pat dry.  Season with salt and pepper all over the roast.

Roast the pork at 425 for 35-40 minutes until medium rare.  You want to serve this pork with some red in the center.  It is perfectly healthy and will taste much better that way.  Go another 5 minutes for medium if you prefer.  Let the roast rest for 10 minutes before slicing.  Slice each slice about the thickness of a bone.  Enjoy.

For the blueberry zinfandel sauce:

1/2 cups blueberries
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups red zinfandel
sprig of rosemary

Add the balsamic vinegar to a small sauce pan and simmer on medium to medium high until reduced to about 1/4 cup or the consistency of a syrup.  Add the wine and rosemary and simmer until reduced by half.  The sauce should coat the back of a spoon when you run a finger across it.  Add the blueberries just for 1-2 minutes at the very end.  Let the sauce cool slightly and spoon over the sliced pork.