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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

Provencal Style Grouper

Provencal Style Grouper (1)

Provencal Style Grouper (2)

A dish known for its flavors from Provence, France.  Lavender fields, and medieval hilltop villages, the southeastern region of Provence stretches from the Rhône in the west to the Italian border.

This sauce with its colorful and bright flavors enhances the succulent taste of the grouper. Grouper should not be overcooked. The fish should be tender and using a fork should flake apart easily.

I’m using asparagus in this recipe, so I need to blanch the asparagus stalks first. I want them to remain vibrant green in color.

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Provencal Style Grouper (1)

Yields: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes, including blanching asparagus
Total Cook Time: 1 hour
Equipment: 12″ saute pan, large casserole dish

Directions for blanching asparagus:
First, you want to rinse, under cold water, the stalks off to remove any dirt that may be attached. Take one of the stalks hold it towards the bottom third of the stalk , then bend the stalk.  This part of the asparagus is the woody end and very fibrous. The stalk will break naturally where the tender part ends and the tough part begins. Have a pot of 6 cups of boiling salted water and a large bowl filled with ice and water on stand-by. Place the stalks into the boiling water and let them cook for 2-3 minutes. Using a pair of tongs remove the asparagus from the hot water and place them immediately into the ice bath. Toss around in the ice water for a minute. This process is called “shocking”. You’re stopping the cooking process. Drain well and transfer to a plate. Next, cut, on the bias, the stalks into 2 inch pieces.

Ingredients For Fish:
3 tablespoons olive oil
4- 8 ounce center cut skinless grouper fillets, 2 pounds
3 tablespoons olive oil, to be used on fillets
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions For Searing Grouper:
Let fish rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes ( utilize this time for prep). Once fish reaches room temperature, prep the fish with olive oil, Kosher salt, and pepper.
Note: A cast iron skillet or a large non-stick saute pan work best for searing fish.

Preheat a large, cast iron skillet, or a non-stick saute pan on medium high heat. Carefully tilt pan off the heat to add the olive oil,  swish the oil around in the pan, then back onto the heat. You may see the pan start smoking, that’s what you want. Next, carefully place the grouper fillets into the pan, presentation side down. Jiggle the pan immediately so fish does not stick. Do not touch the fillets for about 3 minutes. The fillets will release from the pan easily, once they’ve browned on that side. If you believe they’re ready to flip, using a spatula, pick up one corner of the filet and see if it’s not sticking and looks golden brown. Turn the fillets over and sear the other side for another 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Transfer the fillets to a plate until sauce is ready to be transferred to the casserole dish.

Ingredients For Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped fennel, (1 bulb}
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup diced yellow bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic ( 3 cloves)
1-28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
2 tablespoons low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons good dry white wine
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (reserve 1/4 cup for garnish)
1/4 cup fennel fronds for garnish
2 lemons sliced for garnish
4- 8 ounce (1 inch-thick) grouper fillets ( 2 pounds)

Directions For Sauce:
For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large (12 inch) saute pan. Add the onions, fennel, bell peppers, and garlic. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft.

Place the tomatoes and their juices in a large bowl. Take a knife and slice through the tomatoes until they’re large bite-size pieces. Add the tomatoes to the sauce, then the chicken stock, white wine, salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Add the chopped basil and caper and cook for 1 minute.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Transfer the sauce to casserole dish. Lay the seared grouper fillets on top of the sauce and bake for about 15 minutes. To judge if your fish is fully cooked (because oven temperatures may vary and so might the thickness of the fillets), make a small cut with a paring knife to see if the flesh has turned from translucent to opaque. Finally, lay lemon slices, the reserved chopped basil, and fennel fronds over the top.

Place a puddle of the sauce onto a plate, place a filet on top, and garnish with basil, lemon, and fennel fronds.

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How To Cook and Open A Lobster

 

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Today was a really fun day! Tonya, a good friend of mine, went with to shop for seafood. I think she was somewhat surprised to see me stick my hand right into the lobster tank.

This is one of those posts that may not be easy for everyone to read.  Most all shellfish should be alive before cooking.  This makes it really hard for a lot of people to handle. BEING HUMANE IS KEY!

I’ve worked for many years cooking and handling lobsters, blue crab, shrimp, mussels, and clams. The fresher the seafood, the better the finished dish is going to be.

The Lobster Institute has come up with a study. The study reads… lobsters, like insects, do not have complex brains that allow them to process pain like humans other animals do. They have compared it to when you kill a mosquito. Cooking a lobster, in the practical sense, is like killing a big bug.

Let’s get back to cooking and opening a lobster. Once I bring the lobster(s) home, I make sure they are kept in the bag with some crushed ice. You want to cook them as soon as possible. Before placing them into the pot of boiling water, I put them to sleep. This is something I learned when I worked at a seafood restaurant.

Place the lobster face (head) down on a counter, tail end in the air. Cross their arms and claws, then rub the back side of their shell, in an up and down motion. In about 45 seconds, their legs and antenna will stop moving. The lobster will then be asleep.  Balancing on their heads, by themselves on the counter. If you want to see how this is done,  just google “How to put a lobster to sleep”, and there are videos available.

I make sure that the water is salted, with sprigs of fresh tarragon, and at a hard boil. Next,  I place the sleeping lobster, head first, immediately into the boiling water. You’ll notice that the lobster is not totally submerged. I prefer to let steam and water cook the lobster. Place a tight-fitting lid on the pot. Using a dish towel, I hold on to the lid for about 10 seconds before letting go.

Below is a peek to show you how I do this.

In a very large stock pot, I place water and tarragon into the water. On high heat, I bring the water up to a hard boil. I place the sleeping lobster into the boiling water then place the lid on, holding it with a towel for around 10 seconds.

Once cooked, I lift the lobster up using large tongs to release any excess water the lobster may hold, back into the pot. Next, I place the lobster into a large plastic container to cool before removing the meat.

Once cooled, first I take off the rubber bands from the claws. I remove the arms with the claws. Next, I twist off the tail to release from the body, also known as the thorax. I discard the thorax.

There are two ways to remove the meat from the tail. First is to bend, in a backward direction. Now the very end of the tail meat is showing. Use a pair of scissors and cut down the inner side of the tail to release the meat. The other way is to squeeze to tail together until you hear the back side snap. Turn the tail over, where the underbelly is facing in the upwards direction. Using two hands, split the tail open.

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There is a piece of that needs to be removed on the outer side of the tail meat. It’s really a bit fibrous, just discard. You can see above, the indention it leaves on the backside of the tail meat. The tail is now clean and done. Next, the claws.

This is where a good pair of lobster crackers is needed. Even a meat mallet comes in handy. One of the claws in larger and harder to crack than the other one. You may need some help with that one, that’s why I mentioned using a meat mallet.

Lay a towel over the larger claw and hit it one time. That should put a crack into the claw and make it easier to remove the meat in one piece. When using the crackers, be careful not to crack the meat, just the shell. The is to ensure the meat will come out in one piece. The arms, they can be a bit tricky, they have knuckles and meat can get caught.  If you don’t have a lobster pick, you can use a large skewer to help get that meat out.

How’s this for a finished dish! Great to take to parties. For this recipe, click on the link at the bottom of this post. The only change is, I incorporated cooked lobster to my recipe for Shrimp Scampi Over Linguine.

Lobster And Shrimp Scampi Over Linguine (1)

Equipment:
Large stock pot with lid (8 to 16-quart pot)
Cook Time: 8-10 minutes per pound (Cooked lobster should be vibrant red in color)
Prep Time:
Allow for time to put the lobster to sleep as explained above. 5-7 minutes to bring water to a hard boil.

Ingredients:
1 live 2-pound lobster
1-1/2 quarts of water
2 heaping tablespoons of Kosher salt
3 sprigs of fresh tarragon

 

Shrimp Scampi Over Linguine

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Walnut And Mint-Crusted Pan Seared Salmon Over An Arugula-Mint Salad With A Blood Orange Vinaigrette.

Walnut And Mint-Crusted Pan Seared Salmon (3)

Walnut And Mint-Crusted Pan Seared Salmon (4)

Walnut And Mint-Crusted Pan Seared Salmon (2)

I wanted to challenge myself to making dishes using all of my herbs from my gardens. My first was the “Mint Challenge”. I made a trip to the Farmers’ Market to get some inspiration for my dish using mint. I found a beautiful display of blood oranges at the Farmers’ market. I knew that I had to bring a few of home with me.

Mint

Blood Oranges

Blood Orange

Blood oranges originated in Sicily and Spain. They are grown in Calabria. Their juice resembles that of a ruby. Blood oranges are truly one of natures natural wonders. There are three components to this dish, the marinate, the salmon, and the salad dressing.  All three of these will include fresh mint.  What’s really great about this dish is everything can be prepared in advance. All then you’d have to do is cook off the salmon and serve.

I’m starting with the marinate.

Inactive Prep Time: 1 hour
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 2 servings
Tip: Prepare the salad, dressing, and salmon topping while the salmon is marinating.

Ingredients For Marinate:
2-6 ounce center cut salmon fillets, skin removed
1 quart size zip lock plastic bag
1 grated garlic clove
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 blood orange juiced ( substitute regular orange is fine)
2 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon Agave nectar
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 tablespoon of minced mint leaves
1/4 cup of olive oil

Directions:
Place all the ingredients above into a quart size baggie. Place the 2-6 ounce center cut fillets into the bag. Remove all the air. Massage the salmon so both side of the fish are coated. Place the baggie onto a plate and place into the frig for 1 hour.

Walnut and Mint Topping For Salmon:
1/4 cup of chopped walnuts
zest of 1 Blood orange ( substitute regular orange is fine)
2 tablespoons of minced mint leaves

Directions:
Place all the above ingredients, for the topping, into a bowl. Stir to combine and set aside.

Ingredients For Salad And Dressing:
4 cups of Arugula (2 cups per serving)
1/4 cup of roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 red onion thinly sliced ( in half moons)
1/4 cup of dried cranberries
2 segmented Blood oranges
1/4 cup of thawed frozen peas

Ingredients For Blood Orange Dressing:
1 jelly jar to store dressing
Juice of 1 Blood orange ( regular orange is fine)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons Agave nectar
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
1/4 cup E.V.O.O.

Directions For Salad:
On two serving plates, (seen in pictures above) place 2 cups of arugula leaves on each plate. Divide onion slices evenly and distribute them over the arugula. Same with the peas, dried cranberries, chopped mint, and orange segments.  Place the two prepared salads in the frig until your ready to plate the salmon.

In a measuring cup place all the ingredients above into a measuring cup. Add the extra virgin olive oil last. Whisk together really well. Transfer to a jelly jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well before using.

Directions For Salmon:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Set the saute pan to medium heat. Let the pan come up to temperature. Take the salmon out of the baggie. Shake off all excess marinate. Place the salmon fillets into the hot saute pan. Sear the salmon for about 2 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for another 6-8 minutes. Place the hot salmon fillet onto the chilled salad. Carefully spoon the walnut and mint topping onto the top of the salmon fillet. Shake the dressing jar really well and spoon the Blood orange dressing over the salmon and salad. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

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Lobster Mac And Cheese

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I’m pretty confident in saying, Mac and Cheese is a favorite comfort food for people of all ages. There are so many recipes out there from the classic version to endless variations of the classic. Chorizo and smoked Gouda, or how about butternut squash mac and cheese! The one I like to serve, when entertaining is my Lobster Mac And Cheese. The lobster adds a delicate sweetness, and then complimented by a variety of awesome cheeses that go into my recipe. Let me show you how I make my Lobster Mac And Cheese.

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Equipment:
16 quart stock pot, 9 x 13 casserole dish
yields: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients:
4 cups of lobster meat, large dice (approx. 3- 1 1/2 lb lobsters)
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
4 cups of whole milk
1 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1-1/2 teaspoons of freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup of corn (optional)
1 cup of Mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup of Brie cheese, without the rind
2 cups of shredded Fontina cheese ( reserve 1 cup for the top)
3 tablespoon of freshly finely chopped chives
3 tablespoons of freshly chopped tarragon
2-16 ounce packages of cooked just under al-dente Paccheri Rigati ( large rigatoni shaped pasta)
Topping:
4 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups of Panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons of freshly chopped flat leaf Italian parsley
3/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:
Butter casserole dish.
For 1-1/2 pound lobsters, cook time is 15-20 minutes. Note: They need to be a vibrant red color when fully cooked.

Directions On How To Cook A Lobster:
Note: I prefer to cook lobsters one at a time.
Bring a 16 quart pot (a little over half filled) of well salted water up to a rapid  boil. Drop the lobster into the pot, quickly place the lid on. Using a towel, hold the lid in place for just a minute, giving the water a chance to come back up to a boil,  then start the cooking time. After about 15-20 minutes, remove the lobster from the pot and set aside to cool.

Boil 16 ounces of pasta just before the al dente stage, and drain. the pasta will finish cooking during the baking process.

Remove the lobster meat from the tail and claws. Chop the lobster meat into large chunks and place into a bowl.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Next, to make the cheese sauce, melt the butter whisk in the flour in a large saucepan. Cook for 1 minute over medium, heat. Slowly add in the whole milk. Sprinkle in the grated nutmeg, Kosher salt, and black pepper, continuously whisking until sauce becomes thickened and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped tarragon, finely chopped chives, cheeses, and (optional) corn. Last, add in the cooked lobster meat. Mix until all ingredients are well combined.

Add the cooked pasta into the cheese sauce stirring gently not to break up the pasta. Pour the entire mixture into the buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle the reserved Fontina cheese evenly over the top.

For the crumb topping, add the melted butter to the Panko bread crumbs. Mix in  the Italian flat leaf parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

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