Saturday, May 27, 2017

Grilled Stuffed Lobster

Today I'm grilling lobster and this one happens to be of the warm-water Caribbean variety. That's because I'm staying at our St. Thomas villa where these lobsters are large and plentiful.

Julian with Grilled Stuffed Caribbean Lobster
I had previously discussed stuffed lobster and the various varieties and I'd given you the recipe from a great local restaurant in St. Thomas. But today I'm making these on the grill and stuffing them too, so I wanted to share a bit more on this topic.

Stuffed and Ready to Eat
Now whether you get cold water (Maine) lobster or warmer water (spiny Florida or Caribbean) lobster, they are all dispatched and cooked in the same manner. The primary difference between the cold and warm water varieties is the lack of pincer claws in the warm water lobster. It is for this reason you'll want to select larger specimens if you go with spiny lobster, as the only real meat is in the tail.

Boiling and steaming lobster is perhaps the most popular method. That's because it is killed and cooked all in one step, by placing into the already hot pot. However if you are going to stuff, grill or bake lobster, you need to send them on to that great ocean in the sky (kill them) first. To do this it is best to put them in a cold, dark place and let them sit quietly for a while. Warm water lobster in a cooler with some chunks of ice will do the trick if left for about an hour. For a cold water lobster you'll need an even colder environment (more ice in your cooler or your freezer) for at least 15-20 minutes. The cold and darkness rather put them into a deep sleep and make it easier to handle them.

One Quick Cut and It's Done
Wearing a heavy glove, one at a time move the lobster to a cutting board. With a sharp tipped chef's knife, place the point just behind the head. On a cold water lobster there is a small hinge in the shell at this point. On a spiny warm water lobster, there is usually a small dot on the shell. With the blade facing toward the front of the lobster, plunge the point directly down through the shell and quickly push it forward cutting the lobster's head in half. The lobster is now dead. Turn the knife the other direction, insert into the same spot and cut the lobster tail end in half.

Then cut the other end in half.
Spiny lobster have a harder shell with spikes and you'll need some muscle to cut it in half. Heavy gloves are a must as the shell is after all 'spiny'. I sometimes use kitchen sheers especially for cutting the underside of the tail which is more of a thin but tough membrane.

One you have the lobster cut in half wash out the insides removing the internal organs and creating a place for your stuffing. Prepare any additional lobster one at a time.

While the grill is heating, prepare the stuffing below. Note it uses left-over rice of any variety. I usually have some white or yellow Spanish rush in the refrigerator. You can of course make fresh and include it after it is cooled.

1/2 green or red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 stocks of celery, finely chopped
3 green onions, all of the white and a little of the green, finely chopped
             (or substitute 1/3 of a yellow onion)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Tabasco hot pepper sauce, to taste, 3-6 dashes
1 egg
1 cup cooked rice (any type)
3/4 cup of lump crab meat

4 tablespoons melted butter for basting
Paprika for color

Combine all of the above ingredients except for the rice and crab. Stir in the rice and gently fold in the lump crab trying not to shred it completely. The mixture may seem a bit dry, but the lobster shells will provide more moisture while it grilling/baking, so do not be concerned. Stuff the lobster body cavity, brush the lobster tail meat with butter and give it a light dusting of paprika.

Basting with Butter before Grilling

Place on a pre-heated grill (about 400F degrees) meat/stuffing side up and close the lid. Grill for 15-20 minutes until the lobster tail is cooked through. The lobster is done when the meat is opaque and feels firm when pushed with your finger or the temperature reaches 145F degrees at the center of the tail when measured with an instead read thermometer.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Bacon Brown Sugar Pork Tenderloin

This is any easy and fast weeknight dinner. Pork tenderloin can be both delicious and tricky. It is small and lean and if over-cooked can be dry and chewy. In this recipe the tenderloin is protected by a wrapping of bacon, which also adds fat to keep it moist and flavorful.

Julian's Bacon Brown Sugar Pork Tenderloin
I purchase an individual fresh tenderloin at my local grocer. If you get yours in those vacuum packs that are nearly as big around as your wrist, understand it is two pieces of tenderloin inside, which is twice what I'm using the recipe below. If you plan to make the two of them, double the recipe.

I'm using the popular Major Grey's Chutney in this recipe, which you can find at most grocery stores. However, you can substitute another chutney or jam of your choice. I've used peach preserves with success in the past.

erves 4
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 to 6 slices bacon
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup Chutney (Major Grey's preferred)
2 tablespoons whole grain or Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the silverskin (the silvery-white connective tissue running along the top) from the pork tenderloin with a sharp knife, if the butcher has not already done so. Pat the tenderloin dry with paper towels.

Lay the bacon strips parallel across a cutting board spread about the same as the length of your tenderloin. Place the tenderloin on the bacon.

Combine the brown sugar, salt, paprika, and cayenne in a small bowl. Rub all of the mixture into the pork tenderloin turning it as necessary to coat all sides. Wrap the tenderloin with the strips of bacon, securing along the sides with toothpicks.

Ready for Browning
Heat the canola oil in a large cast iron skillet, or other oven-proof skillet, over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the bacon-wrapped tenderloin and sear — do not disturb it while it's searing — until deep caramel brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Flip the tenderloin and continue searing until the other side is browned.

Mix the chutney and mustard in a small bowl and brush generously over the top of the tenderloin.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook the tenderloin until a thermometer reads 140°F, approximately 10 to 14 minutes.

Remove from the oven and loosely tent with foil. Rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the tenderloin to finish cooking and for the juices to redistribute into the meat. Remove toothpicks and slice into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces for serving. Serve with any leftover chutney on the side.

Sliced and Ready for Serving

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Whole Wheat Caramel Pecan Cake

This is an old recipe and you may remember your grandmother serving you something like it. I take liberties with the recipe and usually make it when I have ingredients I'm trying to use up. You probably have all of these in your pantry today.

Julian's Whole Wheat Caramel Pecan Cake
I often find I have extra bits of nuts and coconut on hand from other recipes. Here you can use more or less of either of these. I used more here and the topping is more solid. The recipe below will give you a more moist sticky topping, which I actually prefer to the version pictured here. The original recipe card indicated the cake was baked in a 7 x 11 inch pan, which I do not have and have not seen. I make this in an 8 inch square baking pan.

Here it is made with more coconut and nuts than in
the recipe below as I had them on hand.

Whole Wheat Caramel Pecan Cake

1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
 1/4 cup butter, diced
 1 egg, lightly beaten
 3/4 cup brown sugar
 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
 1/2 cup all purpose flour
 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
 1 teaspoon cinnamon
 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
 pinch of salt

 1/4 cup butter
 3/4 cup brown sugar
 1/4 cup half and half or whole milk
 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
 1/2 cup chopped pecans
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Heat the oven to 350F degrees. Lightly spray an 8 inch square baking pan with food release (Pam). Set aside.

In a small saucepan add the water and butter and bring to a low boil. Add the oats and ook for 5 minutes over low heat stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.

In a mixing bowl add the egg and the 3/4 cup brown sugar. Stir to combine. Spoon the oat mixture into the mixing bowl with the egg mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

Spoon the cake batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven, turning the broiler on.

While the cake is baking, make the sauce.

In a medium saucepan melt the remaining 1/4 cup butter. Stir in the brown sugar and half and half and stir until combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut flakes, pecans and vanilla extract. Spoon the sauce over the warm cake.

Return to the frosted cake to the oven and broil for an additional 3 minutes or until the sauce starts to bubble and the topping is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Crockpot Chicken Tacos - Super Simple Dinner

Making a taco bar is simple, especially when you can prepare the meat in advance. I'm busy with other things today and so I'm making this in my slow cooker (Crockpot). It's pretty much a set it and forget it type recipe. This is also a great recipe for hot chicken sandwiches.

Julian's Chicken Taco Meat
The chicken can cook 4-5 hours and be ready when you want to serve dinner. It will hold longer as necessary. Then just prepare the other taco ingredients such as shredded lettuce, cheese, chopped tomatoes, sour cream and any other favorites and let the family build tacos themselves using warmed tortillas to hold the ingredients.

Julian's Chicken Taco Bar
I'm using the Hidden Valley Ranch dry mix in this recipe. You can get this in one ounce packets or a bigger container as I am showing below.

Crockpot Chicken Tacos

2-3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 ounce taco seasoning mix (1 packet)
1 ounce dry ranch mix (1 packet)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup chicken broth

Place the dried mixes into the slow cooker along with the optional pepper.  Add broth and whisk until combined.  Add chicken breasts and turn in the liquid mixture.

Cook on low setting for 4 hours or a bit longer depending on amount and thickness of chicken breasts.  When chicken starts to fall apart when pulled with a fork, it is ready for shredding. Using two forks, shred the chicken right in crock pot and stir to combine with the liquid. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes. If the chicken has too much liquid, cook without the lid. If the chicken is of the correct consistency after shredding, continue cooking with the lid in place.