Apr 5, 2015

Eat, Drink, & Be Merry!

I'll be 71 soon, yep gett'n old, 
so it's time for a party with good friends, 
and naturally, great food!

My Birthday Menu –

Antipasti Appetizers:
Castelvetrano Green Olives, imported from Italy
Artichoke Hearts in Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sweet Italian Garlic in Oil
Crisp, Hot Pickled Okra
Assorted Pre-sliced Cured Meats
Assorted Crackers
All of the above were purchased online from Ditalia.com

First Course:
Tobiko Stuffed Lettuce Wraps

Second Course:
Spiny Lobster Bisque with Crusty Bread

Main Course:
Grilled Local Venison Tenderloin

Fresh Corn Pudding
Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pine Nuts

Prickly-Sweet Hawaiian Pineapple Sorbet
with Orange Lace Cookies or Coconut Palmier Hearts

Wines & Liqueur:
• A nice crisp white wine like Wente brand Chardonnay to go with the lobster bisque
• A nice rich red wine like Syrah, Zinfandel, and Grenache to go with the venison
• A fruity after dinner libation called Pama, a seductive ruby colored liqueur made from pomegranate 

Here are the recipes:

Tobiko Stuffed Lettuce Wraps
2 hard cooked eggs, cooled and chopped
1 tablespoons mayonnaise, Best Foods brand
1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1 head butter or curly leaf lettuce
1  5.5 ounce package of Uzumaki steamed fish cake (Friendly Market on Moloka'i)
Tobiko flying fish egg caviar (Friendly Market on Moloka'i)
More dried dill for garnish

Mix chopped cold hard cooked eggs with mayonnaise, Old Bay Seasoning, and dill. Place 4 small lettuce leaves in the middle of a chilled dinner plate. Put a teaspoon of the egg mixture in the center of each lettuce leaf. Thinly slice 4 pieces of Uzumaki, about 1/8 inch thick, and place one slice on top of the egg mixture, pressing down on it slightly, creating a level tray to place a teaspoon of tobiko on top of.  Garnish each plate by sprinkling dried dill on each plate. Makes 4 appetizer or first course servings.

Spiny Lobster Bisque
4, 1/2 pound lobster tails, in shells
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1/2 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup white wine
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/3 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 cups lobster base (see instructions below)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Fill a large pot half-way with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the lobster tails and boil for 8-10 minutes, or until the shells are bright red and the flesh is opaque. Remove the lobster from the boiling water and allow to cool. Reserve the water – this will become your lobster base.

Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and onion and saute until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, until the garlic becomes fragrant.

To make the lobster base, remove the lobster from the shell either by cutting through the shell with kitchen shears (my preferred method) or chopping in half and pulling out the flesh. Place the lobster on a cutting board and, after removing any remaining veins, chop into bite-size pieces. Throw the shells back in the water you just boiled the lobster in and boil for another 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, strain the water from the shells using a fine mesh strainer, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the base.

Add the flour to the onion-shallot-garlic mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 2 minutes.

Slowly add the wine, taking care to slowly incorporate the wine into the thickened mixture. Once mixed in and smooth, add the Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, salt, pepper and thyme. Cook for 1-2 minutes until this mixture becomes a thick paste.

Slowly add the sherry and deglaze the pan if any bits are sticking to the pan at this time.

Add the paprika, tomato paste and lobster base and stir to combine well. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Blend the mixture in a blender or using an immersion blender. The mixture should be very smooth. Return the blended mixture to the pan and add in the heavy cream and butter. Taste at this time to check if any additional salt or pepper is needed. Bring the mixture to a simmer.

Once simmering, add the lobster chunks back in and cook until heated though.

Serve hot and with crusty bread. Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Local Venison Tenderloin
Tender cuts of venison should be cooked quickly to a rare or medium-rare level of doneness. If it is prepared past medium-rare too much moisture will be cooked out causing the meat to become dry and tough.

2, 1 pound venison tenderloins, or beef tenderloin if you can't get venison

Marinade Ingredients:
1 head of garlic
1-2 tablespoons sea salt to taste
1/2 cup rosemary needles
6-8 dry bay leaves, crumbled
3-4 teaspoons dried Mediterranean herbs, such as oregano, basil, and thyme
2 tablespoons Tamari sauce
1/4 cup olive oil ground
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Special equipment:
A grill and charcoal
Meat thermometer

The day before your dinner, trim the tenderloins, removing all visible fat and most of the silver skin (translucent membrane). If the loins have a long tapered end, curl the thin end back and toothpick it in place so it doesn't overcook. Now make a paste out of the marinade ingredients, garlic, sea salt, rosemary, bay leaves, oregano, basil, thyme, soy sauce, olive oil, and black pepper in a mortar, blender, or food processor. Pour the sauce into a large zipper-top plastic freezer bag and let rest for at least 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Turn the bag once or twice during this time to distribute the marinade. Bring the tenderloins to room temperature for 20 - 30 minutes before cooking.

Prepare your charcoal grill. Oil grill grates with vegetable oil to prevent the tenderloin from sticking. I prefer not to use lighter fluid as it is toxic and nasty. There is a Weber coal starter which costs about $15 and starts about the right amount of charcoal with a few pieces of newspaper. It is a sort of metal chimney with a basket in it, and is very easy to use. When the coal is red hot, put it in the grill and spread it out. Close the grill top to get everything hot inside.

Once the coals have cooked down a little to medium high, and have a nice grey dust on them, put the tenderloins, directly over the coals, and grill for about 6-8 minutes of cooking per inch of thickness for the tenderloins. Keep turning the tenderloins, then check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. It should read 125˚F for rare, 130˚F for medium rare, any higher and the venison will get tough. If you don't have a meat thermometer, you should, they are cheap and everyone should have on in their kitchen. If you don't have one, you will have to make a small cut into the meat to check for doneness. Personally I like my red meat medium rare.

Remove the tenderloins to a warm platter and cover with foil for a few minutes. This allows the juices to stay in the meat, not on your cutting board. Keep everything warm in a 200˚F oven, covered with foil, until ready to serve, then cut the tenderloins into 1 inch rounds, or cut them on an angle. Makes 4 servings.

Note: This cooking method works with larger cuts of venison (working cuts) as well, but can take up to 2 hours to cook indirectly off the coals. Remove the larger cuts from the grill when the internal temperature reaches 120˚F. This will rise to about 130˚ as the meat "rests".

Fresh Corn Pudding
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
5 cups FRESH yellow corn kernels cut off the cob (6 to 8 ears)
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
4 extra-large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup Ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup (6 ounces) grated extra-sharp cheddar, plus extra for the top

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Grease the inside of an 8 to 10-cup baking dish. Melt the butter in a very large saute pan and saute the corn and onion over medium-high heat for 4 minutes. Cool slightly. Whisk together the eggs, milk, and half-and-half in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal and then the Ricotta cheese. Add the basil, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add the cooked corn mixture and grated cheddar, and then pour into the baking dish. Sprinkle the top with more grated cheddar. Place the dish in a larger pan and fill the pan 1/2 way up the sides of the dish with hot tap water. Bake the pudding for 40 to 45 minutes until the top begins to brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.

Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts 
with Garlic & Pine Nuts
1 pound brussels sprouts
3 large garlic cloves
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons pine nuts

Trim Brussels sprouts and halve lengthwise. Cut garlic into very thin slices. In a 10-inch heavy skillet (preferably well-seasoned cast iron) melt 1 tablespoon butter with oil over moderate heat and cook garlic, stirring, until pale golden. Transfer garlic with a slotted spoon to a small bowl. Reduce heat to low and arrange sprouts in skillet, cut sides down, in one layer. Sprinkle sprouts with pine nuts and salt to taste. Cook sprouts, without turning, until crisp-tender and undersides are golden brown, about 15 minutes.

With tongs transfer sprouts to a plate, browned sides up. Add garlic and remaining butter to skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until pine nuts are more evenly pale golden, about 1 minute. Spoon mixture over sprouts and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Makes 4 servings.

Prickly-Sweet Hawaiian Pineapple Sorbet
This sorbet is so easy to make, and it comes out as light as a Hawaiian cloud. It's the perfect dessert after a heavy meal. Once you make this once, you will have it often.

1 ripe pineapple, peeled and cored
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Fresh pineapple wedges or mint sprigs for garnish (optional)

After you peel and core the pineapple, use the tip of your knife to remove any little eyes. Cut pineapple into 2-inch pieces. Place pineapple and lemon juice in a food processor; process until smooth. Add sugar; process 1 minute or until sugar dissolves.

Pour mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. As the sorbet freezes, it becomes light as a cloud. Spoon sorbet into a freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze 1 hour or until firm. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired, and a cookie, like Orange Lace Cookies, or Coconut Palmier Cookies (see recipe index).

Note: I use a Cuisinart ICE-20 Automatic 1-1/2-Quart Ice Cream Maker. I have had it for years and am very happy with it. They still sell it on Amazon.com for $53.00. If you don't have an ice-cream maker, use a covered metal bowl. Freeze mixture 3 hours or until it is hard on the outside but slushy in the middle. Remove it from the freezer, beat it with a whisk until smooth, and return to the freezer, covered, for 4 hours until firm. Makes 8 large servings (or 2 quarts).

Orange Lace Cookies
I first made these in cooking school and have always loved them. Thin crispy cookies, flavored with fresh orange juice and zest and full of holes, like lace. These are elegant and really go well with an elegant dessert, like my "Prickly-Sweet Hawaiian Pineapple Sorbet" (recipe).

1 cup + 2 tablespoons (8 oz) sugar
3/4 cup (3 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (4 oz) fresh orange juice
1 stick (4 oz) butter
1 orange zested (zest the orange first, then cut it in half and use the juice)

Stir together the flour and sugar in a large bowl. Melt the butter. I like to stick it in the microwave in 30-second intervals until it’s liquified. Add the orange zest to the bowl with the juice, then pour the juice over the flour. Whisk until it's smooth, then pour in the butter and whisk until that's completely incorporated. Now refrigerate the bowl of batter for 2 hours or overnight, wrapped tightly in plastic.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Fill a pastry bag, outfitted with a small plain tip, with batter. (You can also fill a ziplock bag, then snip off a bit of the corner.) Pipe nickel-sized rounds on Silpat-lined cookie sheets, spaced 3 inches apart. Yes, space them far apart because they spread. And use the flattest sheet pans you’ve got or the batter will slide around. You will have way more batter than sheet pans, so you’ll need to bake them in batches. Or bake some today, and then some tomorrow. Bake for about 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on these. You want them golden orange. If they get into the brown palette, they start to get bitter. 

Once they come out of the oven, they will be quite soft and if you try to pick them up, they will rip. Wait about 60 seconds for them to set up a little, then you can shape them. Gently glide an offset spatula under them to loosen, then drape them over something round, like a rolling pin, a wine bottle, a vinegar bottle, a pepper grinder, whatever you’ve got kicking around. Once they harden, you can slide them off. If the cookies harden on the sheet pan before you’ve had a chance to shape all of them, return the sheet pan to the oven for 30-60 seconds, and they will heat up and get pliable again. If you have no desire to deal with the shaping, which is admittedly a small production, simply let them cool flat on the sheet pans, and you’ll have flat, but still lovely, cookies. Store in an airtight tupperware. These cookies don’t like humidity which is a problem in Hawaii, they get soft. Makes about 60 cookies.

Coconut Palmier Hearts
Palmiers are simple cookies to make using ready-made puff pastry. The addition of coconut flakes make these little hearts very tropical.

1 pound package of ready-made frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 7-ounce package sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Unwrap the puff pastry and lay them on a clean work surface. Cover to prevent the dough from drying out and let it thaw until completely pliable but still cool. It's very important that the dough be completely thawed before using.

In a food processor, combine the coconut, sugar, and cinnamon. Process until finely ground, about 2 full minutes. Pour 1 cup of this mixture onto a flat surface like a smooth kitchen counter, and spread it out to the diameter of the puff pastry dough.

Unfold one sheet of pastry onto the coconut mixture and pour an additional 1/2 cup of the coconut mixture on top. Use your hands to cover the pastry thickly with the coconut. (The pastry will be sandwiched between 2 layers of coconut.)

Run a rolling pin over the pastry to press the sugar and coconut into the dough and help it adhere. You want to roll the dough out to a 13-inch square. Using a bench scraper, or edge of a large knife, lift the sides of the pastry up and fold them toward the center so they meet flush in the middle. Then fold one half over the other like you're closing a book. Wrap the rolled log loosely with parchment and place it in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up.

Repeat this process with the other puff pastry sheet using the remaining coconut-sugar mixture.

Pre-heat the oven to 450°F. Place a rack in the middle position.

Remove the plastic wrap. Use a sharp knife to slice the rolls into cookies roughly about 3/8-inch thick. Arrange the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet, allowing 2 inches of expansion room between each one. Now pinch together about 1/2 inch of dough, right below where the two rolls meet on each cookie, which helps to form the point of a heart.

Bake the palters in batches until golden and caramelized on the bottom, about 15 minutes. Turn the cookies over and bake until golden on the other side, about 7 minutes more. It's the caramelized sugar and toasted coconut that provide the flavor.

Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Cookies will be less crispy but still delicious the next day. Serve with my Hawaiian Pineapple Sorbet (see recipe index). Makes about 32 cookies.

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