Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Lobster" Mac and Cheese

Ok, so you may notice that the word lobster is in quotes above. That's because we didn't really use lobster — we used monkfish.

What's monkfish, you ask? Click here if you really want to know.

Yeah, disgusting. But it tastes really good — surprisingly like lobster. That's what they call it, anyway — the poor man's lobster. We're pretty poor, and we love us some lobster, so we gave it a shot.

Plus, it was already filleted. I actually had no idea monkfish was that terrifying until I Googled it just now.

Anyway, on to the recipe.

1 lb short pasta, like penne rigate
1 quart milk
2.5 tsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 tbsp Soulard Grill seasoning (or your favorite seasoning)
1/2 tsp ground chipotle + more for topping
1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese + more for topping
1.5 cups shredded jack cheese
1 lb monkfish

1. Make the cheese sauce: melt the butter and flour together to make a roux. Add the milk slowly, whisk together. Let this simmer until it becomes thick. Add the Soulard Grill seasoning and chipotle.
2. Turn off the heat. Add the cheeses and stir until melted.
3. Boil the pasta until done.

IMPORTANT: Drain and rinse the pasta. That's right, rinse. You'll never hear me say that again, but rinsing pasta for mac and cheese makes the sauce not gummy or too thick and starchy, which is something about homemade mac and cheese I don't like.
4. Mix the sauce with the pasta. Transfer to a baking dish, top with additional cheeses and chipotle, then bake at 375 for 20 minutes until bubbly.
5. Bake the monkfish in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes or so until you can flake it with a fork. Top the baked mac and cheese with the fish. Bacon optional.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sausage, Mushrooms and Broccoli Rabe

I'm something of a lasagna freak. I love trying new things with it — Mexican lasagna with tomatoes, black beans, and cheddar; artichoke lasagna with bĂ©chamel; classic bolognese lasagna — you name it.

This was probably the best we've ever made.

The sauce is a silky butternut squash puree. The homemade lasagna noodles are layered with spicy Italian chicken sausage, sauteed shiitake mushrooms, broccoli rabe and ricotta cheese.

This is a very complex recipe — something for lazy Sundays or Saturday. Really, though, nothing in the world is better to me than spending my days off investing in an hours-long meal that will cook in the oven for an hour or so. No kidding.

Take the time to make this for a special occasion. You will not be disappointed.

For the butternut squash sauce:
1 medium butternut squash
1-1.5 cups chicken broth
Salt & Pepper
1 tbsp garlic-infused olive oil

For the sausage & mushroom filling:
1 lb spicy Italian chicken sausage
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 tsp each: bacon fat, butter, olive oil
~1 lb shiitake mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch thyme
Pinch red pepper flakes
Pinch salt & pepper
Optional but strongly encouraged: 1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms, 1.5 cups chicken broth

For the cheese mixture:
1 bunch broccoli rabe, chopped
1 container whole-milk ricotta cheese
Pinch red pepper flakes
Pinch salt

Homemade pasta sheets (or you can buy them - about a pound. We made the whole wheat version.)

Pecorino Romano cheese

Preparation (Written by Justin)

1. Chop half of a yellow onion and cook on medium heat in a combo of bacon fat, butter, and olive oil (or just one of the above). Add about a pound of sliced shiitake mushrooms, a couple cloves of chopped garlic, thyme, and crushed red pepper. Season well with salt and pepper and cook for another 7-8 mins. 

2. This next part is optional, but makes a BIG difference: we took about a cup of dried shiitake and rehydrated them in hot chicken stock and let them sit in it for about 20 mins then blend until smooth. Add this mixture to the mushrooms and cook until the liquid is almost completely reduced; it should look like gravy.

3. SautĂ© a pound of spicy italian chicken sausage or whatever ever ground meat and add it the mushroom sauce.

4. Next, blanch chopped broccoli rabe in salted boiling water for about 10 mins. Drain, rinse under cold water and squeeze out all the extra water. Add this to ricotta cheese. Add salt and crushed red pepper.

5. For the butternut squash sauce, cut a squash in half longitudinally, douse with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast skin-side up for about 45 mins at 375 degrees. Once cooled, blend the squash with chicken stock and garlic oil until smooth.

6. Make the pasta (or buy some); if the pasta is fresh, blanch it for 2 minutes in boiling water. If dried, cook them until they're al-dente. 

7. Time to assemble: Add a layer of butternut squash sauce to the bottom of the pan. Layer on the pasta.  Add the ricotta-broccoli rabe mixture, then the sausage-mushroom mixture, then a layer of Pecorino Romano cheese. Then add another layer of squash sauce, pasta, ricotta, mushroom-sausage sauce, 
Pecorino. Repeat until you run out of ingredients.

8. Bake at 375 for about an hour. Let it rest for 10 minutes (if you can wait that long!)


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Good Morning: Soulard Coffee Garden

Yesterday (Saturday) Justin and I went to the Soulard Coffee Garden for breakfast. 

This is easily the best cappuccino in St. Louis. Very strong, rich, with a foam so thick on top that you could probably balance a quarter on it.

Even though the eggs benedict is the house speciality (and coincidentally, one of our favorite breakfast foods), we both ended up getting the eggs and hash, which was a home fry hash with corned beef, poached eggs and tarragon hollandaise. Almost like eggs benedict, but so very much more.

I will never make hollandaise without tarragon again. Consider me converted.

The hash came with a superfluous side of fruit. I guess just to make you feel OK about eating this for breakfast (when really, do you need to justify it?)

A good morning to us.

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