Saturday, May 25, 2013

Recipe #223: Lobster Mac and Cheese

The other day, Nick went to lunch with some of his coworkers to a restaurant he'd been to before.  He was looking forward to having their lobster mac and cheese but found out they'd since taken it off their menu.  That inspired me to look for a recipe and attempt to make it myself.  If you want to splurge on something expensive, unhealthy and definitely delicious, this is the recipe to try.  I found this on Food Network's website and it had great reviews, for good reason.  My minor changes are in red.  This makes about 6 servings.


4 tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon for greasing dish (I used olive oil spray to grease the dish)
Kosher salt
1 pound penne pasta
2 small shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white wine (I used about double because the flour mixture soaked it up immediately)
4 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
2 cups shredded sharp white Cheddar
2 cups shredded Gruyere
2 (8-ounce) raw lobster tails, defrosted if frozen, meat removed from shell, chopped
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley leaves (I used dried)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and adjust racks to the middle. Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with butter.

In a large pot of boiling salted water over medium heat, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve.

Add 4 tablespoons butter to a large pot over medium heat. Once the butter shimmers, add the shallots and garlic and saute until translucent. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the tomato paste and flour and stir to toast, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the white wine and reduce, by half, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the cream, whisking well to remove any lumps. Add the paprika, cayenne, and bay leaf. Bring the cream up to a simmer and turn the heat to low. Let reduce until the cream is thick and can coat a spoon, about 5 to 10 minutes. When thickened, remove the bay leaves.

Stir in the grated cheeses, a handful at a time, combining well after each addition. Add the chopped lobster meat to the sauce and stir well. Add the pasta and stir. Add to the greased baking dish and sprinkle with the panko crumbs and parsley. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle individual servings with parsley.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Recipe #222: Spinach and Tortellini

I've been spending a lot of time grilling, eating at restaurants, and being out of town for work, so my blog has slowed down a little bit.  Today I made dinner from a recipe that I'd been saving to try.  This really fresh-tasting meal comes from Cooking Channel's website.  I changed the amounts a little bit and used a little less spinach.  I can't wait to have the leftovers!  I'm sure the flavors will be even better once the juices have time to sit and absorb int the tortellini more.


Salt (I only used it for cooking the tortellini)
Cooking spray
4 cups fresh cheese tortellini (10 to 12 ounces)
3 cups halved cherry tomatoes
2 cups thawed frozen peas (I didn't bother to thaw them)
8 cloves garlic, chopped
4 large portobello mushrooms, sliced
8 cups spinach (I used less because this seemed excessive)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup pine nuts
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water well with salt. Add the tortellini and cook according to package instructions. 

Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, peas, garlic and mushrooms. Saute until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. 

Add in the spinach and saute until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and toss in the pasta. Top with the Parmesan and pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Recipe #221: Buffalo Chicken Burgers. Well, sort of....

The title of this blog is Practice Makes Meals.  I'm not kidding.  There are plenty of times I try a new recipe and I mess it up or it just disappoints me.  Today, I messed up for sure, but I was able to salvage it and I have to say, I'm really pleased with the results.  SO here's a blog about what went wrong, and how I managed to not panic (miraculously).

Here's the recipe I was trying to attempt:

Look how beautiful.  I was quite excited to make these.  This is a picture from that blog, in case you don't feel like linking to it:

Now, here's the directions, with my mistakes below:

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 celery stalk (finely chopped)
  • 1 carrot stick (peeled and shredded)
  • 1/2 red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 garlic clove (crushed) (I used minced garlic)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup franks red-hot buffalo sauce
  • 1/2 cup Mary’s Gone Crackers Gluten-Free Breadcrumbs (I used regular breadcrumbs)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese dressing
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • 6 hamburger buns
  • Optional Toppings (I just chose baby spinach because I figured there were already plenty of flavors involved)
  • tomatoes (sliced)
  • baby spinach
  • red bell peppers (diced)
  • green onions (diced)
  1. Start by combining the ground chicken, celery, carrots, red onion and garlic in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Next, add the egg, 1/4 cup buffalo sauce, bread crumbs, chili powder and paprika. (Here's my first major mistake.  I was half paying attention and dumped ALL of the buffalo sauce in- 1/2 cup.  This made the burgers really sticky and wet.  I pondered adding more breadcrumbs to dry it out, but I didn't.)
  3. Form into 6 patties. (Second mistake- I thought that I should just make four, so I ended up with four large sticky mounds of slop)
  4. Next, place on the grill over medium heat for 8-10 minutes per side.
  5. While the burgers are on the grill combine the additional 1/4 cup buffalo sauce with 1/4 cup blue cheese dressing. (I read this direction and panicked, realizing I did step 2 wrong)
  6. Toast the buns, then spread the mixture onto each side of the bun.
  7. Remove the burgers from the grill and place onto the bun.
  8. Top with the blue cheese crumbles and any desired additional ingredients.
Let's look at pictures of what happened since I wasn't following instructions correctly, and I'll tell you what I did to fix it.

Grilling did not go well.  They weren't cooking evenly since they were too big, and flipping them made them fall apart.  After some initial mild panic and wondering if I was going to have to find a Plan B for dinner, something crossed my mind.  I scooped them up and plopped them in an ugly messy pile on a plate.

I took foil and made a quick "pan" out of it, threw the messy burgers on, used a fork to break them apart, and threw them on the grill to cook more evenly for awhile.  The consistency became more like sloppy joes.  I knew this would mean for a kind of messy sandwich, but there was no way I was going to deprive myself of a buffalo-sauce-flavored dinner after all of that prep work.

I spread just bleu cheese dressing (without it mixed with even more buffalo sauce) on both sides of the bun.  Baby spinach for a topping.  Spooned some of the still-sticky (from the sauce) chicken mixture on the other side and topped it with bleu cheese bits.  I put the top bun on and smashed it together a little, and VOILA!  Dinner!  And it definitely was really good!  I have plenty of leftovers and am pleased with how this turned out, a sort of buffalo chicken sloppy joe.