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Simple and Easy Lobster Thermidor, in a Ramekin


(serves 5)
My Lobster Thermidor recipe avoids the main pitfall of the traditional in-the-shell method; You can have your lobster meat nice and tender since you don’t have to cook it an extra time to first remove the meat from the shell. It is also simple and easy, you don’t have to worry about procuring whole fresh lobsters, halving them without breaking the shell, removing meat from the claw, serving an odd number of servings etc. In addition, you avoid the hassle of making a béchamel sauce. And it still tastes rich and creamy.

IngredientsLobster Thermidor

  1. Lobster Tails (2=300g)
  2. Mushrooms (100g)
  3. Onion (0.5)
  4. Mascarpone (200g)
  5. Emmental (100g)
  6. Parmesan (70g)
  7. White Wine (0.75 cups)
  8. Cooked Rice (2 cups)
  9. Garlic (3t)
  10. Butter
  11. Tarragon

Preparation 

  1. Boil 3/4 cups of long grain rice, this will become 2 cups when it is cooked.
  2. Fully defrost your raw lobster tails if they come frozen. Separate the meat from the shell. Cut the meat into bite sized morsels.
  3. In a bowl mix 20g of warm butter, 3t of crushed garlic, 0.5t of salt and 0.5t of white pepper. Add the lobster and mix well. Leave it to marinate while you do the next steps.
  4. If your cheese did not come grated, grate it now. In any case leave the cheese out to warm.
  5. Julienne half an onion into small bits and slice the mushrooms into thin slices. Pan fry the onions on low heat with a large knob of butter, adding the mushrooms once the onion begins to brown.
  6. When the mushrooms become limp turn up the heat and add 3/4 cup of white wine. I tend to use chardonnay for its woody flavour. Let the mixture boil and reduce for 1 minute.
  7. Turn off the fire. Add the Mascarpone to the pan and stir till it has melted. Next, gradually sprinkle on and stir in the grated emmental as you bring the mixture back to a low simmer. Finally sprinkle on two thirds of the parmesan. Turn off the fire as soon as the cheese has melted. Season with 0.5t salt, 0.5t sugar, 1t black pepper and 1T of tarragon.
  8. Preheat your oven to 200oC (390oF).
  9. Divide your cooked rice into 5 ramekins. Press the rice down lightly till it is flat, but do not compact it. Arrange the lobster meat on top of the rice.
  10. Spoon the cheese sauce evenly into the ramekins and sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the top of each ramekin.
  11. Bake for 15 minutes or until brown spots begin to appear on the surface.

NotesThermidor in Ramekin

  • Make sure you let the emmental warm to room temperature before using it or it will separate into oily rubbery clumps.
  • You can use semi cooked orzo pasta if you are not used to cooking rice, but rice goes better with this dish. For more information on rice, refer to my White Rice Page.
  • The easiest way to separate the meat from the shell is to cut the shell in two lengthwise with a pair of scissors along the ‘spine’.
  • For alternative cheeses, refer to my Cheese Page.
  • Butter is essential to the taste of lobster thermidor, do not substitute with olive oil.
 
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Posted by on November 11, 2014 in French, Main Courses, Recipe, Seafood

 

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Crab and Cheese Faux Soufflé


(serves 6)
This is not a real soufflé as it uses what I call the french toast method, but it is permissible for a savoury dish and it certainly tastes as good as any traditional soufflé made from beaten egg-white. Within each ramekin, there’ll be that heavenly combination of crab meat and 3 different cheeses, melded into a fluffy body of bread and egg; sort of like crab gratin meets bread and butter pudding, only lighter.    

IngredientsCrab and Cheese Soufflé

  1. Cooked Crab Meat (300g)
  2. Capsicum (1)
  3. Onion (1/2)
  4. Diced Bread (4 cups)
  5. Cream (1 cup)
  6. Milk (1 cup)
  7. Eggs (3)
  8. Parmigiano Reggiano (40g)
  9. Cheddar (80g)
  10. Brie (120g)
  11. DIllweed 
  12. Cognac

Preparation

  1. Drain the crab meat and then soak it in a mixture of 1 part brandy to 4 parts water. This will freshen up your crab meat. Make sure you loosen the packed meat so the brandy can permeate faster.
  2. In the meanwhile, julienne half an onion and one capsicum (without the seeds). Dice slices of soft crustless bread until you end up with four cups of loosely packed cubes of bread.
  3. Grate the parmigiano and cheddar. You can mix them together. Dice the Brie but keep it in the fridge to maintain its hardness.
  4. Using a large pan, stir-fry the onion pieces on low heat with a knob of butter till they get limp. Turn up the heat, add a second knob of butter together with the capsicum bits. Stir-fry for one minute.
  5. Drain the crab meat (the second time) and add this to the pan. Continue stir-frying and when the water from the crab has boiled off, add 1/3 cup milk and 1T brandy. Cook for a further minute, then turn off the heat.
  6. Add the diced bread to the frying pan (no heat) and mix until they absorb all the liquid. Sprinkle on the grated cheese, 1T of dillweed and 1t of pepper.
  7. Distribute half the pan’s contents evenly into 6 ramekins. There is no need to brush the inside of the ramekins with butter, this soufflé does not stick. Add the brie piece by piece to ensure even distrubution; they have a tendency to clump together. Top up with the remaining contents of the pan.
  8. Mix half a cup of cream, 0.5t of sugar and three eggs in a large bowl.
  9. In a pot, heat to almost boiling another half cup of the cream and 2/3 cups of milk. Slowly pour this hot half&half into the bowl with the eggs, stirring all the time to make sure the egg doesn’t get cooked. Pour the hot egg mixture into the ramekins and leave to settle for at least half an hour.
  10. Preheat the oven to 180oC (350oF) and bake your soufflés for about 20 minutes. You can see them rise, so its not too dificult to know when they are done.

NotesFive in the Oven

  • I assumed you are using canned crab meat, its the most convenient. If you happen to be are using freshly boiled crab, you can skip the soaking step.
  • I would use either red or orange capsicum (bell pepper). The yellow and green ones do goas well with the soufflé visually. 
  • If this recipe turned out nicely for you, you may want to check out this similar dish, my earlier liver pate souffle recipe.
 
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Posted by on December 9, 2013 in A Kobi Original, Appetizers, French, Recipe

 

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Orzo in Blue Cheese and Pesto Sauce


(serves 4 full portions)
Orzo (a.k.a. Risoni a.k.a. Puntalette) is a great pasta variety I recently discovered. It looks like risotto and you cook it like a risotto, but the bouncy texture of these rice shaped pasta pieces is a nice change. Like in risotto, you have to use strong flavours to compliment orzo and in this recipe I have chosen a blue cheese and pesto as the main flavours. The dish is finally topped off with pine nuts and poppy seeds, a perfect balance of taste and texture.  
 

Ingredients Orzo in Blue Cheese Pesto Sauce

  1. Gorgonzola (140g)
  2. Gouda (50g)
  3. Grana Padano (30g)
  4. Orzo (250g)
  5. Cream (1/4 cup)
  6. Chardonnay (1/2 cup)
  7. Chicken meat (350g)
  8. Pine Nuts (1/2 cup)
  9. Pesto
  10. Poppy Seeds
  11. Basil
  12. Cognac

Preparation 

  1. You cannot use stock cubes for this recipe as the stock needs to be unsalted. Make some chicken stock ahead of time. Simply boil one chicken leg with thigh, or an equivalent amount of other cuts or bones in 3 cups of water for a while and leave to cool covered.
  2. Boil some water in a non-stick frying pan and turn the fire off. Stir 250g of Orzo in the pan for 15 seconds and then drain the water. This will get rid of some of the loose flour it is coated in.
  3. Portion out the cheese next. I’ve picked the 3Gs for this recipe; The easiest way to get the right weight of each type of cheese is to look at the total weight of each package and cut out the appropriate portion by volume. There’s no need to actually weigh the cheese. Remove the wax rind of the Gouda and then cut it into 1cm cubes. Grate the Grana Padano coarsely.The Gorgonzola will fall apart easily, so there is no need to do anything to it.
  4. Pour 2 cups of hot chicken stock into the pan with the Orzo and bring to a simmer. Add 1/2 cup white wine and 3 heaping t of pesto. Keep on a low simmer, stirring once in a while.
  5. When half of the liquid has been absorbed/evapourated, add 1/4 cup of cream. Melt the  the Gorgonzola in the cream first, and when that has melted the grated Grana Padano. Finally the Gouda, stirring to prevent clumping.
  6. Continue to simmer the mixture, testing the softness of the orzo frequently by trying a grain. I usually don’t have to, but add a bit of water if the pan gets too dry. When the orzo is just tender to the bite, turn off the fire and mix in the pine nuts and 2t of chopped basil.
  7. Finally, the seasoning; add 1 flat t of sugar, a generous sprinkle of black pepper and 1T cognac. Stir, taste and add salt incrementally. The inherent saltiness will depend on your cheese so add a little at a time till the flavour is just right. You may not need to add any at all.
  8. Plate the pasta. Sprinkle on 2T of poppy seeds and a bit more chopped basil as garnishing.

NotesPackage of Orzo

  • You can swap in other cheeses but you have to replace each cheese with one of the same type. Its always 140g blue cheese, 50g of melting and 30g of grating cheese. You can check out what the alternatives are in my Cheese Page.
  • The package I bought labled orzo as Puntalette. Maybe its because orzo is Italian for barley and not rice. A third name for orzo is Risoni and this mean rice in Italian. Regardless, you can use all three types for this recipe.
 
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Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Italian, Main Courses, Pasta, Recipe

 

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Linguini Quattro Formaggi


(serves 4 full portions)
Quattro Formaggi, the ultimate cheese lover’s (and vegetarian’s) pasta dish. Its deceptively plain appearance hides a treasure trove of flavour within. No meat or vegetables are used in its preparation, and all you need is a carefully chosen blend of four cheeses (that’s what Quattro Formaggi means) in a creamy sauce to please the palate. My recipe is easy to remember, 400g of cheese plus 400g of pasta plus 400ml of milk & sake. The four cheeses I use are common varieties: Roquefort, Gruyere, Edam and Parmigiano.  
 

Ingredients

  1. Roquefort (150g)
  2. Gruyere (100g)
  3. Edam (100g)
  4. Parmigiano Reggiano (50g)
  5. Linguini (400g)
  6. Milk (300ml)
  7. Sake (100ml)
  8. Onion (1/2)
  9. Almonds (1/2 cup)
  10. Chopped Parsley (3T)
  11. Honey
  12. Nutmeg
  13. Coriander Seed Powder
  14. White Pepper

Preparation 

  1. Remove the wax rind of the Edam and then cut both the Edam and Gruyere into 1cm cubes. Grate the parmigiano coarsely.The Roquefort will fall apart easily, so there is no need to do anything to it. Do this ahead of time and leave the cheese to warm to room temperature.
  2. Smash your almonds in a clear plastic bag using a meat mallet.
  3. Boil a pot of water for the pasta, with 1t of salt and a knob of butter.
  4. Julienne half an onion and pan fry with a dash of oil in a large saucepan until the begin to caramelize.
  5. Add 300 ml of milk and bring to a low simmer. Melt the Gruyere and Edam in the cream first, stirring frequently to prevent clumping. When those two cheeses have melted, add the remaining two cheeses followed by the sake. For seasoning, add 1t honey, 1t nutmeg, 1t coriander seed powder, 1/2 t white pepper and 2T chopped parsley.
  6. Simmer for a minute or two until the sauce is at the right consistency. It doesn’t have to be too thick as it will thicken as it cools. For most sauces you will add salt at the end but since cheese is salty, you will add sugar instead. Sprinkle on a bit at a time till you think the taste is right. The amount will depend on the types of cheeses you used.
  7. Boil the linguini till it is semi-soft. Drain and then add the pasta to the saucepan. Reheat while tossing the pasta in the cheese sauce til the pasta is al dente. You may need to add a bit of water if the sauce begins to dry up too much before the pasta gets soft enough.
  8. Plate the pasta. Sprinkle on the remaining 1T of parsley plus 2T of almond bits per plate.

Notes

Roquefort – a type of blue cheese

  • There are some websites that tell you you can use any 4 types of cheese you like. I disagree. You can swap in other cheeses but you have to replace each cheese with one of the same type. Its always 150g blue cheese, 100g each of melting and medium cheeses and 50g of grating cheese. The traditional Italian lineup would probably be gorgonzola + mozeralla + fontina + pecorino romano. You can check out what the alternatives are in my Cheese Page.
  • The cheese must be allowed to warm to room temperature or there is a chance some types won’t melt but become stringy instead.
  • The easiest way to get the right weight of each type of cheese is to look at the total weight of each package and cut out the appropriate portion by volume. There’s no need to actually weigh the cheese.
  • Nuts are one of the natural complimentary foods to cheese. I introduced some to provide added texture to the bite and to add a new layer of flavour. Even so, make sure you use meaty dishes for other courses to balance out the meal. You can also use half portions as appetizers.
  • White wine is usually added in this sauce but if sake was invented in Italy, I’m sure the originators of quattro formaggi would have used sake. Many types of white wine can make the sauce taste unnecessarily sour. I have tried many different types of alcohol and I’ve found that sake adulterates the taste of the cheeses the least. 
 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Italian, Main Courses, Pasta, Recipe

 

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Croque Monsieur (Béchamel variety)


(2 big or 4 small sandwiches)
Croque Monsieur is the ultimate grilled ham and cheese sandwich, one of my favourite things to have for lunch. Leave it to a Frenchman to make something as mundane as a sandwich into a gourmet dish. After you have had a properly made Croque Monsieur with a béchamel topping, like me you won’t be wanting to eat any other kind of ham and cheese sandwich again.  
 
Ingredients
  1. Bread (1 mini loaf)
  2. Emmental Cheese
    (1.25 cups grated)
  3. Sliced Ham (100g)
  4. Egg (1) 
  5. Butter
  6. Flour
  7. Milk (2/3 cup)
  8. Nutmeg
  9. Cognac

Preparation

  1. Grate a block of emmental till you get 1.25 cups of grated cheese. The block would be roughly equal in size to half a block of butter.
  2. Slice your bread into four slices such that two slices can fit into the toaster oven at a time. They need to be twice as thick as a typical slice of bread, so you can’t use regular pre-sliced bread. I prefer a raisin loaf for that extra sweetness myself , but it doesn’t really matter what bread you use as long as its crust is not hard.
  3. Beat one egg in a large flat container. Butter 2 slices of bread on one side and place them buttered-side up into the egg. The idea to to have only the bottom half of the bread soaked in egg, so you’ll need to do both slices at the same time. Place the two slices into the toaster oven, this time with the buttered-side down in the toasting tray and grill till the top browns a bit. This should take about ten minutes, depending on your toaster oven.
  4. In a frying pan, melt 3T of butter on low heat. Sprinkle in 1 heaped t of flour and stir fry till it foams up and darkens slightly. Drizzle in 2/3 of a cup of milk, stirring all the while to get rid of any lumps. Sprinkle in a flat t each of nutmeg and pepper. When you see a nice white sauce, turn off the heat. Then add 1T of cognac and half of your cheese. Mix well to get a cheese sauce. When this cools further, you should end up with a cheese paste.
  5. Arrange your ham slices on the toasted egg-bread. If you like, you can spread a bit of mustard on the bread before that. For croque monsieur, I usually prefer thinly sliced deli ham (the type with water added) as it is softer and adds more bounce to the bite. Sprinkle half the remaining grated cheese on the ham and then cover with the other two slices of bread.
  6. Spread the cheese paste on top of the sandwiches and then sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the paste. Toast in the toaster oven again till the cheese becomes a nice golden brown. This should take 15 -20 minutes. Parts of the bread that are not covered by the cheese paste will likely get burnt. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim some off that off and serve.

Notes

  • Croque Monsieur means Mister Crunchy in French.
  • A regular Croque Monsieur does not contain any egg. When served with a fried or poached egg, the same sandwich is called a Croque Madame. Technically, my version is a cross between the two. 
  • Gruyère is often used in place of Emmental for Croque Monsieur, as both of these cheeses have a buttery flavour. Raclette is another option. Have a look at Cheese Page for more details.
 
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Posted by on January 23, 2011 in Appetizers, French, Recipe

 

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Fettucine Carbonara


(serves 2)
This may be one of the most basic pasta recipes but the combination of bacon, egg yolk and cheese makes for a wonderful pasta sauce which is considered one of the great classics. Anyone can make this pasta dish with a minimum of fuss in a relatively short amount of time, using common ingredients. If someone who is cooking for the first time comes to me for advice, this is the recipe I’d recommend.  
 
Ingredients
  1. Bacon (200g)
  2. Fettucine (160g)
  3. Heavy Cream (150ml)
  4. Parmigiano Reggiano (40g)
  5. Egg (1)
  6. Chopped Parsley
  7. Turmeric
  8. Nutmeg 
  9. Cognac
  10. Honey

Preparation

  1. Take your egg out of the fridge so it can warm up a bit.
  2. Cut 200g of bacon (basically 6 strips) breadthwise into thin slices. I find that if you partially freeze your bacon in a stack, this will make the task all the easier. Put the bacon to fry in a pan under low heat until most of the fat has been melted to oil. The bacon itself should begin to crisp and turn to a dark shade of pink. 
  3. The bacon will continue to cook until it begins to cool so turn the heat off a minute before you think its done. During this minute, mix 2T cognac with 1/2t of honey, 1/2 t of nutmeg in a bowl. Scoop out the bacon pieces onto a strainer held over the pan, such that the drippings fall back into the pan. Place the bacon into the marinade and mix well. For best results, you can do parts 1-3 ahead of time so the bacon has a longer time to soak and soften up.
  4. Put a pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt and a dash of olive oil. When this boils, put your pasta in.
  5. While waiting for the water to boil, finely grate 40g of Parmigiano Reggiano (or any of the other grating cheeses).
  6. Then add the grated cheese, together with 150ml of whipping cream and 1/4t of turmeric to the bacon oil in the pan. Heat under low heat for a short while while stirring, until all the cheese has melted. Then turn the heat off once again. You should end up with a nice yellow sauce which thickens by itself over time.
  7. When the pasta begins to soften and is about 3/4 done, strain the pasta and transfer it to the pan as well. At this stage, pour the bacon including any liquid in as well. Stir fry under low heat until the fettucine is almost al dente. 
  8. Leave the pasta to stand in the pan. In the meanwhile seperate away the white of your egg and stir the yolk into the pasta after the pan has been given a minute to cool down. You can also use two yolks if you like. Stir immediately to prevent the yolk(s) from solidifying before it melds with the sauce.
  9. As a final touch sprinkle on 1T of chopped parsley and some black pepper. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • Strictly speaking you are supposed to use pancetta for a true carbonara but it comes in small cubes and I find that a lot of it gets left behind on the plate. Bacon on the other hand sticks well and evenly to the fettucine and that is why I usually use bacon.
  • Carbonara verses Alfredo I
    Italians will insist that there should be no garlic or onion in a carbonara sauce, which are some of the ingredients found in alfredo sauce. Well for once I am in agreement with tradition.
  • Carbonara verses Alfredo II
    However, I am inclined to use a limited amount of cream which Italians also insist belongs only in an alfredo sauce. The cream makes for a better dish, just make sure you don’t use too much or you really will end up with an Alfredo sauce instead.  Remember, a carbonara sauce is supposed to be thick and clingly – zoom in on the photo to get a closer look.
  • If you have grappa lying around the house for some strange reason, by all means use that instead of the cognac (and skip the honey as well). If you are the adventurous type, you can also try Chinese Cooking Wine.
 
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Posted by on November 21, 2010 in Italian, Main Courses, Pasta

 

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Macaroni and Cheese


(serves 3-4) 
A while back I came up with a ‘European’ version of Mac & Cheese, which contains a secret ingredient, bacon. When you want to add flavour to a vegetarian dish, use meat I always say. It’s great as a side dish or can be eaten on its own. I’ve also made it extra creamy by using mascapone and doing away with any kind of bread or flour.  I guess that sums up why my macaroni and cheese is European?   

Ingredients 

  1. Emmental (125g)
  2. Mascarpone (125 g)
  3. Cheddar Singles (4 slices)
  4. Farfalle Pasta  (3 cups)
  5. Onion (1/2)
  6. Bacon (5 slices)
  7. Milk (1/2 cup)
  8. Chicken Cube (1)
  9. Coriander Seed Powder
  10. Tarragon
  11. Brandy

Preparation

  1. The recipe starts off with a soffritto of bacon and onion. Cut your bacon and onion into pieces not exceeding 3x3mm in size. The smaller the better as they have to disintegrate into the cheese. The bacon needs to be almost frozen for you to accomplish this easily.  In a pan, heat the bacon until some of the fat liquifies and then add the onion bits.
  2. While the soffritto is frying, cut the Emmental into 1 cm cubes so that it fills half a cup. Take the opportunity to dissolve a chicken cube in 3/4 cup of hot water to make chicken stock. Mash the cube with a spoon to ensure it dissolves. At this point, preheat oven.
  3. When the onion softens, add the chicken stock and milk. Boil for 30 seconds. Next add the Mascarpone, then Emmental and finally the cheddar singles in that order, making sure the previous cheese has been fully mixed in and melted before adding the next one. Reduce this under low heat until you end up with about 2 cups of sauce. Flavour with 1t of white pepper, 1t of coriander seed powder, 1T of tarragon and 2T of brandy. Set aside.
  4. Now for the pasta.  Pick a pyrex or casserole dish where the raw pasta fills about half the container. Boil the pasta for five minutes (olive oil and pinch of salt in water before pasta) and then strain. 
  5. Place the pasta, which should still be hard, into the pyrex or casserole dish. Pour the the cheese mixture in and mix lightly. Bake for 20 minutes at about 180oC (350oF) or until cheese begins to brown.  

Notes

  • OK, I didn’t actually use macaroni. I’ve swapped in bowtie pasta for macaroni as coats and stacks well but really any type of non-noodle pasta will do.
  • Why am I using the yucky processed cheese instead of real cheddar? It melts well because of its inferiority and gives the cheese sauce just the right consistency by preventing the emmental from clumping. The emmental is the main flavour so don’t fret, no one will know there is processed cheese unless you tell them.
  • You can also choose to make the macaroni and cheese in individual portions by baking a seperate serving for each person in a ramekin.
 
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Posted by on November 7, 2009 in Italian, Main Courses, Pasta, Recipe

 

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