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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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Risotto Carbonara


(serves 3)
Here we have an unusual flavour for risotto, the trademark combination of pancetta, parmigiano and raw egg yolk known as Carbonara.
 Arborio rice is a good deal more starchy than pasta so its not as simple as making a carbonara sauce and pouring it over cooked rice. We also desire some bits of other crunchy morsels in the rice to give our risotto a bit more textural variety. Therefore I’ve had to improvise with some other additional ingredients…
 
Ingredients Risotto Carbonara
  1. Cubed Pancetta (300g)
  2. Luncheon Meat (200g)
  3. Bacon (3 slices)
  4. Arborio Rice (1 cup)
  5. Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/4 cup)
  6. Onion (1)
  7. Spring Onion (8 stalks)
  8. Mushrooms (100g)
  9. Butter (40g)
  10. Eggs (2)
  11. Cream (1/2 cup)
  12. Basil
  13. Brandy
  14. Turmeric

Preparation

  1. Start with the stock first. Cut the luncheon meat into 1cm cubes and boil them in 4 cups of water. When the water is boiling, add 3 slices of bacon, 4 stalks of spring onion and 1 flat t of turmeric. Simmer for 1 hour.
  2. While the simmering is going on, fry 300g of cubed pancetta on low heat in a pan. While the pancetta is being fried (you only need to move it occasionally), dice 1 onion finely.
  3. When the lard has been melted off the pancetta, remove the bits of meat, leaving the oil in the pan. Stir fry the onion bit over a low flame in this oil till they begin to caramelize.
  4. Next, add 1 cup of Arborio rice to the pan and continue to stir fry for 5 minutes and then turn off the heat.
  5. Cut the remaining spring onion into small bits, keeping the bits from the bottom half separate from the bits from the top half. Also, slice your mushrooms, and grate 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Mix the cheese with 30g of diced butter.
  6. By this time, the 1 hour on the stock to be up. Keep the fire going under the stock. Reheat the pan on low heat and then ladle some of the boiling stock (liquid only, not the solids) into the rice. Keep the pan on a low simmer, stirring occasionally. Add more stock whenever the rice begins to dry. Add more water to the stock pot when that begins to dry up.
  7. After 20 minutes, add 1/4 cup cream, 3T of brandy and 1t of sugar. Then mix in the mushroom slices, 1T of chopped basil and the white portion of the chopped spring onions.
  8. Soon thereafter the rice will get to the al dente stage. At that time turn off the heat and add another 1/4 cup of cream, 2 egg yolks, the pancetta bits and the cheese-butter mixture. Give everything a thorough mixing and keep covered for 10 minutes while the rice fluffs up.
  9. You shouldn’t need to add any salt but taste for saltiness anyway, just in case. Plate and serve immediately after the 10 minutes is up. Sprinkle on some black pepper and use the remaining green part of the chopped spring onions as garnishing.

Notes

  • If you are making risotto for the first time, refer to this earlier recipe for more details on risotto making.
  • If you like Carbonara, you might be interested in my Lagsana Carbonara or Fettucine Carbonara recipes.
  • I normally don’t add cream to my risotto, but this is a Cabonara after all.
  • For this recipe both the smoked or sweetened pancetta varieties are suitable.  
 
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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in A Kobi Original, Italian, Main Courses, Recipe

 

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Pesto Crusted Lamb Chop Medallions


(serves 2)
This is a delightful main course which improves on your run-of-the-mill pan fried lamb chops by a mile. It solves the thousand year old lamb chop connundrum by cooking the tender eye seperately from the tougher bone portion, plus it uses the trimmings to create an incredibly intense sauce. If I must say so myself, the pesto crust works really well with lamb. This recipe does however require a tad more time and effort, but its ooh so worthwhile in the end.
 
Ingredients Pesto Crusted Lamb Medallions
  1. Lamb Chops (8)
  2. Pesto (2T)
  3. Parmagiano Reggiano (1T)
  4. Bread (1 slice)
  5. Garlic (0.5 bulb = 6 cloves) 
  6. Fennel Seeds (2T)
  7. Mint Leaves (1T)
  8. Rosemary (1T)
  9. Thyme (1T)
  10. Cognac (2T)
  11. Woustershire Sauce
  12. Dijon Mustard
  13. Misc Vegetables 

Preparation – Earlier in the Day

Buy the type of lamb chop which has some meat clinging to the rib end of the bone. Cut each chop into three parts:

    • The first part is the round meaty eye, which will become your medallions (chopping board, left). Make sure you trim away most of the white bits as you won’t be cooking the medallion too long.
    • The second part is the flank, basically the fleshy portion around the long end of the bone (chopping board, right). You can leave the white bits on for these cuts.Lamb Chops Deboned
    • The third part will be the trimmings (on the plate), basically the bone and chunks of fat and connective tissue.
  1. Marinate the medallion and flank pieces in 2T olive oil, 1T cognac, 1T thyme, 1T fennel seeds, 0.5t salt, a pinch of sugar and a dash of woustershire sauce. Lamb is one of the more gamey meats and you should marinate it for a minimum of four hours.
  2. Boil the trimmings in a pot, with just enough water to cover everything. Add to the pot, 1T mint leaves, 1T fennel seeds, 1T rosemary, 1T Cognac and 6 garlic cloves. Simmer with the cover on for a minimum of half an hour. Follow up by microwaving the meat and stock on high power, covered, for 3×3 = 9 minutes, allowing the meat to cool between cycles.
  3. Leave a piece of bread uncovered in the fridge to dry out.

Preparation – Before the Meal 

  1. Cut the piece of bread into little cubes. Toast the cubes into croutons and smash them in a zip-loc bag with the flat end of a meat mallet or rolling pin to produce some fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Mix 2T of these breadcrumbs, with 2T of pesto and 1T of finely grated Parmagiano Reggiano. This will form the pesto crust.
  3. Pick out the marinated flank portions and pan fry these on low heat with a spot of oil till they are nicley browned. These bits have to be fried as they take much longer to become tender.
  4. Set aside the flank pieces, leaving the pan unwashed. Pour the lamb stock Lamb Medallions ready to Grillthrough a strainer into the same pan. Boil the stock down until it becomes a thick sauce. Take the opportunity to cook any vegetables you would like to serve with your lamb medallions in the stock as it is thickened. Examples include baby corn, baby carrots or peeled shallots. 
  5. When the sauce has thickend, remove the vegetables and stir in one t of dijon mustard. Taste and add salt as required – only at the end.
  6. In the meanwhile, spoon the pesto mixture onto the lamb medallions. Its alright for the crust to be thick so use up all of the mixture you made.
  7. Oil a baking tray and preheat it. Arrange the medallions in the middle (you should hear a slight sizzle) and then the pre-cooked flank pieces around the edges (as per photo on the right). Cook in a preheated toaster oven (heat on top and bottom) for about 7 minutes, or until the pesto crust begins to bubble and harden.
  8. Spoon the sauce onto the serving plate first, followed by the lamb and finally the vegetables. 

Notes

  • You have a couple of options regarding the bones. The lamb reduction sauce is very good as it contains all the tastes you normally associate with lamb but can’t apply because of the pesto crust: mint, garlic, rosemary, mustard etc. If you really can’t bother with the sauce, just throw the bones away and use the drippings from the medallions as ‘jus’. Alternatively, you can boil the stock as per above but serve it (still strained) as a mutton broth to go with the medallions.
  • I used a toaster oven because it gives just the right heat to form the crust without overcooking the lamb. If you are making portions for more than 2, you can just use the grill in your oven. 
  • The microwaving helps melt the remaining fat and connective tissue. If you don’t own a microwave, then you’ll just have to simmer the lamb bones old style for a long time, until the gelatine is released.
  • FYI. I grilled the tomatoes with cheese topping seperately. Those were not cooked in the sauce pan with the baby corn.
 
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Posted by on April 5, 2013 in Italian, Main Courses, Recipe, Red Meat

 

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Creamy Pesto and Mushroom Fettuccine


(serves 2 full portions)
This is an easy fast pasta, something that can be cooked from scratch in under 15 minutes, great for those times you suddenly find out you need to whip out something from the kitchen immediately, or if this is the first time you are making pasta. The key to its speed is pesto, a great alternative to cutting up and frying a proper mirepoix or sofritto. It contains herbs, so you also don’t need to worry about adding any yourself. The mushrooms do a good job of soaking up flavour to go with the pasta. To sum up: it may be fast but it still looks and tastes great. 
 

Ingredients

  1. Pesto Genevese (4t)
  2. White Mushrooms (140g)
  3. Garlic (6 cloves = 1/2 bulb)
  4. Parmigiano Reggiano (40g)
  5. Fettuccine (160g)
  6. Cream (100ml)
  7. Chicken stock cube (1/2)
  8. Cognac (1T)  

Preparation 

  1. Put a pot of water to boil for the pasta. 
  2. Grate the Parmigiano. For decorative purposes before grating you can, if you like, make some shavings of the cheese with a potato peeler.
  3. Manually break off and discard the stems of your mushrooms. Slice them top down into 1/8 inch thick pieces.
  4. Peel the garlic and put it through a garlic press. You should end up with 2 heaped t of garlic.
  5. Add a dash of olive oil and 1t of salt to the pot of boiling water, followed by the fettuccine.
  6. Put 3T of olive oil, 4t (heaping) of pesto and the minced garlic in a pan on medium heat. When the mixture is bubbling, add the mushrooms. Reduce to low heat and sautee.
  7. Mash half a chicken stock cube in 1/4 cup of hot water. 
  8. When the mushrooms begin to soften, add 100 ml cream, the chicken stock plus 1T of cognac. Stir fry till the liquid is boiling. Sprinkle on the grated cheese, turn the heat off and continue stirring as the cheese melts. 
  9. After the pasta has been boiling for about 7 minutes, drain it. It will still be a bit hard. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss fry on low heat till the pasta is al dente. This pasta dish is meant to be dryish (see photo) but if the pan begins to dry too much, sprinkle on a bit of water or cream.
  10. Season with a touch of black pepper before serving.

Notes

  • To my friends who protest my recipes are too ‘complicated’, well here you go. The preparation describes everything done in parallel to save on time. If you like you can cook in stages. Cut the vegetables first, then make the sauce, and finally boil the pasta.
  • This recipe is very scalable. To make pasta for 4, just double the amounts, the cooking time remains unchanged.
  • I keep a bottle of store bought minced garlic in oil in the fridge for recipes where minced garlic is cooked. A great time saver. The same goes with pesto, no need to make it fresh if you are not eating it raw.
  • Pesto is slightly sour already, so don’t substitute the brandy with something sour like wine.
 

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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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Deep Fried Polenta Fingers


(makes 24 fingers)
Polenta is a refreshing corn-based alternative to having potato on your plate day in day out. It may be one of the harder staples to cook to perfection, but triple-cooking your polenta is a sure-fire way of bringing out the full potential of polenta in a crispy on the outside, moist on the inside format. Polenta is capable of accomodating a great depth of rich flavours, and in this recipe polenta fingers are infused with hints of garlic, herbs and cheese.    
 

Ingredients

  1. Polenta-cornmeal (1.5 cups)
  2. Shallots (5)
  3. Garlic (8 cloves = 2/3 bulbs)
  4. Grated Parmesan (0.5 cup)
  5. Butter (50g)
  6. Herbs de Provence
  7. Chicken Stock Cubes (2) 
  8. Corn Oil for deep fry

Preparation 

  1. Peel the garlic and put the cloves through a garlic press. You should end up with 2 heaped tea spoons of minced garlic.
  2. Dissolve 2 chicken stock cubes in 1.5 cups of boiling water and add 0.5t sugar and 1T Herbs de Provence.
  3. Chop up the shallots finely and fry them in a non-stick pan, on low heat in 25g of butter. It should take about 10 minutes for the shallot bits to soften. Then add the garlic and stir fry for a further minute making sure the garlic does not burn.
  4. Add the stock to the pan and boil for five minutes, then stir in 1.5 cups of polenta and reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Stir often to keep the bottom from sticking. If the polenta begins to dry, keep adding water a bit at a time such that you end up with a mashed potato consistency at the end of twenty minutes of simmering.
  5. After the heat is turned off, stir in another 25g butter, 1t black pepper and 0.5 cups of grated parmesan. The parmesan will act as the glue which will bind the mash together.
  6. Preheat the oven to 175oC (350oF). Pick a shallow pyrex dish such that the polenta will be 1 to 1.5 inches high when poured in. Line the pyrex with parchement paper. Pour the mash in and bake for 30(1 inch) to 40(1.5 inches) minutes depending on its depth.

    baked polenta cake being cut into fingers

  7. After baking, most of the extra water content would have been extracted and the polenta should have dried into a soft cake. When the pyrex has cooled enough to touch, flip the baked polenta onto a cutting board, also lined with parchment paper, so it can cool faster. You can keep the polenta in the fridge overnight at this juncture if you wish.
  8. Allow the the polenta cake to fully cool to room temperature before you begin cutting it. Use a toothless knife to get smoother edges. You can cut them into fish finger sized pieces (see photo to the right) or perhaps combinations of squares and triagles. Preheat some corn oil and deep fry the polenta fingers until they are golden brown. Pad with kitchen towels to soak up the excess oil, they won’t be sticky anymore. Don’t try to fry too many at a time as the moisture content is still high and too much water with hot oil is not a good idea.

Notes

  • As nice as the polenta fingers are, they are still a tad dry to serve on their own. Also, this recipe is not all that salty since a sauce of some sort is presumed. I use my polenta fingers to accompany ‘wet’ dishes like osso bucco or duck l’orange.
  • Alternatively, you can use polenta fingers as starters by serving them with some pasta type sauces. Refer to my Sausage and Wine Pasta (used in photo on the right) or Duck Ragout Pasta for ideas. Sauteed Mushrooms will also work.
  • As a healthier alternative, you can grill the fingers on a wire tray instead of deep frying them. Pan frying is not a good idea as the polenta will stick to the pan and crumble if its not free-floating in oil.
  • If you have no parchment paper, line the pyrex with foil. You have to line it with something so it flips out easily after baking.
  • Incidently, if you want to make a polenta mash to accompany ‘dry’ dishes, you can use the same recipe until step 4. After that, just add some hot milk and continue cooking/stirring for a short while to get a nice bed of smooth creamy polenta – for things like grilled salmon.
 
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Posted by on January 5, 2012 in Appetizers, Italian, Recipe

 

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