Sometimes you need a quick recipe: maybe for a quick snack, or for some last-minute guests, or perhaps on day three of NaBloPoMo when you remember that you are actually participating in NaBloPoMo and need to write a quick post before going to bed. Oops!
I kind of threw this together in the summer when visiting our friends in Bordeaux, although the combination of sweet fruit with salty ham is certainly not a new one. We had such lovely bread, great cheese and delicious summer fruit, and I decided to throw them all together into a quick appetizer. Perfect with a glass of wine on a warm summer’s evening!
Slice baguette into fairly thin slices, about a centimetre or so would be good. Under the grill or broiler, toast the bread on both sides, until lightly brown and golden. Cut clove of garlic in half and rub the garlic over one side of each piece of toasted bread. Set aside.
Spread a tablespoon of goat cheese on each round of bread. Layer on a slice of nectarine and half a slice of prosciutto. Eat at room temperature.
Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Well quite possibly. However when your very favourite things to eat are expensive and seasonal, they tend to be treats you save for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, or pay-day the month after you did a crazy amount of overtime.
My favourite decadent things to eat are lobster and truffles. Pretty obvious choices right? Basically if something has either of these ingredients in it, I’m going to want to try it. Many people think that caviar or oysters are the ultimate in sophistication, and don’t get me wrong – I certainly wouldn’t turn away from a caviar-topped blini or oysters on the half shell. But for me, the best special occasion dinner would include either lobster or truffles.
Risotto is another favourite dish of mine, something we actually make most weeks. I love that risotto is something you can put almost anything in, depending on what’s in season or even what you have in your fridge. I have had lobster risotto before, and risotto with truffle is something I enjoyed last autumn on our trip to the Piedmont region of Italy. Both are delicious and decadent, and excellent ways to showcase these special ingredients.
Last winter I came across a recipe for truffled lobster risotto and wondered if maybe it would be overkill. If I’ve learned anything about cooking with things like truffles, it’s that you don’t want to mess around too much with them. After much debate, we decided to give the risotto a try, and it’s fair to say that we were more than pleasantly surprised. Somehow both of these show-stopping ingredients shone through and complemented each other beautifully. To be honest, I was kind of impressed that we had turned out something this gourmet from our tiny kitchen! I was also pleased at how economical a recipe it was, considering it used expensive ingredients – the lobster tails go quite far (you also use the shells in the stock) and truffle oil is used very sparingly.
If you’re looking for an excuse to celebrate with a delicious dinner, and lobster and truffle are some of your favourite things, then this is the recipe for you!
Preheat oven to 425°F. Cook lobster in large pot of simmering salted water until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl of cold water to cool. Drain lobster. Remove meat from shells; reserve shells. Cut meat into 1/2-inch pieces.
Break shells into large pieces. Place on baking sheet; bake 15 minutes. Blend shells with 1 cup chicken broth in blender until finely chopped. Strain through fine sieve. Reserve lobster broth; discard shells.
Bring 2 1/2 cups chicken broth to simmer; keep hot. Heat 1 tablespoon truffle oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add carrots and shallots; sauté 2 minutes. Add rice; stir 2 minutes. Add brandy; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until brandy is absorbed, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes.
Add lobster broth and 3/4 of chicken broth. Simmer until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, adding remaining broth by 1/4 cupfuls as needed and stirring often, about 20 minutes.
Add lobster and cream; stir until heated through. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons truffle oil and chives. Season with salt and pepper.
I can honestly say that if there’s one thing that really depresses me, it’s coming home after a very busy day, starving, and being faced with cooking solo with no plan. Ugh. I’m hungry, I’m tired, and there’s nobody here to help in any way. It happens to the best of us. And for those of us who don’t have a nice mother-type nearby to pity us and feed us, what on earth does that leave for us to do?
When I have been in this situation, I will admit to having heeded the call of the Colonel. Or visited one of many other quick greasy take-away options in my neighbourhood. Sometimes I’ve cracked open an imported box of Canadian mac & cheese, complete with very nutritional powdered cheesy sauce mix. Classy, I know. I have a girlfriend who eats a bowl of cold cereal and milk when faced with these situations. Sad, sad and sad I say.
A few months ago, the same girlfriend sent me a fantastic recipe for a stew that turned store cupboard ingredients into a magical meal in about 20 minutes, with little effort. An onion, some garlic, olive oil, chorizo, red wine and tinned white beans combined in a saucepan, simmered for as long as you were willing to wait, and presto. Take that Mr. Fried Chicken! You can keep your eleven herbs and spices!
Chorizo and Butterbean Stew with Garlic and Thyme – Serves 4
Recipe from Rick Stein Coast to Coast: Food from the Land & Sea Inspired by Travels Across the World
350g (12oz) dried Judion butter beans, soaked overnight, or 2 tins of cooked butter beans
225g (8oz) hot chorizo for cooking
50ml (2fl oz) olive oil
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
175ml (6fl oz) red wine
1 x 400g (14oz) can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, or 1 tsp dried thyme
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Put the dried butter beans into a large pan with lots of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour until tender. Drain and set aside. If using tinned beans, drain and rinse beans and set aside.
Cut the chorizo sausages into thin slices.
Put the olive oil and garlic into a pan and heat over a medium-high heat until the garlic begins to sizzle.
Add the chorizo and cook until the slices are lightly browned on either side, then add the onion and continue to cook until it has softened.
Add the red wine and cook until it has reduced to almost nothing.
Add the canned chopped tomatoes, thyme, butter beans and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and simmer for 15 minutes.
Scatter over the parsley, spoon the stew into deep warmed bowls and serve with some crusty fresh bread.