Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

My Mom loves that nasty, gooey cranberry log that oozes out of the can. It would hit the bowl with a splurt and would wiggle for about an hour. I’m more than happy to avoid that and make this delicious side dish, which has become mandatory at our Thanksgiving table every year…

 

 

 

1 medium-sized butternut squash, washed and peeled with the seeds removed
Olive oil
Salt
1 cup fresh cranberries
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds or pepitas
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup maple syrup, more if you like it really sweet

 

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Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Once you’ve washed, peeled and seeded the butternut squash, cut it into ½” chunks. Sprinkle a little olive oil and salt on them and toss them to coat. Then spread the squash cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake them for about 30 minutes or until they’re golden on the edges.

Remove the squash from the oven and pour the cranberries into the hot tray. Mix gently. Pour the squash/cranberry mix into a smaller, deeper baking pan.

Increase the oven to 425.

In a separate bowl, combine the sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. Sprinkle the seeds evenly over the squash/cranberry mixture. Drizzle the maple syrup over everything and place the baking pan in the oven. Cook for another 20 minutes, until the seeds have roasted.

 

Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away. Time to talk turkey! No matter what method you prefer to cook your bird, brining it beforehand will make it tastier and juicier. And it’s easy to do.

It’s basic high school science: the brine has a greater concentration of salt and water than the molecules of the protein (in this case, a turkey) that is soaking in it. By simple diffusion, the protein molecules suck up the salty water and keep it. When you cook the meat, some of the water evaporates, but the meat still has far more moisture in it than it would have without the brine soaking, and the result is a moister, more delicious bird.

Some people use giant syringes to inject their turkeys with crazy solutions, but I think that the old way is still the best when it comes to brining. Get a big pot, fill it with the brine, and soak the bird in it. Done.

Here’s my tried-and-true turkey brining recipe. Once the brining is done, you can cook the turkey whatever way you like best. I use a method where I grill it inside a Weber grill with charcoal. It comes out smokey and absolutely amazing. I’ll have that info in my next blog.

You must brine a thawed bird, so use your favorite method to thaw your turkey so that it’s ready on Thanksgiving morning. Brining can take 4 to 6 hours, so start early!

For this recipe, you’ll need a large pot to boil the brine ingredients, and then a larger pot to hold the turkey submerged in the brine. I use a turkey no bigger than 15 lbs. for two main reasons: there are only 3 people in our family, and the Weber grill I use can’t handle anything bigger.

 

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1 gallon of water
2 onions
3 carrots
3 stalks celery
1 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons whole allspice
4 bay leaves
1 gallon of ice water
14–15 lb turkey, thawed

Pour the first gallon of water in a large pot. Quarter the onions, carrots and celery (no need to peel them) and add them to the water. Add the salt, black peppercorns, brown sugar, allspice, and bay leaves.

Let the pot come to a boil for a few minutes. Remove it from the heat and let the brine cool down to room temperature.

Remove the giblets from the thawed turkey and place the bird in a container just big enough to hold it and 2 gallons of liquid.

Pour the now-cooled brine over the turkey, then pour in the gallon of ice water.

 

Make sure the turkey doesn’t float up by placing a plate on top. Put the turkey container in the fridge (or a cold garage or basement) for 4 to 6 hours, flipping the turkey over in the container halfway through.

Drain the turkey, rising off any spices that stuck to it, then pat it dry with paper towels. Now it’s ready to cook, using your favorite recipe.

Next time: my recipe for a fabulous turkey cooked on a Weber grill. It’s fast, requires no basting, and is absolutely delicious!

 

My dog, Fellow, stood by me in the kitchen while I made this dish. I decided to name it after him. Since the first time I created this dish, I’ve made some improvements. First, a little history…

The original Oysters Rockefeller recipe is a closely guarded secret, created in 1899 at the famous New Orleans restaurant Antoine’s. Jules Alciatore, the son of founder Antoine Alciatore, developed the dish when they had a shortage of escargot, substituting locally available oysters. Antoine’s is still the only place in the world where you can be served the original Oysters Rockefeller recipe.

Search on line for Oysters Rockefeller, and you’ll find hundreds of recipes that claim to be the real thing. Most of them use spinach in the dish. The folks at Antoine’s claim there wasn’t any spinach in the original recipe.

My version, my Oysters Rock-a-Fellow, is a cheesier, gooier version than the original, which is heavy on the greens, but I think it’s one you will enjoy. I use larger, meatier oysters like Wellfleets from Cape Cod or local Rhode Island oysters, but use what you like.

24 oysters, washed to remove grit
2 cans beer (any extra beer you have is fine)
5 black peppercorns
2 teaspoons salt
2 garlic cloves

Scrub the oysters under cold water to get them clean.

In a large pot, pour in the beer, peppercorns, salt, and garlic cloves, along with enough cold water to fill the pot about halfway. Turn the heat on high and bring the pot to a boil.

The moment you reach a boil, turn the heat to medium and drop in 6 oysters, letting them bathe in the liquid for only 30 seconds. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl to cool. If the oysters open, they’ve been in there too long! You want them to stay closed. Do the same with the rest of the oysters, 6 at a time. Once all the oysters have had their 30 seconds, move the oyster bowl to a cutting board. Discard the liquid in the pot.

Once the oysters have cooled enough for you to handle, remove the top shell off each one, carefully reserving the oyster liquor inside if you can. I do this by pouring Kosher salt on a sheet pan, and using the salt to keep the oysters propped up.

 

Salt holds the oysters in place.

 

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

 

 

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup low-fat milk
salt and pepper
3 cups (tightly packed) fresh arugula, finely chopped, about a 5 oz. container
6 oz. mild cheddar cheese (the white one), grated
6 oz. mozzarella, grated
Fine bread crumbs (Using GF breadcrumbs will keep this dish gluten-free)

 

In a sauce pan, melt the butter and then add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent.

Add the milk, season with salt and pepper, and then add the arugula a little at a time, letting it wilt before adding more. Use all the arugula.

Once all the arugula is in the saucepan, sprinkle the cheese in a bit at a time, letting it melt, until you’ve used all the cheese: the cheddar and then the mozzarella.

Originally, I tried to spoon this gooey cheese on top of the oyster shells, but it was so sticky and stretchy, that it was too difficult to work with. Now, I pour the gooey cheese mix into a lasagna pan, smooth it out with a spatula, and place it in the fridge to cool.

 

 

You can actually do this all the day before, because the cheese mix hardens and becomes easy to cut into cubes with a sharp knife.

 

 

Then simply place a cube of the cheese mix on each oyster…

 

 

…sprinkle a little bread crumb on top…

 

 

…and bake in the 425-degree oven for about 8–10 minutes until it’s golden and bubbly.

 

 

 

Whoever said that cheese and seafood don’t go together, never tried this!

 

I buy Udi’s gluten free frozen bread for my breadcrumbs. I take the loaf, toast the slices, then put them through the food processor. The taste is far better than buying pre-made GF breadcrumbs. Use regular breadcrumbs if you don’t need to worry about gluten.

If you’re really strict about gluten, you can use GF beer in the pot of water or simply eliminate the beer altogether.

 

This is a story about something that is near and dear to my heart…and liver.

I’ve been making Krupnikas for over 40 years. (And no, I won’t be posting my secret recipe here.) It’s a honey-based liqueur that is popular in eastern Europe, especially in countries like Lithuania, where my parents were born. Though most of the Krupnikas that I’ve tasted is similar, no two recipes are exactly alike…and that’s where the arguments begin!

I have many friends that make Krupnikas. Some use the leaner-meaner approach (like me)…others go for the everything-in-one-basket approach. I’m not sure that more is necessarily better. Some friends claim that it isn’t real Krupnikas if you don’t use black pepper. But I’ve been to many pubs and restaurants in Lithuania and have never been served Krupnikas with black pepper in it. Other recipes include ginger, turmeric, saffron, and heavy amounts of anise. I prefer a lighter approach.

 

krupnikas

 

If you Google “Krupnikas,” you’ll find many different recipes…some pretty good, some incredibly awful…but none as good as mine! I use grain alcohol…there’s no distilling involved. There were times in the last 40 years when grain alcohol was not readily available to me, and so my Krupnikas production came to a screeching halt for a while. But these days, you can usually find it within a short ride from home just about anywhere you live. (Here in New England, it’s sold in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.) Desperate times without grain alcohol forced me to try vodka instead, but I never liked the way it came out.

Krupnikas uses a variety of unusual spices, none of which have their origins in Lithuania, so it’s interesting to hear how these exotic ingredients made their way via various trade routes to eastern Europe.

The story goes that Krupnikas was created by Benedictine monks in the 1500’s, and that it became popular in both Lithuania and Poland for celebrations like birthdays, weddings, and holidays. But when the Soviets shut down all Krupnikas production, the recipes went “underground,” passed down from generation to generation through closely guarded family recipes. That’s why everyone thinks their family recipe is the best!

 

One pot for honey, one pot for the various spices I use…to be combined later.

 

My own Krupnikas making story started with my uncle, who would make large batches of the stuff in his tiny Richmond Hill, Queens, NY kitchen. Because I am the godfather of my cousin, his son, I received a bottle as a gift from my uncle every Christmas. By New Year’s, that bottle would be gone. It wasn’t long before I got very tired of waiting 51 weeks for another bottle and I asked my uncle if he would share his recipe with me. He never did that exactly, but he did let me sit in on a brewing session and take notes in a cramped corner of his kitchen.

 

My wife, an artist, helped me design my own label.

 

 

I took my notes home from my uncle’s house and tried to decipher what I wrote. Since there was no such thing as the internet back then (what we call “the dark ages,” kids), I drove all over New York City in search of some of the more exotic spices used in making my uncle’s Krupnikas recipe. I became a regular at several Asian and Indian stores, where, at first, they looked at this tall, geeky white dude somewhat suspiciously as I brought my spices to the counter for purchase.

Over the decades, through trial and error, I changed my uncle’s original recipe to the one that I proudly call my own today. You can’t buy it in a store, but if you have tons of money and want to go into business with me, I’m sure we can work something out! Or become my best friend and you’ll get a bottle every Christmas…and then you’ll be the one waiting 51 weeks for another!

 

krup glasses

 

Versions of Krupnikas are available in liquor stores: Old Krupnik is a Polish liqueur, and the German brand Barenjager is another. And many whiskies, like Dewar’s and Jack Daniels, now have honey-flavored spirits as well.

Though quite different from my own recipe, there are two authentic Lithuanian style Krupnikas liqueurs made in the United States by acquaintances of mine.

Based out of Durham, North Carolina, the Brothers Vilgalys Spirits Company (www.brothersvilgalys.com) has a pepperier version that uses local North Carolina wildflower honey. President of the company, Rim Vilgalys, the son of my good childhood friend from New York, has done what I never got around to do: make this fabulous elixir available to the public. You’ll find it at ABC stores throughout the state of North Carolina.

 

bvsco-krupnikas

 

The second brand is made and sold in the New York area and goes by the name of KAS Krupnikas. (www.kasspirits.com)

kas_krupnikas_new

Both are pretty darn good. But are they as good as mine? I think you already know my answer to that question!

Sveiks! (Cheers!)

So I’m watching a video of Andrew Zimmern grilling chicken wings using an apricot-mustard glaze after he marinated them in yogurt and threw them on a hot grill. They looked amazing. But I had ribs already thawed in my fridge (Curve ball 1).  I thought: How bad could this recipe be on pork? I gave it a shot.

Apricot-mustard glaze…
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/2 cup mustard (I used Gulden’s, but Dijon works well, too)

Combine the ingredients in a bowl, whisking them together. Set it aside.

 

I got a large bowl out, and cut the ribs into smaller pieces, about 3 ribs per piece. I placed them in the bowl, threw in about a 1/2 cup of plain yogurt, and mixed it around until all sides of the ribs were coated. I let the ribs stand this way at room temperature for about an hour, while I headed to the grill to set it up.

 

The plan was to light a decent amount of coals that would ash over and then be pushed to one side of the grill, placing the ribs over indirect heat on the other side. They would cook this way until done, with a nice grilled smokey char on the edges.

 

That’s the little mouse home on the left.

Unfortunately, when I opened my grill, I found that a family of mice had made themselves a happy home inside my grill, and I didn’t have the heart to toss them out, babies and all. (Curve ball 2.)  So I needed to find another way to cook the ribs. I headed to my smoker.

I have an electric digital smoker, which allows me to set the temperature and basically walk away, only returning to add smoking chips every hour so. I set the temperature to 275 degrees.

 

I removed the ribs from the bowl, placing them on a cutting board, sprinkling one seasoning on half the ribs, and another seasoning on the other half. The first half got my favorite basic seasoning: Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. The second half received my favorite Cajun seasoning: Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning. The ribs went into the smoker for about 2 hours.

 

I thought I would smoke the ribs longer than 2 hours, but then I realized it would soon be time to pick my daughter up from school and take her to guitar lessons. (Curve ball 3.)

 

Out of the smoker.

I took the ribs out of the smoker, one half batch at a time, and placed them under the broiler of my toaster oven, flipping them over once I saw the edges of the ribs get nice and dark. This gave them a bit of that char I was looking for that the grill would’ve given me…had I not had a family of mice in my way!

 

After a few minutes under the broiler.

After broiling the ribs on both sides, I placed them in aluminum foil, brushing them on both sides with the apricot-mustard glaze, wrapping the aluminum tightly around them in 2 packages. I placed them on a baking sheet and into a pre-heated 175-degree oven.

 

Tightly wrapped and into the oven they go.

The low temperature in the oven would continue to cook the ribs low and slow, and the glaze would add a little steam to make them tender, and hopefully, delicious. Off to school and guitar lessons I went.

 

Unwrapping the ribs after a few hours.

We returned a few hours later, and I placed the sheet pan with the ribs on the top of the stove to cool for a bit, allowing the ribs to rest.

 

One of each: with Lawry’s and Tony Chachere’s.

Using a bit more of the apricot-mustard glaze, I brushed the ribs one more time and placed them under the broiler one last time before feasting. It was worth that extra effort to get them nice and caramelized.

The final verdict: They came out great, but I preferred the ribs seasoned with Tony Cachere’s better. The Cajun seasoning added a nice kick of heat to counterbalance the sweetness of the apricot-mustard glaze.

Through years of tireless experimentation, I’ve come up with a barbecue sauce that I feel is the best I’ve ever made. Granted, everybody has their favorites, but this one kicks butt. I prefer a slightly sweet and tangy barbecue sauce,  so unless I’m making a classic pulled pork sandwich, I usually avoid vinegar-based sauces.

What makes this sauce special is the citrus. I originally used lemon juice for this recipe and it was good. Lime juice with lime zest was better. I also tried oranges, tangerines, even Meyer lemons. But my breakthrough happened on a day when I was craving barbecued chicken and all I had in my fridge was a grapefruit. I thought: how bad could it be? Turned out to be the perfect foil to the sweetness of the brown sugar and ketchup.

My favorite chicken pieces are the leg quarters: thigh and drumstick all in one. Chicken breasts, even on pastured birds, are pretty flavorless and dry, so I pass on them for the darker meat that’s juicy and fatty. (Honestly, I find it hard to trust anyone that won’t eat meat off a bone.)

Cooking chicken in the oven before putting it on the grill has several advantages. I don’t have to stand over the grill, constantly worrying about the meat burning or the fire going out. I can simply set a timer when I need to brush on the barbecue sauce or remove the chicken pieces. And the chicken cooks evenly…one piece won’t be burned while another piece is undercooked. Cooking them low and slow in the oven keeps the chicken juicy and tender. And I’m assured that my chicken is thoroughly cooked…no worries about salmonella.

I pre-heat the oven to 350 just to get it nice and hot. I line a sheet pan with non-stick aluminum foil, placing the chicken pieces on it. I rub each piece with a little olive oil, and season them lightly with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. The chicken goes into the oven and I immediately lower the temperature to 200 degrees.

While the chicken is cooking, I combine all the barbecue sauce ingredients in a sauce pan, bring it to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer, letting it cook for about 20 minutes, until it has thickened. Then I turn the heat off and set the pan aside.

I’ll bake the chicken for about an hour, taking the sheet pan out of the oven to brush the barbecue sauce on the pieces before returning to the oven again, now bringing the temperature up to 300 degrees. (Because there’s sugar in the barbecue sauce, I don’t want to crank the heat or it will burn.)

Taking the chicken out of the oven and brushing it with sauce.

 

In 30 minutes, I take the sheet pan out a second time, and brush the sauce on the chicken pieces again…then back in the 300-degree oven for another 30 minutes.

Once the chicken’s back in the oven, it’s time to start the grill. For projects like this, I like to use a small grill I bought for our family camping trips. It’s like a mini-Weber, and it grills enough food for 4 people easily, without wasting charcoal like a larger grill would.

These small grills are just 20 bucks, and they save you a ton of otherwise wasted, unused charcoal.

 

I use a smaller charcoal chimney for this project, and I use charcoal briquets, not hardwood, because I want an even fire. The coals are ashed over in just 10 minutes.

Out of the oven and onto the fire! The grill grate was nasty and rusty, so I just grabbed a clean one I had handy and popped it right on top. (I hate scrubbing grills!)

 

Once the chicken has cooked its total of 2 low-and-slow hours in the oven, I bring the pieces outside. I spread the coals evenly on my little grill, and place the chicken pieces on it, flipping the pieces so that both sides get nice and smokey with a little bit of char…about 5 or 10 minutes per side will do the trick.

Getting that char on the chicken is key to making it taste like it’s been on the grill all the time.

 

The chicken goes back to the kitchen, and while it’s still hot, I brush with the barbecue sauce one last time before serving.

 

 

Perfectly done…perfectly delicious!

 

Here is the magical barbecue sauce recipe…

1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Juice and zest of 1 grapefruit
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce, like Frank’s Red Hot
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
(no salt)

Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring it to a boil and then turn it down low, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

 

 

The original recipe called for skirt steak, but I didn’t have any in my freezer. I did have a fat ribeye, though, so once I thawed it, I sliced it lengthwise to get two large, thin steaks which would easily suck up the marinade I was going to make. And the ribeye was nicely marbled, so it stayed juicy and tender.

 

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1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped dry roasted unsalted peanuts
2 scallions, minced
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon chile oil
2 lbs. beef ribeye (or skirt steak or beef flap)
1/4 cup chicken stock (homemade is best)

In a bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, cilantro, peanuts, scallions, sugar, lime juice and chile oil. Transfer half of it to a shallow dish.
Add the steak to the dish and turn the meat to coat it well. Cover and refrigerate the beef overnight. Refrigerate the remaining marinade.

The next day, light a grill. While it’s warming up, add the chicken stock to the reserved marinade. I like to heat it to combine it well, not letting it reach a boil,  then remove it from the heat and let it come to room temperature. This will be the dipping sauce for the beef.

Bring the steak to room temp, season with salt and pepper, and grill it over high heat until medium-rare, about 5 minutes. If it’s too cold to light a grill, or if you just want to use the oven, heat a cast iron pan, add a few drops of avocado oil, and sear the beef on both sides before placing it in a pre-heated 375-degree oven to finish cooking.

Devour the beef with the dipping sauce!

 

I’m fortunate that I can buy my veal from a nearby dairy farm, Sweet & Salty Farm in Little Compton, RI, where the animals are grass-fed and raised humanely. That makes for happier animals and incredibly flavorful meat…and no guilt about using it.

I also buy veal bones from Sweet & Salty Farm, roasting them on a sheet pan in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, then placing them in a large pot of water. I take some chopped carrots, onions, and celery, toss them in a little olive oil, and place them on a sheet pan, roasting them in the oven until they’ve caramelized, then add them to the pot with the veal bones. The secret to a great veal bone broth is to boil the bones and veggies for as long a time as possible. Restaurants will do this for days, replacing the water in the pot as needed. At home, I’ll start the broth in the morning and finish it by evening.

The subtle flavor of veal can get lost with heavy seasonings, so I keep it simple. The addition of veal bone broth amplifies the flavor and keeps the meatballs from drying out.

 

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1 lb. ground veal
1 cup toasted breadcrumbs (I use Udi’s bread to make it gluten-free)
2 teaspoons parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1 egg
extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. pasta, cooked firmer than al dente (I use Garofalo GF pasta to make it gluten-free)
2 cups veal bone broth or beef stock
salt and pepper for seasoning
2 tablespoons half-and-half
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup of frozen organic peas

 

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make the meatballs: In a bowl, combine the veal, breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, garlic, onion and egg, mixing the ingredients thoroughly. Don’t over-mix.

Heat a tablespoon of the olive oil in an oven-proof pan, and form the meatballs one by one, placing them in the pan. Brown the meatballs on all sides over medium heat. Place the pan in the oven to cook the meatballs for 10 more minutes.

In a saucepan, heat the veal bone broth or beef broth. Once the meatballs have cooked in the oven, transfer them to the pot of broth and cover it with a lid, keeping the heat on low. If the broth doesn’t cover the meatballs, turn them every once in a while to keep them moist on all sides. Cook the meatballs in the broth for about 30 minutes, then transfer them to a large sauté pan.

Turn the saucepan with the veal broth on high and reduce it to about 1/2 cup. Season it with salt and pepper.

In a large pot, cook the pasta to a bit firmer than al dente in well-salted water. Drain it and set it aside.

In the large sauce pan with the meatballs, add the butter and the half-and-half. Add the reduced veal broth, the pasta, and the peas.

Gently mix the ingredients in the pan until the peas have warmed through and the sauce clings to the pasta. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

Those of us that live in New England understand the magnificence that is a fresh lobster. Nothing beats a Maine lobster pulled right out of the water, placed in a pot of boiling water, and devoured moments later with nothing but melted butter on the side.

 

 

I live in Rhode Island. Our waters are a bit warmer than Maine’s, but my friends at Sakonnet Lobster in Little Compton, literally footsteps from our rental home, Saule (www.sauleri.com…go to Homeaway.com listing #4711871) have the freshest lobster around.

 

At a recent gathering at our house, I fired up my brand new 200,000 BTU burner and grabbed my 82-quart lobster pot to cook a dozen lobsters.

An 82-quart pot means business!

 

Many people will argue that steaming lobsters is better than boiling them. I don’t find that to be true, certainly from the perspective of ease of cooking or the taste of the final product. Baked stuffed lobsters are delicious, but that’s a subject for a different time.

 

Using the outdoor burner method has several advantages. First, all the mess and smell stays out of the kitchen. Clean-up is much easier. Second, when cooking lobsters for a lot of people, the burners on the kitchen stove just don’t have what it takes to boil the water. And third, this method requires no back-breaking lifting of heavy pots full of water.

My buddy, Lee, has a PhD in Chemistry, and has been a lobster lover all his life. With a home in Maine now, he knows a thing or two about cooking lobster. Here’s his fool-proof formula…

Bring the pot of water to a full vigorous boil.
Keeping the flame on high, add the lobsters, which will quench the boil for a few minutes.
Cook for 17 minutes for the first pound + 1 minute per each additional pound of lobsters added. (For example, cooking four 1.25 lb lobsters = 21 minutes.)
The water soon comes back to a full boil and you can reduce heat slightly to avoid boil over.

 

 

Experienced lobster boilers will tell you that this cooking formula is pretty accurate, but you do have to adjust the time if the water doesn’t come back to the boil as quickly as you’d like. The lobsters are still cooking even if the water isn’t boiling. If you’ve got an overcrowded pot, you might need to cook things a little longer. An emptier pot: a little less. Play it by ear.

 

To those that get queasy when it comes to cooking lobsters, there are several ways to kill a lobster before it goes into the pot: Some people put them in the freezer to numb them. Others use a sharp knife and cut down right between the eyes. Some do both. Although people constantly argue about whether lobsters can feel pain or not, my scientist friends assure me that a lobster’s nervous system is no more complicated than an insect’s. Dropping them head-first into a pot of boiling water is the fastest, most humane way of killing them. And they don’t “scream.” That’s just air escaping from the body cavity.

 

Good to remember: if you overcook the lobster a little, no harm done. But if you undercook it, it’s pretty nasty.

 

 

All I need on the side is some melted salted butter.

 

Though I’m a fan of renowned Italian chef Marcella Hazan, I had never heard of what many claim to be her most famous recipe: her 3-ingredient tomato sauce. (OK, salt makes 4.) Recently, I read an article about it and thought I had to try it for myself. The results were amazing: a subtle hint of onion, and a creamy smooth sauce thanks to the butter. You can use a regular can of tomatoes, but real San Marzano tomatoes will give the best results. How do you know if you’ve got real San Marzano’s? Just so happens I have a pet peeve about that. Read below the recipe.

The sauce before onion removal.

 

1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
5 tablespoons butter (I use unsalted)
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
salt

In a saucepan, combine the entire can of tomatoes (tomatoes and juice) and the butter, and add the onion with a couple of pinches of salt. Place the heat on medium, bring it to a simmer, and then cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, breaking the tomatoes with a spoon. Add more salt, if needed.

When the sauce is done, remove the onion.

Silky smooth and ready to use.

 

The original recipe says to discard the onion. What?! I’m an onion fanatic and I can tell you throwing the onion out is a sin. Here’s what I do: I place the onion on a baking sheet and put it under the broiler of my toaster oven: 5 minutes on one side, flip it, then 5 minutes on the other. If you’ve got a screamin’ broiler, those onions will have beautiful charred edges and the bits of tomato sauce left on the onion will caramelize to a fabulous intense, sweet paste. You then sprinkle Fleur de Sel on it, and devour it.

Never throw the onion away!

 

If you do your share of Italian recipes, you’ve used San Marzano tomatoes. Most good cooks agree that San Marzano’s are the best canned tomatoes you can buy.

Unfortunately,  the label can say “San Marzano tomatoes” even if they are not real San Marzano tomatoes.

San Marzano is a region in Italy near Naples and Mt. Vesuvius, and the special combination of climate and volcanic soil make these plum tomatoes world-famous. They have less water, fewer seeds and are picked off the vine when perfectly ripe and processed the same day.

But San Marzano is a variety of tomato, too…so you can have a can of San Marzano tomatoes that are not from San Marzano. And to add to the confusion, there’s actually a brand of tomatoes called San Marzano, with tomatoes grown in the United States. Bet your ass the sellers of these tomatoes are counting on you not to know the difference!

Sold everywhere, but these are NOT real San Marzano tomatoes. They’re grown in the USA.

 

Real San Marzano Tomatoes are a very old variety, extremely limited in quantity, grown and produced exclusively in the San Marzano region of Italy. Because production is so very limited, the Italian Government and the European Union have formed a way of protecting consumers from fraud by having San Marzano tomatoes tightly controlled. DOP, or denomination of protected origin, is the mechanism that the government is using to control the production and marketing of genuine San Marzano tomatoes. Labels for DOP products must be individually numbered and manually applied to each can in specific lots and government officials must oversee this application. So here’s the deal: unless you see “DOP” on the label with a hand-stamped number on the can, it’s not a real San Marzano tomato.

 

Yes! Real San Marzano tomatoes. Cento also sells non-certified San Marzano’s, so always look for the DOP on the can.

 

Another way to tell when you’re in the market is simple. Check the price. Your average can of tomatoes will be in the $2 range. Real DOP San Marzano tomatoes: about $4–$5 a can. It’s all about quality. Buy them on sale, and you’ll not only save a few bucks, but you’ll have them when you need them at arm’s reach!