Archive for the ‘salt’ Category

I was having dinner the other night at The Boat House restaurant in Tiverton, RI, with my buddy, Lee, who lives in Maine half the year, and we started talking about what makes the perfect lobster roll.

Often, when you go to a restaurant and order one, they’ll first ask if you want it cold with mayonnaise or warm with butter. (A warm lobster roll with melted butter, we were told by our bartender, Cayce, is called “Connecticut style.”) The three of us discussed the mayonnaise-to-lobster ratio, and other significant factors. The final conclusion was that everyone likes their lobster roll a little differently.

It’s certainly easy to go to a clam shack or seafood restaurant to get one, but nothing beats making one yourself.

 

The lobster roll at The Back Eddy in Westport, Massachusetts. Delicious and fresh. But it breaks one of my cardinal rules about lobster rolls. (Go to the bottom of the page.)

 

When I make my own lobster rolls, freshness is key. I always start with live lobsters. I get them from my lobster man buddy, Gary, just down the street at his dock in Tiverton, RI. Gary’s brother runs the Sakonnet Lobster Company on Sakonnet Point in Little Compton, RI.

 

A view of the Sakonnet River from the back of Gary's lobster boat, the Edna Mae

A view of the Sakonnet River from the back of Gary’s lobster boat, the Edna Mae

 

Once you’ve bought your live lobster, the next step is to cook it right. Some people steam and some people boil. I’ve always been a boiler myself. I fill a large pot half-way with water and add sea salt. I bring it to a rolling boil before the lobsters go in. And then I do the math…

I boil my lobsters for 10 minutes for the first pound. I add 3 minutes per pound for each additional pound thereafter. For example, a 2-pound lobster should boil for 13 minutes and a 1 1/2-pound lobster should boil for 11 1/2 minutes. And if I’m boiling more than one lobster, the same rule applies: 3 2-lb. lobsters = 6 pounds. So 10 minutes for the first pound, plus 3 minutes x 5 for each extra pound (that’s 15) for a total of 25 minutes. (These times are for hard shell lobsters. I reduce the boiling time by 3 minutes if I’m cooking soft-shell lobsters.)

Remember, you’re going by total weight of all the lobsters, because the more you have, the longer it takes the water to return to the boil once you put them in.

 

Lobster catch LTL

 

A larger lobster is not always better. My uncle used to buy the largest lobster he could find, and it was impressive when he placed at the center of the dinner table. But the meat was like rubber. And personally, I felt bad for the old lobster that made it that far in life. His last days should’ve been in the ocean, not on a plate.

My maximum lobster size is 2 lbs. But at 1 1/2 pounds, you have the perfect ratio of meat-to-shell…with lots of delicious meat that is still sweet and tender. It’s perfect.

After the lobsters have been removed from the pot and have cooled for a few minutes, I get to work: cracking the claws and tail and removing every bit of beautiful meat I can find. Lobster lovers will tell you that the legs have some meat in them and that the tomalley (the green liver and pancreas) and roe (eggs) are delicacies not to be missed. For the purpose of making lobster salad, I don’t use these parts. But I do save the tomalley and roe for a separate treat…and I save all the legs and cleaned empty shells for lobster stock.

Cleaning lobster legs is easy: simply remove all the legs from the body and place them flat on a cutting board. Grab a rolling pin, and one at a time, roll the pin over the lobster legs, starting at the claw end and working your way up. Like a tube of toothpaste, the meat will squeeze right out of the leg!

 

Lobster roll LTL

 

Now for the important stuff. What goes in a lobster roll, and more importantly, what doesn’t… I have very strong opinions in this matter.

First, there should NEVER be anything green in a lobster roll! No celery, no pickle, and it certainly shouldn’t be sitting on a bed of lettuce! Nothing should be crunchy in a lobster roll! The magic is in the texture of the perfectly cooked lobster meat. Don’t mess with it!

NO paprika or Old Bay seasoning!

A pinch of celery salt? Yes!

Mayonnaise? Only Hellman’s!

White pepper, not black, and just a touch.

Salt? A pinch of Fleur de Sel.

And the secret weapon to bring out all the flavors: the tiniest squeeze of fresh lemon juice…not enough to give it lemon flavor…just to brighten the taste.

As for the roll, you can’t go wrong with Martin’s potato long rolls: soft and squishy straight out of the bag, or to take a page from the Connecticut-style lobster roll lovers: lightly grill the rolls and brush them with a little melted butter!

 

In these crazy times, our supermarkets are running out of everything from toilet paper to hand sanitizer. But probably the one thing we can stock up on is corned beef and cabbage!

St. Patty’s Day is this Tuesday, and supermarkets are full drumming with packages of processed corned beef in preparation for the big celebration. Too bad corned beef isn’t an authentic Irish dish!

The phrase “corned beef” was actually coined by the British, and although the Irish were known for their corned beef throughout Europe in the 17th century, beef was far too expensive for the Irish themselves to eat and all of it was exported to other countries. Owning a cow in Ireland was a sign of wealth, and the Irish used theirs for dairy products, not beef.

The Irish ate pork, and a lot of it, because it was cheap to raise pigs, and they traditionally prepared something like Canadian bacon to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.

In the 1900’s, when the Irish came to America, both beef and salt were more affordable, and the Irish, who lived in poor, tight-knit communities, often next to Jewish communities, bought much of their beef from Kosher butchers. So many of the Irish learned how to corn their beef using Jewish techniques, but adding cabbage and potatoes to the mix.

It takes about 3 weeks to make corned beef. But now that you know it’s not Irish anyway, that’s OK!  Doing it yourself is not difficult. It just takes time to get a really delicious slab of beef.

Corned beef has nothing to do with corn. ‘Corning’ is a technique for preserving raw meats for long periods by soaking it in salt brine. This method was used in England before the days of commercial refrigeration. Back then, the large salt kernels used in the brine were called “corns.”

Brining is a time-honored way of preserving meat and it prevents bacteria from growing. Both pastrami and corned beef are made by this method. Both start with a brisket of beef. Corned beef is then cooked–usually boiled–and served. Pastrami is made when the brined meat is rubbed with more spices and then smoked to add extra flavor. So corned beef and pastrami are the same meat, just treated differently.

Saltpeter is an ingredient that has been used in brining beef for years. It adds the traditional red coloring to the corned beef and pastrami meat. But since saltpeter can also contain carcinogens, I leave it out. The meat may not be the usual bright red color, but the flavor and texture of the meat will not be affected.

Brining the beef brisket

Brining the beef brisket

Step one: corned beef…

beef brisket (about 8-10 pounds)
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 cup warm water
3 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices
3/4 cup salt
2 quarts water

Place the brisket in a large container made of non-reactive material, like glass or plastic.

In the 1/4 cup of warm water, dissolve the sugar, minced cloves, paprika and pickling spices.

Dissolve the 3/4 cup of salt in the 2 quarts of water. Pour in the sugar/garlic/paprika/pickling spices mix and stir everything together. Pour the mixture over the meat in the container. Make sure the meat is totally beneath the surface of the liquid. (You may need to weigh it down to do this.) Cover the container.

Refrigerate the container and its contents for 3 weeks, turning the meat once or twice per week. At the end of the third week, remove the container from the refrigerator and take out the meat. Soak the meat in several changes of fresh cold water over a period of 24 hours to remove the excess salt.

At this point, if you want corned beef, prepare and cook it using your favorite recipe. But I’m all about the pastrami!

Step two: making Pastrami…

pastrami

 

Brined and rinsed corned beef brisket from above recipe, patted dry with paper towels
1/4 cup Kosher salt
1/4 cup paprika
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated garlic

Combine the coriander seeds, black and white peppercorns and mustard seeds in a spice grinder and grind coarsely. Place in a bowl. Add the salt, paprika, brown sugar and granulated garlic. Mix well.

Rub the mix into the brisket well, covering all sides.

Heat your smoker to 225 degrees and smoke for several hours using a less intense wood, like oak. When the internal temperature of the meat has reached 165 degrees, it’s done. It isn’t necessary to smoke pastrami as long as you would a regular brisket because the long brining time makes the meat tender.

It is very important that absolutely everything that comes in contact with the meat is very clean. (This includes your hands.) Also, make very sure that every inch of the meat reaches the 165 degrees before it is removed from the smoker. The corned beef is now pastrami.

 

Happy St. Patty’s Day! Celebrate safely!

This is what I’m serving my guests at Christmas dinner. It’s a rich and delicious surf-and-turf, using wild Texas boar and locally caught Rhode Island scallops, that beats steak and lobster hands-down! Wild boar isn’t an ingredient you can find everywhere, but pork belly is, and it works just fine.

 

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For the pork belly…
3 lbs. fresh pork belly (I used wild boar belly)
salt and pepper
1–2 tablespoons leaf lard or olive oil
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 fennel bulb, quartered
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 cups beef stock
1 cup hard cider or apple juice

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Season the belly with salt and pepper. On medium-high heat, melt the leaf lard, then sear the meat on all sides in an oven-proof pot big enough to hold it in one layer. Add the carrot, celery, onion, fennel, thyme and peppercorns and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, until caramelized.

Add the beef stock and the cider. Cover the pot with a lid or seal with aluminum foil, and braise the belly in the oven for 3 hours, until tender.

Remove the pot from the oven, carefully remove the pork belly, and put it on a plate. Cover it with foil. If you’re cooking earlier in the day, you can place the belly in the fridge at this point.

Strain the leftover braising liquid from the pot and discard the vegetables and thyme. Skim off the excess fat. If starting this dish earlier in the day, you can put this liquid in the fridge and the fat will harden, making it easier to remove.

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For the glaze…
braising liquid, strained
1 tablespoon espresso
1 tablespoon honey

In a small saucepan, reduce the brazing liquid by half, then add the espresso and honey. Cook a few more minutes until the sauce thickens. When it coats the back of a spoon, it’s ready. Set aside.

For the scallops…
Fresh scallops
salt and pepper

When you’re ready to serve, heat a pan on high heat with a little more leaf lard. Cut the belly into equal pieces and sear on all sides for about a minute. Place the scallops in the same pan, season with salt and pepper, and sear them on both sides, being careful not to overcook them.

To serve, place the belly on a plate. Top with a scallop or two. Drizzle glaze over the top. Season with Fleur de Sel or sea salt and serve immediately.

I like to brine large hunks of meat that I’m going to roast, because brining not only gives it flavor, it adds moisture…so my pork loin, Thanksgiving turkey, or in this case, whole chicken, doesn’t dry out.

Brining usually means you take a lot of water and you add salt and other spices to it, then drop the bird into that liquid for several hours, so the meat can suck up the salty water, releasing it slowly as it cooks, but retaining much of the moisture and flavor.

Recently, I started reading about “dry-brining,” (aka curing)…and I thought that would be a fun thing to try. I created a spice rub that I rubbed all over a spatchcocked chicken, placed it on a sheet pan, and popped it in the fridge to dry age for several days before cooking.

Spatchcocked? Sounds like a dirty word, but it means that the backbone of the bird has been removed, allowing the bird to be flattened and cooked more evenly. As you know, very often the breast meat of a bird is overcooked if the dark meat is perfect. Spatchcocking a bird allows all the parts of the bird to cook more evenly.

All you need to spatchcock a chicken is a good pair of poultry scissors. Cut all the way down on either side of the backbone of the bird (saving the backbone for future stock, of course.) Now you can open the bird up, season it on both sides, and lay it flat on a sheet pan to cure.

 

Spatchcocked and rubbed. I put the bird skin-side down for a day and a half, then flipped it over for another day and a half.

 

My preferences leaned toward Asian flavors this time, so here’s my dry brine recipe:

3 tablespoons Kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal…the brand matters. See why below.)
1 1/2 tablespoons (1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons) granulated garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons (1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons) granulated onion
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Chinese Five Spice
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

I combined all the ingredients in a bowl.

 

The reason why the brand of Kosher salt matters is the weight. But salt is salt, right? Well…different brands weigh different amounts. For example, Morton Kosher salt is more dense than Diamond Crystal. If you use equal amounts of each, you’ll get different results. That’s why most recipes tell you the weight of the salt, not the volume. In this case, 3 tablespoons of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (according to my little kitchen scale) weighs 1.09 ounces.

Once I spatchcocked the bird, I rubbed it really well on both sides with the spice rub.

I lined a sheet pan with non-stick aluminum foil (to be used again later), and placed the bird, skin-side down, on it. I didn’t wrap the bird. I simply moved it to a refrigerator just like that, and let it stay there, dry-aging, for 1 1/2 days. I then flipped the bird (pardon my language) skin-side up and let it cure another 1 1/2 days, for a total of 3 days for a 4-pound bird.

 

Dry-aged after 3 days.

 

Once the bird dry-aged for 3 days, I removed it from the fridge, and let it sit for an hour, allowing it to reach room temperature. I pre-heated my oven to 400 degrees.

I set my oven up so that the bird would lie flat skin-side up (without the sheet pan) directly on the middle oven rack, and the sheet pan (with the non-stick aluminum foil still on it) on the rack underneath it, to catch the drippings. This allowed air to circulate completely around the bird as it cooked, and the pan caught any splatters. (The foil, still on the pan, made clean-up later much easier.)

Once the oven reached 400, I placed the bird on the middle rack, the sheet pan below it, closed the oven door, and turned the temperature down to 275.

 

Although it’s 161, that’s the breast meat temp. The thighs were higher. And the temperature will still rise while the bird is resting.

 

Chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165. Using an instant-read thermometer, I inserted it into the thigh, without touching the bone. I also inserted into the breast. Although the temperature was just a touch low, it rose a few degrees while resting under the foil.

My 4-pound chicken took about 90 minutes to cook.

 

Out of the oven to rest. I covered it with foil to rest about 15 minutes before carving.

 

 

Juicy and delicious!

 

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 so much tastier and juicier. You really need to try it…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, rinsing off any spices that stuck to it, then pat it dry with paper towels. Now it’s ready to cook, using your favorite recipe.

If I’m brining a turkey for Thanksgiving, I do the brining in the morning and the turkey is ready to cook by early afternoon. And grilling it on a Weber grill only takes a couple of hours. It’s fast, requires no basting, and is absolutely delicious! That’s next time…

 

 

I had a ridiculous harvest of shishito peppers in my garden this year, all from a mere eight plants. They were so prolific, I ate blistered shishitos almost every day for weeks on end…and that was after I gave away pounds of them to friends.

I was at my wits’ end. The season was waining, but I had bags and bags of shishitos in my fridge. Then on Instagram, my friend Ron exclaimed: “Pickle them!”

I had no idea you could do that!

 

Pickling shishitos…why didn’t I think of this sooner?

 

So, thanks, Ron. You saved the harvest! And by the way… While the pickling brine was boiling, I blistered and ate another batch of shishitos! (Needed to do something while I was waiting… )

 

Blistered shishitos gone!

 

The original recipe for pickled shishitos suggested that I boil the pickling spices and then combine them with sliced shishitos. But I didn’t like the idea of having whole peppercorns and other spices getting stuck in my teeth. I wanted their flavor, but I didn’t want to bite into them whole. (If you’ve ever accidentally bitten into a peppercorn, you know what I mean.)

So I strained the brining liquid after boiling, and then combined it with the shishitos. I got all the flavor, and none of the grit.

 

I cut the stem ends off the shishitos, then sliced them into rings.

 

 

2 cups vinegar
2 cups water
4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
2 tablespoons pickling spices
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 pound shishito peppers, sliced into rings

 

Boil a couple of Mason jars in a large pot to clean them. Let them air dry completely.

In a saucepan over high heat, combine the vinegar, water, garlic cloves, sugar, pickling spices, black peppercorns, and sea salt. Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and let to boil for 5 to 8 minutes.

The take pickling liquid off the heat and strain it into a bowl. Discard the spices. Add the sliced shishitos into the pickling liquid, mixing well, and let it sit for 3 to 5 minutes.

Spoon the mixture into the Mason jars and seal them tightly. Let them cool to room temperature. (You should hear the lids of the Mason jars make a popping noise to seal properly.)

Once the peppers have cooled, place the jars in the fridge and let them sit in the fridge for a week or so until the flavors combine.

 

 

The pickled shishitos are great on salads, sandwiches, cheese platters, and anything else that needs a kick in the pants!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t have the patience to boil Mason jars and lids and all that crap. But I love me my pickles, especially when this year’s garden is cranking out cucumbers in record numbers!

This is such an easy way to make great pickles, it’s almost unbelievable…and no water is needed! The salt extracts just enough moisture, like when curing meat, to make it work. This method works great if you want fresh pickles to eat immediately, but you’ll need to use the old-fashioned pickling methods if you want to keep them for longer periods of time.

Fortunately for me, I devour these pickles as soon as they’re ready!

I originally used a plastic bag for this, but I found that using a plastic container keeps the pickles aligned better and it’s less messy.

 

pickles

 

 

fresh cucumbers
sea salt
handful of fresh dill
a couple of cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

 

Get a resealable plastic container.

Cut the ends off the cucumbers and then slice them lengthwise, in half or in quarters. Lay them neatly next to each other in one layer in the container, skin-side down. Sprinkle the sea salt over the cucumbers. Sprinkle some of the chopped garlic on top. Then, tear off some fresh dill and lay it to cover the pickles.

You should be able to get a second row of pickles on top of the first, again sprinkling with the salt, garlic, and topping with dill.

 

 

Placing the lid on the container, squeeze out as much air out of the container as you can.

Put the container in the fridge overnight. Making sure the lid is tightly sealed on the container, flip it over every few hours. (I always put a plate underneath it when it’s upside down in case it leaks a little.)

The pickles will be ready to eat the next day, but they’re even better after 48 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

It seems like the popularity of shishito peppers has exploded overnight. Once a rare treat that I could only get on the menu at one of my favorite Boston restaurants, Toro, now they’re everywhere: farmers markets, bistro and pub menus, and of course…my own garden!

 

Shishitos are on almost every menu these days!

 

Shishito peppers are mostly mild…but you can get hold of a spicy one every 10 peppers or so…kind of a Russian pepper roulette!

 

Shishitos straight from the garden!

 

Shishitos are incredibly easy to grow…just like any other pepper. They love a full day’s worth of sun, and lots of fertilizer. If you have success growing tomatoes, shishitos should be on your list. Plus, they’re really quite prolific: it’s not uncommon to find a couple dozen peppers growing on each plant!

Shishitos are also easy to prepare, and take just minutes. Ideally, if you’ve already got a charcoal grill going, you’re almost there. Simply place the shishitos in a bowl and drizzle in a little olive oil. Toss the peppers to coat, and place them directly on the ashed-over coals of the fire. Work quickly turning them over with tongs. You want them to blister, but you don’t want them to burn! They’ll pop, deflate, and get soft. That’s when they’re ready. Simply place them on a serving plate, and sprinkle some really good sea salt (I like Fleur de Sel) over them while they’re still hot.

 

 

If you don’t have the time for a charcoal grill, you can still prepare delicious shishitos by placing them in a pan. Sprinkle in a little olive oil, and toss them around to coat them. Turn the burner on high, and cook the shishitos until they’re blistered, but not burned. Cook them on all sides, carefully flipping them over with tongs. Like on the charcoal, they will pop, deflate and get soft. Transfer them to a serving plate and sprinkle immediately with salt.

 

To enjoy shishitos, you simply grab them by the stem and bite!

Nothing says summer here in New England like a lobster roll. It’s certainly easy to go to a clam shack or seafood restaurant to get one, but nothing beats making one yourself.

 

The lobster roll at one of my favorite restaurants: The Back Eddy in Westport, Massachusetts. Delicious and fresh. But it breaks one of my cardinal rules about lobster rolls. (Go to the bottom of the page.)

 

When I make my own lobster rolls, freshness is key. I always start with live lobsters. I get them from my lobster man buddy, Gary, just down the street at his dock in Tiverton, RI. Gary’s brother runs the Sakonnet Lobster Company on Sakonnet Point in Little Compton, RI. It’s literally steps away from Saule, our rental property. (Check it out at http://www.sauleri.com)

 

A view of the Sakonnet River from the back of Gary's lobster boat, the Edna Mae

A view of the Sakonnet River from the back of Gary’s lobster boat, the Edna Mae

 

Once you’ve bought your live lobster, the next step is to cook it right. Some people steam and some people boil. I’ve always been a boiler myself. I fill a large pot half-way with water and add sea salt. I bring it to a rolling boil before the lobsters go in. And then I do the math…

I boil my lobsters for 10 minutes for the first pound. I add 3 minutes per pound for each additional pound thereafter. For example, a 2-pound lobster should boil for 13 minutes and a 1 1/2-pound lobster should boil for 11 1/2 minutes. And if I’m boiling more than one lobster, the same rule applies: 3 2-lb. lobsters = 6 pounds. So 10 minutes for the first pound, plus 3 minutes x 5 for each extra pound (that’s 15) for a total of 25 minutes. (These times are for hard shell lobsters. I reduce the boiling time by 3 minutes if I’m cooking soft-shell lobsters.)

Remember, you’re going by total weight of all the lobsters, because the more you have, the longer it takes the water to return to the boil once you put them in.

 

Lobster catch LTL

 

A larger lobster is not always better. My uncle used to buy the largest lobster he could find, and it was impressive when he placed at the center of the dinner table. But the meat was like rubber. And personally, I felt bad for the old lobster that made it that far in life. His last days should’ve be in the ocean, not on a plate.

My maximum lobster size is 2 lbs. At that weight, you have the perfect ratio of meat-to-shell…with lots of delicious meat that is still sweet and tender. It’s perfect.

After the lobsters have been removed from the pot and have cooled for a few minutes, I get to work: cracking the claws and tail and removing every bit of beautiful meat I can find. Lobster lovers will tell you that the legs have some meat in them and that the tomalley (the green liver and pancreas) and roe (eggs) are delicacies not to be missed. For the purpose of making lobster salad, I don’t use these parts. But I do save the tomalley and roe for a separate treat…and I save all the legs and cleaned empty shells for lobster stock.

Cleaning lobster legs is easy: simply remove all the legs from the body and place them flat on a cutting board. Grab a rolling pin, and one at a time, roll the pin over the lobster legs, starting at the claw end and working your way up. Like a tube of toothpaste, the meat will squeeze right out of the leg!

 

Lobster roll LTL

 

Now for the important stuff. What goes in a lobster roll, and more importantly, what doesn’t… I have very strong opinions in this matter.

First, there should NEVER be anything green in a lobster roll! No celery, no pickle, and it certainly shouldn’t be sitting on a bed of lettuce! Nothing should be crunchy in a lobster roll! The magic is in the texture of the perfectly cooked lobster meat. Don’t mess with it!

NO paprika or Old Bay seasoning!

A pinch of celery salt? Yes!

Mayonnaise? Only Hellman’s!

White pepper, not black, and just a touch.

Salt? A pinch of Fleur de Sel.

And the secret weapon to bring out all the flavors: the tiniest squeeze of fresh lemon juice…not enough to give it lemon flavor…just to brighten the taste.

As for the roll, you can’t go wrong with Martin’s potato long rolls: soft and squishy straight out of the bag, or for extra decadence: lightly grilled with a little melted salted butter brushed on.

 

St. Patty’s Day is this Sunday, so supermarkets are full of packages of processed corned beef in preparation for the big celebration. Too bad corned beef isn’t an authentic Irish dish!

The phrase “corned beef” was actually coined by the British, and although the Irish were known for their corned beef throughout Europe in the 17th century, beef was far too expensive for the Irish themselves to eat and all of it was exported to other countries. Owning a cow in Ireland was a sign of wealth, and the Irish used theirs for dairy products, not beef.

The Irish ate pork, and a lot of it, because it was cheap to raise pigs, and they traditionally prepared something like Canadian bacon to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.

In the 1900’s, when the Irish came to America, both beef and salt were more affordable, and the Irish, who lived in poor, tight-knit communities, often next to Jewish communities, bought much of their beef from Kosher butchers. And so many of the Irish learned how to corn their beef using Jewish techniques, but adding cabbage and potatoes to the mix.

It takes about 3 weeks to make corned beef. But now that you know it’s not Irish anyway, that’s OK! (If you’re dying to have it on St Patty’s Day anyway, just buy yourself a supermarket slab this time, then make your own when the craving hits again.) Doing it yourself is not difficult. It just takes time…and you get a really delicious slab of beef.

Corned beef has nothing to do with corn. ‘Corning’ is a technique for preserving raw meats for long periods by soaking it in salt brine. This method was used in England before the days of commercial refrigeration. Back then, the large salt kernels used in the brine were called “corns.”

Brining is a time-honored way of preserving meat and it prevents bacteria from growing. Both pastrami and corned beef are made by this method. Both start with a brisket of beef. Corned beef is then cooked–usually boiled–and served. Pastrami is made when the brined meat is rubbed with more spices and then smoked to add extra flavor. So corned beef and pastrami are the same meat, just treated differently.

Saltpeter is an ingredient that has been used in brining beef for years. It adds the traditional red coloring to the corned beef and pastrami meat. But since saltpeter can also contain carcinogens, I leave it out. The meat may not be the usual bright red color, but the flavor and texture of the meat will not be affected.

Brining the beef brisket

Brining the beef brisket

Step one: corned beef…

beef brisket (about 8-10 pounds)
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 cup warm water
3 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices
3/4 cup salt
2 quarts water

Place the brisket in a large container made of non-reactive material, like glass or plastic.

In the 1/4 cup of warm water, dissolve the sugar, minced cloves, paprika and pickling spices.

Dissolve the 3/4 cup of salt in the 2 quarts of water. Pour in the sugar/garlic/paprika/pickling spices mix and stir everything together. Pour the mixture over the meat in the container. Make sure the meat is totally beneath the surface of the liquid. (You may need to weigh it down to do this.) Cover the container.

Refrigerate the container and its contents for 3 weeks, turning the meat once or twice per week. At the end of the third week, remove the container from the refrigerator and take out the meat. Soak the meat in several changes of fresh cold water over a period of 24 hours to remove the excess salt.

At this point, if you want corned beef, prepare and cook it using your favorite recipe. But I’m all about the pastrami!

Step two: making Pastrami…

pastrami

 

Brined and rinsed corned beef brisket from above recipe, patted dry with paper towels
1/4 cup Kosher salt
1/4 cup paprika
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated garlic

Combine the coriander seeds, black and white peppercorns and mustard seeds in a spice grinder and grind coarsely. Place in a bowl. Add the salt, paprika, brown sugar and granulated garlic. Mix well.

Rub the mix into the brisket well, covering all sides.

Heat your smoker to 225 degrees and smoke for several hours using a less intense wood, like oak. When the internal temperature of the meat has reached 165 degrees, it’s done. It isn’t necessary to smoke pastrami as long as you would a regular brisket because the long brining time makes the meat tender.

It is very important that absolutely everything that comes in contact with the meat is very clean. (This includes your hands.) Also, make very sure that every inch of the meat reaches the 165 degrees before it is removed from the smoker. The corned beef is now pastrami.

 

Happy St. Patty’s Day!