Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lemongrass Pork

Ahh-, Ahhh-, Ahhhhchoo!

Well I finally got my wish, Spring is here, and with it all it's...sniff, sniff, achoo - allergy glory. If I leave a window open or go for a stroll I snee, snee, sne...ACHOO!

Gawd, I can't breathe, I can't see, my nose is running and...



Uh, Oh!

Forget pollen, forget mold spores, forget ragweed.  Swine flu has reared it's nasty, curly-tailed-flat-nosed head. With amazing rapidity, the flu has spread around the world. Cases are springing up from Mexico to New Zealand, from Spain to China and from Canada to Brazil. Some blame the easy availability of air travel, but one would think that security would catch on to these porcine ninjas. After all, the cloven hoof should be a clear give-away.  

I believe this is a coordinated effort by the appropriately named "Wild Kingdom" to bring down mankind.  People, we are on the frontlines of the next campaign of the animal revolution.  From Ebola infected monkeys and SARS drenched birds to flu-ridden piggies, the animal uprising is upon us. I always knew the horsemen of the apocalypse would come, I just never thought they'd be named, Bonzo, Daffy and Porky. 

But, fear not, there is an answer.  Eat the little buggers!!!  

Around the world health officials are quick to point out that eating pork is safe, so long as it's properly prepared, (why you would want to eat anything that wasn't properly prepared is another question entirely). So strike a blow for humanity, have a pork chop.  Save your kids, eat a ham sandwich.  The only thing standing between us and utter annihilation is a well stacked BLT.

Here's a recipe to get you started in the fight.  I've been fascinated with lemongrass lately, so here's another meal that tries to exploit it's subtle characteristics.  Again, if you don't have access to lemongrass stalks, shred some lemon rind along with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, add it into the marinade. Enjoy... 

Lemongrass Pork
adapted from Donna Hay Magazine, Feb/March 2009

2 Pork Tenderloins, approximately 1 1/2 pounds total weight
2 stalks lemongrass, woody outer leaves removed and finely chopped
1 TBSP cooking oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 TBSP Soy Sauce
2 TBSP Dark Brown Sugar

Combine the lemongrass, oil, garlic, soy sauce and brown sugar in a medium bowl.  Stir well to dissolve the sugar.  

Place the tenderloin in a large re-sealable bag and pour in the marinade.  Seal the bag and refrigerate 2 hours or up to 12 hours.

Thirty minutes prior to grilling, remove the pork from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature.  Pre-heat your grill over high heat.

Remove the pork from the marinade and lightly dry with paper towels.  

Grill the pork, turning every 3-4 minutes, until medium-well doneness, depending on thickness and grill temperature, approximately 12-15 minutes total cooking time.  

Remove from grill and allow to rest 10 minutes.  Slice and serve; acceptable garnishes include, mint, cilantro, some diced chile peppers or even a little bit of additional soy sauce.

There you go crablings, pork prepared well. Don't hesitate, we don't have the time to sit around waiting for vaccines, pick up a knife and fork and get into the fight. Remember, you have to do it, you have to cook!


Cartoons are from Truthdig.com

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thai-Marinated Chicken

WARNING: The following post may contain material deemed inappropriate for the friendless or inexplicably dour. Those completely devoid of humor and therefore easily offended may wish to jump directly to the recipe because today's post deals with S - E - X.

Oh my!


Slowly, achingly slowly, the temperatures are warming; robins are chirping a shivering din, only the bravest of daffodils have opened and the buds on the trees are desperate to burst. After an interminable winter, Spring with a capital S, finally appears to be at hand.

But there is more to Spring than warmer days. If you've been paying attention, you've seen birds bee-ing, bees bird-ing and of course, bunnies acting like bunnies. But the steamy and sensual are not limited to the great outdoors. No, there is a survival imperative being played out right here at Crabby Central.

The faithful amongst you know that we own a Meyer Lemon Tree. This gift, shipped from Florida, not only produced 8 lemons last year, but its very presence sustained me this winter, reminding me of warmer days to come. So it was with much hope and some trepidation that we all watched to see how it would survive our colder clime.

Fear not crablings, the tree has blossomed. Countless buds have opened and things were looking up. That is until the Boonsta brought up an inconvenient truth,

"With no bees in the house, how will the buds pollinate, how will we get fruit?"

So close, yet so far. LuAnn, our lemon tree, needed a date, and Craiglist looked unlikely to help: Single, green lemon tree looking for no questions asked cross-pollination buddy.

All hope seemed lost.

The Boonsta took away our fun, but then she came up with an idea to bring it back. Boonsta would be Mother Nature. Armed with a tiny paint brush, Boonsta played the role of worker bee, transferring fruit giving pollen from one bud to the next.

What has our in-house Dr. Ruth with a rake wrought? Has our Hugh Hefner of Horticulture saved our succulent citrus' love life?

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Actually the count of potential lemons is up to 10, with many more buds soon to be available for further breeding. I know nothing of Meyer Lemon genetics; I don't know if fruit pollinated from the the same tree tastes good or if we're hatching a cloned army of death lemons. All I know is hope and lemon scent is in the air once again. Ahhhh.

I need a shower.

Spring is in the air and a young man's fancy turns to the exotic. We need something to pique the senses. Something to tickle the taste buds. Something subtle yet promising. The weather's warming, so let's go to the grill. Thai infused chicken should do the trick. All the work is in the marinading, so have at it and enjoy...

Thai-Marinated Grilled Chicken
from delicious magazine volume 5 issue 11

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 lemongrass stems, outer leaves removed and then finely chopped
1 inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 Serrano chiles, seed and chopped
3 TBSP fresh chopped cilantro
1 TBSP honey
1 TBSP fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
Salt & Pepper

1 large chicken, quartered

Using a blender or small food processor, combine the garlic, lemongrass, ginger, and chiles along with 1 tablespoon of salt. Add the chopped cilantro along with 1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper. Process until smooth.

Stir in the honey, fish sauce and lime.

Rub the chicken parts with the paste. Place the chicken in a large re-sealable plastic bag, refrigerate and marinade for at least 3 hours and up to 12 hours.

Thirty minutes before grilling remove the chicken from the refrigerator and preheat you grill.

Turn the grill to medium and roast the chicken pieces. You want to cook the chicken slowly to properly caramelize the marinade. Turn the pieces every 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through, approximately 40 - 50 minutes total cooking time.

Remove the chicken and allow to rest 15 minutes before serving.

Alright crablings, chicken with a few exotic flavors to get the blood flowing for Spring. Have this meal with a light salad and a glass or three of wine, listen to the birds chirp, watch the sun set, let nature takes its course.

Until next time, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Orange Cake

Sometimes, massively important news stories get buried under the weight of more mainstream articles.   In all the mishegass of Tax Day, I believe one such huge story did get lost. Last Wednesday, United Airlines announced a new pricing policy specifically aimed at excessively obese fliers.  

It seems that UAL has buckled to the, admittedly muffled, cries of fliers who are forced to sit next to the morbidly obese.  You know the ones, those passengers who reserve the middle seat and then spread out, Jabba-the-Hut-Like, to engulf half of the seats on either side of them. 

Well out of chaos comes opportunity.  Yours truly has decided to start a new business.  The Frequent Airline Travelers Seating Organization, FATSO, is now available to service the needs of the plus sized traveler.  

At FATSO Flyers we will have a fleet of appropriate sized aircraft, specifically designed for your comfort and convenience.  A series of military grade hoists will whisk you to your seats. Once there you'll be greeted by our specially trained in-flight staff, who will assist you in closing our custom designed heavy-duty nylon and burlap seat belt extenders.  In flight, you'll be served a delicious meal along with appropriate entertainment, all free from the complaints and gasping for air you find on a typical commercial flight.

Of course, if we're kicking off a new venture then we need an appropriate recipe.  What better than a little bit of cake?  This recipe is for a single loaf appropriate for serving 8 people, not to worry, on FATSO Air we won't be serving something so meager. But for all you skinny types out there, please enjoy...

Orange Cake
from Olive Magazine, March 2009

2 medium-large oranges
1 lemon
1/3 cup water
6 ounces sugar
6 ounces unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for greasing the baking pan
6 ounces flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
4 ounces powdered sugar

Peel the rind from the oranges using a potato peeler.  Cut the strips into thin shreds.

Finely grate the rind of the lemon and set aside.

Juice the lemon and oranges together into a medium bowl, removing any seeds.

Reserve 1 tablespoon of the combined juices and set aside.  Transfer the remaining juice along with the orange zest shreds to a small pan. Add 1/3 cup of water to the mixture and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a steady simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until well softened.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

After 30 minutes, add 2 ounces of the sugar to the liquid and boil for an additional 5 minutes. Reduce until about 2 TBSP remain and the liquid is syrupy.

Scoop out about 1/3 of the orange shreds and reserve.

Transfer the remaining syrup and shreds to a small bowl and allow to cool

Spray a loaf pan with Pam or butter well.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining sugar, butter, flour, eggs, baking powder, and lemon zest.  Mix until well combined.  Fold in the orange syrup mixture.

Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan and bake for 35 minutes or until well risen and golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5 minute, then remove from the pan and allow to completely cool on a rack. 

While the cake cools, prepare the icing.  Blend the remaining citrus juice (1 TBSP) with the powdered sugar until smooth.  Add more sugar if needed so that the glaze is pourable but not too thin. Put a piece of waxed paper under the rack and drizzle the cake with the icing. Scatter the reserved orange rind across the top of the loaf and dust with additional powdered sugar.

Ta Da!  OK, you're right, like all desserts, it's an involved pain in the rear-end. But it's a tasty pain.  I will admit to hating rind, candied or otherwise, in cakes.  If I would change anything in this recipe it would be to grate instead of peel the orange ring.  But SSSal tells me that that would complicate the "candying" process.  I just think she doesn't want to do it.

Alright crablings I'm off to find funding for my new airline.  I dream of the day when you'll all look up to see a massive airplane blotting out the sun, thinking, "Look at the size of that FATSO".  Until then, just remember, you can do it, you can cook.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Coriander & Coconut Fish

Tax day has come and gone.  The streets are filled with zombified CPAs, lurching from citizen to citizen, desperately trying to find something to total or deduct.  Pray for a sunny day.  As soon as the light burns through their green eye-shades they'll collapse and sleep the sleep of the un-audited for yet another year.

It was a little tougher to go through the process this year.  The world economy is in shambles, real estate values have cratered, retirement accounts have disappeared and we're all being asked to send money to the Masters of Business, (MOB).  

Yesterday was a tough day. First I tried to give my tax check to a Banker, but he was off on a private pheasant hunt. Then I found out there was no truth to the rumor that we were allowed to drop off our payment checks at the local Chevy dealer.  So I settled for "old school" and just went to the post office.


April 16th, bled white and feeling a little green.

On April 16th we're all hooked, cleaned and filleted fish, with just enough of ourselves left to serve another day.  It's hard to get too creative after tax day, but I'm gonna try.  Here's a recipe that sounds so much spicier than it comes out.  If you leave out the hot chiles this may qualify as the blandest meal you've ever eaten, (in the spirit of full disclosure, without the chiles, SSSal refers to this meal as "delicate and mellow", blech!).  So here's something that's a little exotic and may force you to ask for help to find the ingredients at the local supermarket, enjoy...

Coriander & Coconut Fish
from Olive Magazine, March 2009

3 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 TBSP ginger, grated
2 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves removed and thinly sliced
2 hot chilies, seeded and chopped (optional)
2 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 TBSP cooking oil
1 can (13.5 ounces) light coconut milk (unsweetened)
1 1/4 pound skinless white fish (halibut, sea bass etc.)

1 bunch fresh spinach

Put the shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chilies and cilantro in a food processor.  Pulse to form a paste, (you may need to add a little bit of water to get to the right consistency).

Stir in the ground coriander.

In a saute pan large enough to hold the fish in a single layer, heat the tablespoon of cooking oil over medium high heat.  Saute the paste for 2 minutes.  

Add the coconut milk and bring to a gentle simmer.

Add the fish, cover and simmer for 5 - 7 minutes, (assuming a 1 inch thickness of fish). Note: If the fish is not fully submerged, gently turn the fish halfway through the cooking time.

While the fish is simmering, wilt a bag of fresh spinach in a small amount of boiling water. Or rinse the spinach and do not shake dry. Saute briefly in a covered saute pan. 

Place some spinach in the bottom of a serving bowl, top with fish, sauce and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro leaves.  Serve with a scooper of rice.

OK, another simple recipe that takes 30 minutes - tops - to prepare.  Well, back to the salt mines for me.  Until next time, remember crablings, you can do it, you can cook.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lebanese Cucumber, Tomato & Celery Salad

It's the Monday after Easter. Here's hoping that you all had a great weekend. Please note I said hoping, not hopping. Yup, nothing says religious rebirth like a large rabbit leaving candy lying around.

I survived the hard-boiled eggs and ham. Holiday meals almost by definition are boring. You can't get too creative when you're trying to crank out food for a big crowd. Kids don't like lamb, turkey's for Thanksgiving, beef is just too expensive and most people won't touch fish. Ham? Yeah I suppose, but it's just soooo boring. You can only come up with so many different mustards and relishes.

As you can probably tell, I'm not a big Easter cook. Usually SSSal whips up a couple of desserts, I buy some Honey Ham and that's it. Then I hop onto the couch and enter a persistent vegetative state watching golf on TV.

Of course, I suck it up and try and come up with something a little interesting. So here's the Cucumber & Celery Salad that was first pictured in the background of the Mint Lamb post. It uses a Lebanese, (some times called English) cucumber. That's the shrink-wrapped, somewhat raunchy thing you see in the produce section next to the "regular" cukes. I have no idea why they are individually wrapped. Maybe they're violent and this is a way to keep them under control, I just don't know. The cuke's little ridges give it a different texture and they usually have a lot fewer seeds. So let's enjoy...

Lebanese Cucumber, Tomato & Celery Salad
from delicious magazine

1 Lebanese cucumber, unwrapped and chopped
20 cherry tomatoes
1 celery heart, chopped
2 TBSP mint leaves, chopped
2 TBSP Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped

Juice of 1 Lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
3 TBSP Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes, chopped cucumber and celery heart with the herbs.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard and oil. Adjust seasoning.

Pour the dressing over the tossed vegetables and serve.

See, you always suspected I was lazy and it doesn't get much lazier than this. I'll warn you that I found the dressing quite tart, so you may want to add less lemon juice or a couple of drops of honey to your mixture, (Of course SSSal thought the dressing was perfect).

I'm done for now crablings, until next time, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

I wonder if that furry rodent left any more peanut butter eggs anywhere?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chocolate Mousse

I'm keeping today's post short and sweet. Easter is staring at us through the windshield and we/you have to get to work.

I love Sunday dinner. Throw in a holiday and you can count on Crabby to kick it into overdrive, (I refuse to say: "kick it up a notch"). That doesn't have to mean exotic ingredients cooked with flaming torches, it can mean just taking something simple and making it ludicrously complex and delicious.

Today's recipe is just such a variation on a theme. Just a week ago I presented homemade chocolate pudding, today I'm (well really SSSal), taking it to the next step by making homemade chocolate mousse. I'm warning you now, lots of bowls, lots of mixing, lots of little ingredients, topped off with lots of oohs and aahs. So enjoy...

Chocolate Mousse
from The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker & Ethan Becker

6 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips
3 TBSP unsalted butter
2 TBSP Liqueur (I used Amaretto) or water, or a combination
1 teaspoon vanilla

3 large egg yolks
3 TBSP coffee (I used instant espresso)
3 TBSP sugar

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup cold heavy whipping cream

Whipped Cream & Dutch Cocoa powder, for serving

Heat 1 inch of water in a large skillet over low heat until bubbles form along the bottom of the pan, adjust heat to maintain the water at this temperature.

In a large bowl combine the 6 ounces of chocolate along with the butter, liqueur and vanilla.

Set the bowl in the water bath and stir until the chocolate has melted.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, coffee and sugar. Set the bowl into the water bath and, whisking constantly, heat the mixture until it it thick and puffy, approximately 10 minutes.

Remove from the water bath and whisk thoroughly into the melted chocolate. Allow to cool to room temperature.

In yet another bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form.

Gradually beat in the granulated sugar.

Increase the speed to high and beat this mixture until the peaks become glossy and stiff.

Using a rubber spatula, stir one quarter of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture. Once fully incorporated, gently fold in the remaining egg whites into the chocolate.

In another bowl, using your hand mixer, beat the 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream on medium high speed until soft peaks form.

Gently, but thoroughly, fold the cream into the combined chocolate mixture, and transfer the mousse to (6) 6 - 8 ounce ramekins (or more). Use an ice cream scooper to get equal servings that mound beautifully in the ramekin. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of cocoa powder.

Man! The one instruction I left out was: Hire someone to come in and wash all the bowls you've made a mess of because you're going to be too tired to clean them yourself. Of course, here at Crabby Central, the main mixing bowl with be cleaned by the collective snouts of King Crab and CrabCake2.

Alrighty crablings, have a nice holiday dinner. This recipe wasn't really hard, just a lot of steps. Next time I promise something really easy. Until then, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spiced Lamb Chops with Mint Yogurt & Pistachios

"Here comes Peter Cottontail,
Hoppin' down the bunny trail,
Hippity, hoppity, Easter's on its way...."

It's all in the planning. Mise your place and everything will be OK. Holiday meals need to be planned ahead, just so you can keep your sanity on the actual day.

But things are a little different when you're a Crabby Cook who writes a food blog. Being a blogger means that I have to prep meals at least a week ahead of the actual holiday, just so that I have something to post.

In the year this site has been up, the Crabby household has had multiple Thanksgivings, a couple of Christmas dinners, two New Year's Eve celebrations and three or four Easters. I try different recipes and sometimes multiple presentations. No sacrifice is too great for my tribe. In short, we suffer and eat so you don't have to.

Today's no different. Easter Sunday looms on the horizon. We need something to calm the Crabby masses. I toyed with the idea of rabbit, but SSSal thought some people would be put off by eating a bunny on Easter. So it's back to lamb. Last year I gave you a grilled Hoisin marinated butterflied leg o' lamb. This year it's chops.

This recipe originally called for revoltingly expensive lamb tenderloins. I chose to use only nauseatingly expensive lamb loin chops. The chops have great flavor, grill wonderfully and can withstand a long marinade time. This meal has a strong Middle Eastern influence, employing a handful of fragrant spices. So without further adieu, and before I get my hands on a bunny rabbit, enjoy...

Spiced Lamb Chops with Mint Yogurt & Pistachios
from delicious magazine, volume 5 issue 11 plus some Crabby tweaks
serves 4

8 Thick-cut (1 1/2") Lamb Loin Chops
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground allspice
3 teaspoons ground sumac*
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 TBSP chopped pistachios

Mint Yogurt

1 cup plain yogurt
3 TBSP finely chopped mint
3 TBSP Honey

For the Lamb:

Place the chops, garlic and olive oil in a large non-reactive pan. Turn to coat.

In a small bowl, combine the coriander, cumin, sumac and salt. Liberally sprinkle the seasonings onto the lamb, turning to cover all sides.

Refrigerate the lamb for at least 20 minutes and up to 8 hours (the longer the better - overnight if you have time).

Remove the lamb from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes prior to grilling and allow to come to room temperature.

Preheat your grill on high.

While the grill is heating, combine all the ingredients for the mint yogurt in a large bowl. Note: I found the yogurt a bit sweet, so add the honey in stages until you get to your desired sweetness.

Grill the lamb 4 - 5 minutes per side (for medium-rare) or to your desired doneness. Allow to rest 5 minutes, garnish with the chopped pistachios and serve with the mint yogurt. To finish up the theme, make SSSal's Carrot Cake for dessert.

* Sumac is a lemony Middle Eastern spice that can be difficult to find. If you are unable to find sumac, add a tablespoon of grated lemon zest to the rub.

There you are crablings. All the work for this meal comes in remembering to start marinating as soon as possible. OK, I'm not sure what I'll post next time, either the salad you see with the lamb or another fish recipe or maybe dessert. Until next time, remember, you can do it you can cook.

Yes, I'm aware that pistachios are the latest death food under recall, but I had some old ones sitting around and used those.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Barbecued Orange Whitefish

We all do things we're no supposed to. We drink too much. We eat too much. We stay up too late.

Sooner or later we have to pay the piper.

Maybe it's a hangover, maybe it's a sunburn, but like the old saying goes, no good deed (or bad) goes unpunished.

It's April and time to start thinking about how we're going to be looking this summer. The projections aren't too good. After a quick inspection I realize I've slipped into the dreaded PP nieghborhood, Pale and Pudgy.

I'm not fat mind you, just a little too squishy here and there. It's nothing that buying and ignoring a few exercise videos won't cure. The pale part's a little tougher to ignore. It's gotten so bad for me that some guy Ahab has been stalking me for the last three weeks. During winter and spring in Michigan we revert to counting individual sun rays, forget anything approaching tanning.

Well it's still too soon to find any sun, and tanning booths remind me too much of human microwaves. So I'll attack what I can. Yes it's time to go on a diet. But don't worry it won't last; truth is, it may only last for this one recipe.

In the spirit of over-consumption, here's a recipe for barbecued whitefish. As many of you know there is a recommended limit on how many whitefish you're supposed to consume. Something about dioxins or mercury or uranium-238 in the flesh, I don't know. Normally if someone tells me there's a limit on how many you should eat , I just set the bar at 0 and everyone walks away happy. But whitefish is tasty and light, so let's take it easy and enjoy...

Barbecued Orange Whitefish
from all-seafood-recipes.com

2/3 cup orange juice
Zest of 1 orange, grated
6 TBSP Sherry
6 TBSP olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP prepared creole mustard (original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

4 (6-ounce) whitefish fillets (tilapia or sole would make a good substitute)
Orange Wedges for garnish

Combine the first eight ingredients in a large jar. Shake well to combine.

Place the whitefish fillets in a single layer in a glass or other non-reactive pan.

Pour the marinade over the fish and refrigerate for 30 - 45 minutes.

While the fish is marinading preheat your grill or broiler over high heat.

Remove the filets and transfer the marinade to a medium size saucepan.

Bring the marinade to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook while the fish is grilling.

Cook the fish until opaque and flaky, about 4 - 5 minutes per 1/2 inch of thickness, (total cooking time), carefully turning the fish halfway through the cooking time.

Serve the fillets, drizzling with the simmered sauce and garnish with orange wedges.

OK crablings, that was pretty easy and very fast. No excuses, time to get ready for summer. I'm off to work up a sweat watching yoga DVD, until next time remember, you can do it, you can cook.