Sunday, February 28, 2010

Seafood for Dinner

The Foodie Boyfriend* wasn't over on Saturday,
so it seemed a perfect time to have
shrimp and scallops for dinner.

the Foodie Boyfriend is allergic to shrimp.

The food is plated.

Seared bacon-wrapped scallops and
shrimp, some bacon-wrapped and some plain,
are drizzled with an Orange Whiskey Barbecue Sauce.
White rice, cooked and then mixed with a bit of
Half-and-Half and sugar,
is served with the seafood.
A fresh salad of Romaine lettuce,
sugar snap peas,
red onion
and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
accompany the meal.

I first peeled the shrimp
before wrapping the scallops and a few of the shrimp
with fully-cooked bacon,
securing with toothpicks.

In the meantime, the Foodie Daughter set to work
on the Orange Whiskey Barbecue Sauce.

She mixed the ingredients to taste -
a little of this,
a little of that -
until the sauce had the desired consistency
and taste.

When the rice was about 10 minutes from being finished
cooking, I got to work on the seafood.

As the scallops take longer to cook,
I started on them first.
A bit of olive oil in a hot pan,
some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
were the only seasonings.

Allow the scallops to brown,
developing their natural sugars.
This is called caramelization.

When they were just barely done
(and preferably just shy of that point),
I took them out of the pan and placed them
in a warm oven
before turning my attention to the shrimp.

Again, sea salt and black pepper seasoned the seafood.
The shrimp needed only a couple of minutes on the first side
and perhaps just a minute more on the second side.

Do not overcook seafood.
It will become dry and rubbery.
Definitely not good eats.

The scallops were cooked to perfection.
Remember, it is better for these to be just a bit underdone.

The sauce was light and flavorful.

The shrimp were divine,
although I really didn't think that the bacon
added all that much to the experience.

All in all, this was a very satisfying meal.
And that was good eats.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A New Old Find
Looky at what I found at a local antique mall this week:
it's an antique oak buffet.

I have had this piece of furniture in mind for some time now,
and I really needed the storage space that a piece such as this
could provide.
I just didn't realize that I would hit pay dirt
the very first time out.
I found this beauty on sale for just $335.75 plus tax.

I'm a happy antiques shopper.

A Disappointing Lunch

Once again I decided to eat lunch at

What can I say,
I like to take myself out to lunch every
once in a while.

I hoped that the Lobster Club was available this time.

It was, so I ordered it along with the french fries.

The Lobster Club was described as being a
Maine lobster salad on toasted sourdough with lettuce,
tomato and smoked bacon.

This with the fries was $12.

Sadly, the lobster was overcooked and dry.
The bread was toasted a bit too much for my liking
and tore up my mouth.

I am not a fan of steak house fries as they are never
crispy enough for me.

This was still a very tasty sandwich

and I am sure that I just caught them on a bad day.

Hey, we all have those.


I've had worse meals,
but given my past experiences at Chapman's,
I was expecting better.


But not to worry,
I won't be giving up on this restaurant.

And besides,

the service was wonderful

and the ambience was divine.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lasagna for Dinner

Once in a while I feel the need for some good lasagna.

Friday was just such a day.

I don't often make this dish

as it is a rather labor-intensive dish involving

several steps and more than a few dirty pots and pans.

The first order of business was to make the sauce.

Now, don't get me wrong;

if you have a favorite jarred pasta sauce,

you may certainly use that.

This time I wanted to make my own sauce.

My assembled ingredients are:

1 can (15 oz.) petite diced tomatoes

1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce

1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste

1/2 tablespoon dried Herbes de Provence

(hush, they are typically the same herbs

used in many Northern Italian herb blends)

1/2 carrot, grated

1 clove garlic, grated

1/4 cup onion, minced

salt, to taste

sugar, to taste

Not pictured:

olive oil

Italian red wine

Did you notice Minx watching from the table?
Don't worry, he wasn't near any food.
He just wanted to see what was going on in the kitchen.

I sauteed the onion and carrot in a bit of olive oil until translucent,
before adding the garlic and the can of tomato paste.

The diced tomatoes and tomato sauce were added.

I then decided to add about 1/4 cup of a dry Italian red wine.

The Herbes de Provence were stirred in
before I added salt and sugar to taste.

I allowed this to simmer for about an hour.

It was time to move on to the meats for the dish.
I had planned on adding one pound of ground beef
along with a couple of my homemade pork sausage patties.

Then I saw Rosie Hawthorne's post on lasagna in her blog,
Kitchens are Monkey Business,
so I decided to add the two slices of prosciutto (chopped)
that were left from another dish.

The meats were sauteed until browned
and the fat was drained.

The ingredients for the Ricotta mixture were assembled.
Here I have the Ricotta,
Herbes de Provence
and a couple of egg yolks
(left over from making beef consomme)

I also followed Rosie Hawthorne's advice and added some salt to the Ricotta cheese mixture.

That's ready.

I also grated one pound of mozzarella cheese
and about a cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

After cooking the store-bought pasta*,
I began assembly.
First a layer of tomato sauce,
then the pasta.
some of the grated mozzarella cheese.
Then more pasta,
cheeses (including the Parigiano-Reggiano),
etc. until all ingredients are used.
*I'm no Rosie Hawthorne. I didn't make my own pasta for this dish.

And after dirtying
3 pots and pans and lids,
3 bowls,
1 cutting mat,
2 graters,
1 baking dish,
1 knife,
1 peeler
and several other utensils.
I told you this is labor-intensive
as well as a labor of love.
And there's a reason I only make this once or twice a year.

I baked this at 350 degrees for one hour.
The pan was covered with foil for the first half-hour
(thanks, Rosie Hawthorne, for the tip about using toothpicks.
The Foodie Daughter wondered why
I had never thought of doing so.).

Allow the dish to rest for at least 15 minutes
before slicing and serving.

A fresh salad with Romaine lettuce, red onion,
candied pecans
and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano accompanied the lasagna.

This was good, but I know it will be even better
when I reheat it for Sunday's dinner.

So good and it was definitely worth all the trouble.

Winter at the Lake

Since we seem to have an abundance of snow,

I thought I would share some pictures with you.
I know how much some of you* love the snow.
*And you know who you are.

The snow has been melting,
creating icicles.

Snow on the roof.

Check out the dropped icicles.


The sun was shining brightly Friday morning,

so I decided to take a detour on my way home from town.

Now those are some serious icicles.

I decided to drive down to the dam at Lake Monroe.

The U.S. Armu Corp of Engineers can't seem to decide

what our fair lake is called.

They alternate between calling it Monroe Lake and

Monroe Reservoir.

But what do they know?

We know that the real name is

Lake Monroe.

The dam at Lake Monroe.

The Overlook affords some nice views of the lake.

Then I decided to drive down to the dam.

The view from the dam.

Salt Creek below the dam.

Water flows from the dam.

Check out this old post to see what the flow looks like

during flood conditions.

Quite a difference.
This picture was taken in May of 2002.

Back to the present.
Patterns in the water.

Salt Creek.

The Overlook is at the top of the hill in the center of the photo.

As I was already out,
I decided to drive over to Fairfax State Recreational Area
before heading home.
This time of year I don't have to pay to get in the gate.

Some of the larger boats stay in the water all winter.

Sailboats "parked" for the winter.
I hope you enjoyed our little jaunt.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Char Siu

My favorite dish
at my favorite Chinese restaurant is
otherwise known as Char Siu,
or Chinese Barbecue Pork.

This dish is crispy, a bit sweet and delicious.

I really want to recreate this dish at home

and have looked long and hard to find a suitable recipe.

There are many recipes for Char Siu out there,

so then it was a matter of picking and choosing which one to try.

Char Siu/Char Siew


is pronounced "chow shoo"

and it means "fork burn/roast."

Char Siu is a popular Cantonese dish.

I finally decided on a recipe for Char Siu
and went to the grocery store to pick out some pork.
Typically, pork belly is used,
but as that cut of meat is not easy to find
in my regular grocery store,
I opted to get pork shoulder blade steak instead.
Bonus, it was on sale for $1.29 a pound.
Here I have gathered:
the pork shoulder blade steak,
1 tablespoon honey,
1/4 cup Tamari,
2 tablespoons sherry,
a pinch of cinnamon,
1 tablespoon brown sugar,
1 green onion sliced in half,
1 clove garlic grated,
and 2 teaspoons red food coloring.

I cut the meat from the bone and trimmed away much of the fat.
I then sliced the meat into strips.

Then the marinade ingredients were mixed together and were combined with the meat in a zip-top bag.

I allowed this to marinate for about three hours.

I lined a roasting pan with foil before placing the rack in the pan.
Then the strips of meat were placed on the rack.
One cup of water was poured into the bottom of the pan.

This roasted at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
I boiled the remaining marinade for one minute
and then used that to occasionally baste the meat.

Jasmine rice and stir-fried veggies accompanied our Char Siu.

The meat was tender and quite tasty,
but it lacked that crispy exterior that I like.
I will be making this dish again,
but with the following changes:
for ease of handling,
I won't cut the meat into such small pieces,
I will double the amount of the marinade,
leaving the measurement for the food coloring the same,
I will substitute a pinch of Chinese Five Spice powder
for the cinnamon,
I will reserve half the marinade for basting
and I will be setting the temperature
of the oven to 375 or 400 degrees.

There were no leftovers from this meal,
so I'd say it was an overall success.
That doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement,