Valentine’s Day Surf and Turf on the Cheap

Many a Valentines Schmalentines have been spent drinking alone in a bubble bath. I’m not a fan of Hallmark holidays in general, and especially ones that also, typically, break most people’s New Years resolutions.

But I have to say, this Valentine’s Day rocked. We opted to stay in and cook, and did a damn fine job of it, too. I pulled some pork chops out of the freezer, and we found a really good bargain on seafood at the grocery store this week. Add some crusty bread and roasted asparagus, and voila! Delish. And inexpensive.

This feast of pork, lobster tails and opilio crab is likely to cost at least $25 an entree at a restaurant, plus wine, plus valet, plus tip, plus stupid traffic (and the traffic WAS extremely stupid that day). We figured we came in at about two for the price of one, BOGO, if you will, and didn’t have to put shoes on. Win win.

Prepping the dinner table
Prepping the dinner table
Crab + bread = winning
Crab + bread = winning

Boiled Crab Legs

(courtesy of Betty Crocker, and in case you missed this recipe the first time…)

In a big, covered soup pot, boil water seasoned with Old Bay, lemon wedges, parsley, and celery.

When water is boiling, drop crab in until submerged and cover.

If not able to fully submerge, turn the crab occasionally to ensure equal cooking time.

For live crab, cook until pink, about 20 minutes. The legs from the grocery store take about half that time.

Remove from pot, cool until able to handle, and serve with melted butter doused with lemon juice.

Prepping for Strawberry Shortcake (but this is the topic of another post...)
Prepping for Strawberry Shortcake (but this is the topic of another post…)
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Check out those legs!

It’s not often that workaholics get a weeknight off for a dinner party, but when we do, we take full advantage. The polar vortex doesn’t hurt the urge for R & R either.

Philip shows off his legs
Philip shows off his legs

Friend Philip had a hankering for crab legs, and the GF and I were the lucky beneficiaries of his craving. Here’s the thing: crab legs look really impressive, and they are surprisingly simple to make as long as you have a big pot.

Salted water, boiling, add crab, 3-5 min, voila!

Philip added some fancy stuff to the water, and you can get creative with things like herbs, lemon, Old Bay, etc., but the base recipe is all the same. For king crab (go big or go home), you may need to finagle, tuck, and adjust your legs to make sure all parts are cooked, or, get a bigger pot.

For sides, Philip went with twice baked potatoes (yum), almond crusted asparagus (YUM), and we *may* have shared a bottle of wine on a school night. It’s fine, right?

Yeah, I bet you wish you were Philip’s friend too.

Mussels are Delicious! and Easy!

photo 1 (1)

Why mussels? Because we felt like having a fancy dinner and they were $5 per pound cheaper than shrimp. I’ve had mussels, like, twice, and enjoyed them, but preparing them was a pretty frightening thought.

Good thing it’s Halloween.

When you bring mussels home from the store (and I fully admit that these were not sourced anywhere even remotely close to the Midwest), they’re given to you in a bag of ice and it’s important to leave the bag open. No ice and a twistie tie = no bueno. Another admission: this recipe was picked up at the deli counter at Jewel and I had very little to do with the preparation of the mussels. I was on sides, where were also delicious and easy. So here’s the whole meal:

photo 3

The Perfect Mussel Meal

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb mussels
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 TB butter
  • Dash salt
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 TB fresh minced garlic
  • 1/4 C. cheap white wine
  • 1/4 C. each finely chopped basil and parsley

Directions:

  1. Add olive oil, butter, salt, red pepper, and garlic to a large sauté pan or wok and bring to a simmer
  2. Add mussels, herbs, and wine. Cover and bring to a boil (5 min)
  3. Make sure all the mussels have opened, and pour them with the sauce into a large bowl to serve

photo 2 (1)The Sides!

I chose small potatoes, brussel sprouts, fennel and pearl onions for roasting as a side with the mussels. Par boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes, the sprouts for about six, until they are all just beginning to get soft. Drain and pat dry, then spread the potatoes, fennel bulb and pearl onions on a baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle olive oil and salt over everything and roast for about 10 minutes in a 350-deg oven. After 10 minutes, add the brussel sprouts to the baking sheet (pre-drizzled and salted), and roast  everything for another 10 minutes.

Serve all of this with a crock of melted butter and lemon wedges (or, just add a splash of lemon juice to the butter), a hunk of crusty bread, an empty bowl for the shells, a glass of wine, and extra napkins. I realize that chilled white wine probably would have been better than red, but the bottle was already open. For fun, we also grilled some small chicken thighs for the meal.

Who would have thought such an extravagant meal was so easy to make?

…and so beautifully delicious.

photo 4
The aftermath

Low Country Boil on the High Plains

Of the many good moments I’ve had here in Wyoming, perhaps one of the best was this meal.  In honor of Father’s Day and Julie’s birthday, our excellent home stay family (and, coincidently, very good friends) created a full-on New England boil.  The last time I had a boil was circa 1989 when a bunch of relatives shipped live Maine lobsters for a family reunion to California.  In Wyoming a boil is less seafood-y for obvious reasons – quality seafood is not easily found smack dab in the middle of the country.  Confidentially this was better (sorry, Grammy).

Low Country Boiltumblr_moil3eGmrF1qmywbko1_500

(recipe courtesy of Mandy Love)

  • 3 halved lemons
  • 1/2 tin Old Bay
  • 3 bottles of dark beer
  • Small potatoes
  • Kielbasa
  • pearl onions
  • Corn cobs, halved
  • Crab legs
  • Artichokes
  • Shrimp (deveined, uncooked)
  • Mussels

Instructions:

In a massive stock pot, fill about 1/2 or 2/3 with water and add lemons, Old Bay, and Beer to the pot.  Bring to a boil.

The aftermath...
The aftermath…

The quantities of each of the ingredients is somewhat up to you, and how much room you have in the pot.

Cooking times are as follows:

  • Potatoes, Kielbasa and onions: 10 minutes
  • Corn, Crab, Artichokes: 5 minutes
  • Shrimp and mussels: 4-5 minutes

Drain, dump, and dig in.  The only thing that makes this more delicious is a dipping bowl of melted butter

Late Night Catechism… and by catechism, I mean pork roast

Old Faithful strikes again….

Working in the arts often means keeping strange hours.  Lately I’ve been getting home from work between 10:30 and 11:30pm.  The typical nightly ritual of nine-to-fivers who come home, eat dinner, watch some TV, and go to bed is pretty much out the window in my house since by the time I get home I’ve already eaten dinner.  If I’m lucky, I have enough energy to drink a beer and fall asleep on the couch to the first 15 minutes of Project Runway on the DVR… Anyway, my co-worker Tony was gloating on Friday about his ingenuity in reshaping the theater schedule to include more home-cooked meals.

Enter, once again, the magical slow cooker

I’m all about multi-tasking, and what better way to multi-task than to cook dinner for tomorrow while you’re sleeping!  So, instead of the aforementioned 15 minutes of Project Runway I threw the typical meat-veg-liquid combination in the slow cooker and this morning I’m greeted by this:

Friday nights just got a little crazier in my house.  I might be doing this often…

Overnight Pork Roast

Ingredients:

  • Pork Shoulder (with or without bone)
  • Vegetable of choice (something sturdy like carrots, potatoes, onions, and celery), cut into big chunks
  • Liquid (water or broth)
  • S & P, or, a seasoning mix like Adobo

Loosely place the veggies on the bottom of your slow cooker and rest the meat on top. Rub salt and pepper or spice mix onto the pork shoulder and cover with liquid.  Set cooker on low to cook overnight and grab a beer.

Football food: Pulled Pork and Coleslaw

In my household, football is a big deal.  My coping mechanism has been to come up with meal ideas that celebrate what I consider to be the best part of football season: food, beer, and the occasional social gathering.  I first got the idea of pulled pork in the slow cooker from our friend Mandy Love in Gillette, WY (who’s kids made it for dinner, I might add (that’s how easy this is)).  I paired the sandwiches with a delicious slaw of my own invention.  I’ve tried out this cabbage slaw on three people who “don’t like coleslaw”… and it’s worked every time.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • Pork Roast (approximately 3 lb.)
  • 1-2 C. Chicken Stock (homemade, of course)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Mandy’s Special Sauce*
    • Ketchup
    • Worcestershire Sauce
    • Apple Cider Vinegar
    • Onion powder
    • Ketchup
    • Honey
  • *OR* pre-made BBQ sauce

Put the sliced onion on the bottom of your slow cooker.  Rest the pork roast on top and pour chicken stock over it.  Season with salt and pepper and cook on low for 5-7 hours.

Remove the roast from the cooker and dispose of the liquid and onions.  When cool enough to handle, tear into shreds and return to the cooker.  Add sauce and heat on low or warm setting until ready to serve. Mandy didn’t give me specific quantities for her ingredients, and I have to imagine that this sauce can be made a thousand different ways and still be good.  So play around with it until you find the combination you like.

Not-from-the-Grocery-Store Cabbage Slaw

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head cabbage (red, green, napa, no matter), cut in small strips (chiffonade)
  • Big glob of mayo, light mayo, or Miracle Whip
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Add-ins: my favorites include shredded carrots, diced tart apple (like granny smith or macintosh), walnuts, dried cranberries, and grapes (sliced in half).  Pickled beets are also a great treat in this recipe.

Fluff cabbage in a bowl and mix in mayo and salt and pepper.  The amounts of these ingredients is kind of up to you, but I suggest not going too heavy on the mayo… that’s what makes it taste like it’s from the grocery store.  Just enough that the cabbage isn’t dry.  Fold in the other ingredients and enjoy, or chill and eat later once the flavors have combined.  Eat as a side, or mix in some protein like leftover chicken or pork and take it for lunch in place of a sandwich!

What happened to What’s in the Box? and, a recipe for tacos

I’ll tell you what happened.

I couldn’t keep up.

and then I went on vacation.

and then, I thought, those posts just didn’t seem that interesting to me anyway.

So I ditched the weekly updates on what arrived in my box of deliciousness and opted to spend the time eating said deliciousness instead.  What has resulted is perhaps one of the most culinarily creative summers I’ve had to date, and a REALLY conscious effort to not let anything go to waste.  Once you’ve weeded carrots with your own hands you’ll never let them turn flimsy and brown in the fridge again.

So now comes that point in the post where I share a recipe, and although I can’t take credit for the nifty taco shell because I saw it on The Garden Pantry‘s Facebook Page and had to try it.  The rest?  Leftovers.

Lauren’s Leftover Taco Night

Ingredients:

  • Corn tortillas (make sure they are good quality and extra soft)
  • 1/2 lb. Ground Turkey
  • 1/2 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 onion, diced
  • shredded cheese
  • sour cream
  • avocado
  • cilantro
  • lime
  • whatever veg is in your fridge: I used lettuce, scallions, cherry tomatoes

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 375 deg-F.  Using a muffin pan turned upside down, press tortillas into the notches and spray with cooking spray.  Bake 10 minutes for cute little crispy taco shells.

Brown the ground turkey in a skillet coated in non-stick cooking spray over medium high heat.  Add the taco seasoning and diced onion and cook until onion is soft and translucent.  Place turkey aside on a plate covered in paper towel to drain oil.

Prepare your tacos in the shells.  with the meat on the bottom.  Add your toppings, squeeze some fresh lime juice over the top, and pour yourself a margarita.