Canapolooza 2016

One might call it a Labor Day tradition: a gathering of many hands, a pitcher of sangria, and an unreasonably large quantity of tomatoes in a Rogers Park kitchen for the annual Canapolooza. In case you missed it, this is what happened:

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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…)

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

Tomatillo Overload!

tumblr_mrsalwwBTk1qmywbko1_500The canning begins…

Just as I’m preparing to go back to school for another semester we are reaching a critical point in the season in which Lauren buys a ridiculous amount of produce in an effort to overstock her pantry with Ball jars full of food for the winter.

It’s about to get crazy in that little kitchen in the city.

On a whim, I bought six quarts of tomatillos at the Andersonville Farmers Market from my friends at Midnight Sun and decided it would be a good idea to have enough salsa verde around to withstand the apocalypse…. this is how I did it:

Tomatillo Salsa

(recipe courtesy of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

Ingredients:

  • 5-1/2 cups chopped, cored, husked tomatillos
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped seeded green peppers (your choice of heat… I used a bunch of banana peppers and one jalapeno with a few of the seeds for the whole batch, because I’m not a “burn your face off salsa” kind of  girl.
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 4 tsp lime juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 TB finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes

tumblr_mrsg0rifqb1qmywbko1_500Prepare your canner, jars and lids.*

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree until semi-smooth.

Ladle or pour hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace in the jars. Gently remove air bubbles by poking into the jar with a knife and adding salsa as needed. Wipe rim, center seal on jar, and screw band down until fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes.  Remove canner lid, wait 5 min, then remove jars, cool, and store.

*You’ll need a big soup pot that’s deep enough to submerge your jars in water. Place empty jars in pot and fill with water until jars are covered. Heat over med-high heat while you prepare salsa. This will sterilize the jars and heat them (hot salsa into hot jars to process).  Bands and seals should be gently heated in a small saucepan until ready to use.

Makes about two pint jars.  I, of course, quadrupled the recipe to get the haul you see here…

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