Dinner with the Family in PA

While in Pennsylvania with Dane’s family over the holidays (yes, I realize that was a month ago, but things have been hectic), Dane got inspired and decided to make a several course meal inspired by the area of Italy where his family is from. Dane spent some time researching the Campobasso region, and came up with an awesome menu. Pasta e fagioli, lamb, pollenta, bruschetta, asparagus, steamed clams, stuffed peppers. And that didn’t include dessert.

We spent all day cooking the different courses of the meal. Everyone kept commenting on how much work we were doing, and how tired we must be. Not us though. We just love to do it. We tried to prep, cook, and eat in the midst of it all. We learned it’s an fine art to be able to time about 5 courses of food just right so that things stay hot, but we aren’t starting from scratch for every single course. Somehow, we pulled it off.

We started off with pasta e fajioli. This is pronounced pasta (hopefully you can get that one on your own) e (ee) fajioli (fa-jo-li). Usually when you see this on a menu or hear it said, it sounds like “pasta fazool”. Dane slipped and pronounced it wrong at first, but his awesome Uncle Bob quickly corrected us. I will never make the mistake again!

Then some snacks in the form of tomato, fresh mozzarella and prosciutto, along with traditional bruschetta. There’s the  idea that bruschetta refers to the tomato/garlic/basil topping that is often served with bread. Traditionally, bruschetta is actually the toasted bread itself, rubbed with olive oil and garlic. The tomato mixture is just a bonus you can put on top.

I was in charge of a few aspects of the meal, including my stuffed bell peppers.  This is the largest batch I’ve made of them, and they were a bit hit for the third course. And they’re great as leftovers!

Dane got an entire leg of lamb. I’ve never made lamb before, so this was an interesting experience for me. He cut it into steaks that he seasoned and grilled.

And because lamb wasn’t enough on its own, he also did baked cod with capers, olives, and garlic.

And asparagus.

And just when we needed a little extra help in the kitchen, we got a visit from Dane’s nephew, Jesse Oliver. Dane tried teaching him about cooking, but I think he was more interested in eating it.

Last we had steamed clams and linguine. There was so much food to go around! We definitely slept really well that night in our food comas.

Thanks to my hubby for our amazing dinner! I think we need to keep working on our timing for multiple course meals. It’s not something you do often. At least we don’t. Maybe we need to plan some dinner parties soon to keep practicing!

Anyone have tips for us?

In the Kitchen with Dad: Steamed Clams, Pasta, and Clam Sauce

My Dad is the best. Over the holidays, I decided that my Dad needed to do some culinary exploring. And I knew that he would be more than happy to do some cooking with me.

Growing up I always remember my Dad for making those big delicious meals. On a Sunday I’d get up to see that he’d already gone to the store and picked up a turkey, or a flank steak (my personal favorite, right Dad?), or the makings for a delicious summer barbeque. You know, the kinds of meals that you could just eat and eat and eat. Until you felt ready to explode. Then you’d have some more. Oh, and he makes the BEST scrambled eggs with corned beef hash. No joke.

So for Christmas, Dad got some gourmet gifts from O & Co. on Newbury Street. The ingredients for a great dinner: chili infused olive oil, basil pesto, olives, and pici pasta. He was a happy camper, and even happier when I told him this meant he had to make dinner with me, and that steamed clams would be involved.

To find clams, we ended up at about 5 different stores. We obviously decided to do this the same day the blizzard hit NY, but we were persistent, and we finally found Cherry Stone clams to use. In a blizzard. Some things in life are important.

Pasta and Clam Sauce with Steamed Clams

Ingredients for the Pasta and Clam Sauce:

  • 1 pound of pasta (recommended: fettuccine, linguine, or spaghetti – we used the pici pasta, but that’s not so easy to find)
  • Olive oil
  • Chili infused olive oil (optional)
  • 1/2 a medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 small cans (6.5 oz each) Snow’s Bumblebee chopped clams
  • 1/4 cup of the liquid from the steamed clams

Ingredients for the Steamed Clams:

  • Fresh Littleneck or Cherry Stone clams (we used 36 Cherry Stone clams, but use as many as you want)
  • Olive oil
  • Chile infused olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced finely
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup of a white wine (pick one you like)

To prepare the clams, submerge them in a large bowl with cold water. This will help any dirt come out of the clams before cooking. I let them sit for about an hour before I started cooking. Also, put on the water for the pasta to come to a boil.

In a large pot, add both olive oils for the steamed clams over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and let them cook until they turn translucent.

Drain the clams well, then transfer them to the pot. Add the white wine and cover. Let the clams steam over medium heat. Once they open fully, they will be ready to eat. This took about 25 minutes.

While the clams are steaming, add both olive oils for the sauce to a large pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook about 5 minutes. Add the olives and tomatoes, and reduce heat to medium-low. Let cook while you wait for the pasta water to boil, stirring occasionally.

Once water is boiled, add pasta and cook according to directions.The pici pasta took at least 20 minutes to cook. It is a much thicker pasta, which needed more time than the usual fettuccine or linguine.

With about 4 minutes left on the pasta, add the chopped clams and liquid from the steamed clams to the sauce. Stir and let simmer for about another 5-10 minutes before serving.

At this point, your clams should be ready and open. Discard any that did not open.

Serve the sauce over the pasta, with the steamed clams on the side to enjoy together.

Everything was so good. The chili infused olive oil gave it just a slight kick in the back of your throat, very slight but a great flavor.

Thanks for cooking with me Daddy! He asked if we cold make it again for breakfast the next morning, so I think it’s safe to assume he liked it. I already have our next meal together planned out.

We also made some toasted bread by cutting up Italian bread, brushing both sides with olive oil, then toasting it under the broiler of the oven for about 2 minutes per side. We used the basil pesto as a spread and it was awesome.

And the best part about cooking? The unspoken rule is that if you cook, everyone else cleans. Thanks to our clean-up crew: my sister Melissa, her boyfriend George, and my little munchkin Abby, who just loves to help.

Ready for our next meal Dad?

The Red House, Cambridge

This was a night that happened completely on accident, but ended up being perfect. I had plans with friends to go out for dinner, when I got a call from my colleague at work. I had our corporate card, which she needed for an event that night, meaning I had to drive to Cambridge to meet her and drop off the card. I was so disappointed to be missing this dinner date with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I grumpily headed to Cambridge while Dane tried to keep my spirits up.

We got to Cambridge, found parking (shockingly), and started walking around when we found this little place. The Red House looked really cute and was on a quiet street (well, more of a large path that could accommodate cars, but was really for pedestrians) with outdoor seating. We kept it in mind as we went to meet my co-worker.

After we made the drop, we headed right back over and decided that since we were in the neighborhood anyway, we might as well enjoy a dinner together. We walked straight back to The Red House and opted for seating on the deck outside, which had a great view of all the passersby.

We ordered up some wine, and I was feeling much better about our evening. Then we ordered dinner, and all memory of having been disappointed was all gone.

I went with a seasonal soup that was a special of the day, spinach soup with crab meat, for a starter. For dinner I ordered Fettuccine Bolognese, and Dane ordered the Stuffed Lobster.

My soup was absolutely delicious. The ingredients were fresh and seasonal, and the Rock Crab meat added a nice texture and flavor. The soup actually had a little kick to it, which was a nice surprise. My entree was also great. The meat sauce was hearty and the pasta perfectly al dente.

Dane loved his lobster. I think we might have had a little too much fun with it though.

The lobster was incredibly filling, according to Dane, which is no surprise since it was stuffed with shrimp, scallops, and bread crumbs. Besides tasting great, we obviously had fun with the meal.

Thanks Red House, for an unexpected and much appreciated, great meal!

Red House on Urbanspoon

7 Fishes

A few days before New Year’s Eve, I made my annual 7 fish dinner for my family. This is normally a tradition for Christmas Eve, but since we spent Christmas Eve in NY I had to wait a few days. The wait was worth it.

That morning I decided that I wanted to include lobster bisque in the menu. It’s one of my favorites, but I’d never made it before. Kristen found some good recipes online, and I ended up combining a few to get the final product. It was a long process.

One of the recipes called for four 1 pound lobsters. I couldn’t find fresh lobsters, so I got lobster tails instead. Here are the rest of the ingredients (as I used them):

Lobster and Corn Bisque

  • 3 lobster tails
  • fresh thyme
  • bay leaves
  • 2 large potatoes
  • corn (canned or fresh)
  • bacon
  • 2 cups of light cream
  • 1/4 cup of butter

First, boil the three lobster tails for about 5 minutes. The recipe I had said 3-4 minutes, but I did a few more since the tails were frozen. You don’t want the lobster to be totally cooked because it will cook more in the bisque. Chop the meat into bite sized pieces and put it aside for later.

Take the lobsters out and take all the meat out. Put the shells back into the water you first boiled and add the thyme and 2 bay leaves. You should have about 8-10 cups of water in the pot (that might mean you have to pour some out before putting the shells back in). Bring the water to a simmer and let the lobster shells and herbs simmer for about an hour and a half to make the stock. It will reduce a bit.

After an hour and a half, strain the stock to get all the solids out. Put the stock aside and get started on the bisque.

Peel and dice the potatoes to about a 1/4 inch dice. Cook the bacon to render the fat. You won’t need the bacon for the bisque, so feel free to eat it. Add the potatoes to the bacon fat and cook until tender. Add the corn near the end to heat it up.

I used corn because one of the recipes I found was for lobster corn bisque and I just like corn. You don’t have to add it if you don’t want it.

Once the potatoes and corn are heated and tender, add the two cups of light cream and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Now add the stock until the bisque is the consistency you want. Then add the lobster back in and stir together. Let the bisque simmer for 15 minutes. Right before you serve it, add the butter and stir in.

At the same time as this, I was making a few other things. We had…

And there’s more. For hors’doeuvres we had fresh mozzarella with tomato and basil, calamari, shrimp cocktail, pan seared scallops, kalamata olives, and sundried tomatoes. We also made linguine with clams steamed in garlic, shallots, and white wine.

We’ll see what I come up with next year!

Oh, and another big development. Last year Kristen was my sous chef for this meal. This year I promoted her to Co-Chef for all her hard work. She made the green beans, and clams herself and was definitely a big help.

- Dane

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