Lobster pot pie

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It’s Friday and there's a line up of social activities to attend to. This is what you get when you pair a somewhat-social-person like me up with a super-social-person like P – an endless array of weekend festivities. I’m normally a massive fan of these shenanigans, but today, I just want to go home and cook up a lobster pot pie.

Why lobster pot pie? You might ask.

Well (to me at least), lobster pot pie lies right smack in the epicentre where luxury and classic comfort food meet. I mean, what can be more decadent than filling a humble flaky golden pastry with generous chunks of succulent lobster meat, smothering it all in a velveteen roux of white sauce with hints of onion, fennel and a ton of butter and baked to heavenly goodness? Nothing is more decadent. Nothing is more delicious. Few things make me happier than chowing down on a luscious little pot of lobster pie.

You know what’s tragic? A decent pot of lobster pie is practically impossible to find on this tiny island of ours. And somehow, the thought of wrestling live lobsters on a Friday night kind of kills the magic – I used to buy my lobster in nice medium sized chunks that came wrapped in white paper packaging, all ready to slip right into the stew with no further ado. I miss the convenience of American grocery stores.

So I’ll have to save these culinary dreams for another night, but in the event you’re up to the challenge, may I recommend Ina Garten’s take on it? It’s delightful, and you can cheat with store-bought pastry to save on time. The best part of this dish is that it goes from oven to table! No need for fancy plating or further fussing around.

Damn I want a luscious little pot of lobster pie.

Image credit.

Addendum

A friend of mine just sent over the most fabulous read on lobsters. Did you know that

Up until sometime in the 1800s, though, lobster was literally low-class food, eaten only by the poor and institutionalized. Even in the harsh penal environment of early America, some colonies had laws against feeding lobsters to inmates more than once a week because it was thought to be cruel and unusual, like making people eat rats.

Moreover, a crustacean is an aquatic arthropod of the class Crustacea, which comprises crabs, shrimp, barnacles, lobsters, and freshwater crayfish... And an arthropod is an invertebrate member of the phylum Arthropoda, which phylum covers insects, spiders, crustaceans, and centipedes/millipedes, all of whose main commonality, besides the absence of a centralized brain-spine assembly, is a chitinous exoskeleton composed of segments, to which appendages are articulated in pairs

The point is that lobsters are basically giant sea-insects. My brother was right all along!

More reading here.

 

 

    Taco Party

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    I do wish I had better pictures of the impromptu taco party D, P and I put together one random weekday night about 2 weeks ago, but we were so starved by the time we put everything on the table that this was the only image we managed to capture.

    The evening went something like this... Head to Raffles City intending to have dinner... All the restaurants are crowded and/or unenticing... Spot the grocery store... light bulb in head... rush in for random ingredients, decide that Tacos are the best way to tie it altogether, and BOOM you have a week-day-last-minute-taco-party at home.

    This is a meal that will actually take you about 20 minutes to prep and cook - with fresh ingredients, and the right seasoning, everything tasted pretty good.

    • Green salad with tangy garlic-soy dressing.
    • Store bought taco skins toasted on the grill according to box instructions.
    • Two types of taco fillings: (1) Grilled (white) fish with cilantro-salsa-verde dressing and (2) Garlic-seasoned seared beef -- Coat steak in garlic, salt and pepper to taste, then sear to desired doneness, slice and serve.
    • Store-bought enchilada which turned out to be the most tasteless thing on the menu.

    I'm also pretty excited to re-create this over the summer on a much larger scale (pool party anyone?) - think TACO BAR with all kinds of crazy delicious taco-filling options, with giant jugs of pop coloured margaritas on the side. I'll give my friends a month or two to get their bodies bikini-ready for swimsuit season - though it seems like an exercise in futility as I foresee much stuffing-of-faces once the food lands on the tables.

    But yes, very easy idea for entertaining at home, you should try it sometime.

    Brunch at Roomorama HQ

    When P flew the coop a few weeks ago to attend a wedding in Indo, I took the opportunity to play host at Jia's with a bunch of old friends, new friends, common friends and Jia's houseguest (as the co-founder of Roomorama, house sharing is something she firmly believes in!) Thought Catalog published an article sometime in March about the 5 Things We Are All Jealous Of and let me tell you, #4 couldn't ring truer for me and my feelings towards Jia's amazing space.

    4. A perfect apartment.
    “What is this? A bedroom and a charming home office? Is this from Crate & Barrel? Why are there so many kinds of spoons? Why is there a bakery on this street corner — who actually has a bakery? I thought all baked goods came from the Dunkin Donuts stand in the 7/11… Please don’t tell me those are peonies, I can’t even hear the word peonies right now, I’m going to projectile vomit all over this aubergine accent wall. Fuck, this is tasteful.”

    Her stuff isn't from Crate & Barrel, it's from Crate & Barrel's much cooler cousin, West Elm. As for a bakery? Carpenter & Cook is actually in her area (can it get more perfect? Guess what? It can!) Because she has a freaking herb garden on a rooftop. Yes. My friends. A roof top garden that grows some herbs. It's where we got the mint (top picture) for the lychee-mint-coolers. You'll admit that it's much more Kinfolk-worthy than a pot of peonies. Peonies are weak. And her accent wall is brick. Brick. BRICK > Aubergine in my books. So yes, projectile vomit if you please but this girl's pad is pretty much perfect. And she really does have a ridiculous range of kitchen equipment (including one of those giant spades you use to extract pizzas from ovens....), so you can imagine how delighted I was - pretty much died and went to hostess heaven that day.

    Anyhoos, onto our Brunch menu, we had...

    Blini with salmon and caviar - super simple and you can totally cheat with this one. You can either buy pre-made blini (available at Culina and at some Cold Storages) or you can make mini pancakes from your regular from-a-box batter. Then slather on the cream cheese, top with salmon and finely chopped chives, or load up on sour cream and top with caviar. I also tried a fig jam and foie gras combination that turned out spectacularly - so good they never made it to the dining table (therefore no pictures). Perfect bite sized snack for when folks are waiting for everything else to be ready.

    Momofuku poached eggs over green salad - any kind of green salad with your favourite dressing and a healthy portion of Momofuku's super simple poached eggs. I know the idea of poaching eggs scares you (it used to scare me), and then you discover this brilliant recipe and you're like whaaaat - poached eggs all the time! Recipe here.

    Sauteed wild mushrooms - mushrooms. butter. you're done. It's the kind of combination that cannot be beat.

    Roast chicken with grapes and thyme - a long standing favourite of mine (this recipe has outlasted entire relationships), if you've been reading it for a while, you know it's my go-to whenever I don't really have time to fuss around and truss up a chicken right. It is always juicy, tender, and tasty. ALWAYS. Idiot proof is the way to go when you're running on 4 hours of sleep and may or may not still have alcohol in your bloodstream.

    Lemon poppy cake - baked by Woofy. I wish I had a recipe for you. I wish I had a recipe for me. Brilliant stuff.

    Lychee mint coolers - 1 can of lychee+syrup, half a blender of ice, a sprinkling of mint leaves. Blend and you're good to go.

    Fantastically easy. Fabulously tasty. Super Simple. I know I've said that a lot but this is the only way to cook up a storm while you're waiting for the hangover to strike. And I know you suffered through this entire post on food when all you care about is pictures of Jia's fabulous place. So here you go:

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    Are you not suffering from incredible house envy? I am green. Like the plant. Right above. It's not a flattering colour. At all. 

    If you want to staycate here, you totally can! Maybe one day I'll run into you while whipping up brunch. Otherwise, you can check out the rest of the simply fabulous accommodation options around the world over at Roomorama.com!

    Seafood Sundays

    So a week after getting back from Phuket, I missed the sun, sand and seafood so much, I decided to put together a bit of an impromptu post-Phuket do for the crew.

    I love seafood. Really. Shellfish is simply superb, we should celebrate it all the time. And since I can't imagine a life without it, and needed an excuse to get everyone together, I dedicated our dinner to the celebration of our friends from under the sea (cue Sebastian: darling it's better down where it's wetter take it from meeee).

    Now seafood dinners are generally really hard to do on the cheap, but there are some ways around it (you'll just have to forgo the lobster linguine), and I've found three dishes that won't throw you in the deep end (money-wise)

    1. moules à la marinière (or in plain english - mussels in white wine)
    2. maryland crabcakes
    3. shrimp aglio olio with basil and roasted cherry tomatoes

    Moules à la Marinière

    Generally, live mussels aren't overly expensive, but they are an absolute btch to clean and de-beard, so if you're a lazy cook like me, go for the vacuum packed option which you can find at most Cold Storage or NTUC Finest. They will cost anywhere between $10 and $30 per 1lb bag, I generally settle for the option that looks nice with shiny shells still in tact. Each 1lb pack comes with about 12 good-sized mussels, cooked, cleaned, debearded then vac-packed for convenience. If you're serving this as a main (with just bread on the side), you'll need about 1lb per person, but if you're serving it up with other things, 2lbs is way more than enough for 3 people.

    I also added clams (de-shelled) to the white wine broth because I know some friends (ahem greks) are too lazy to de-shell the mussels and would rather scoop the clams up from the bottom of the bowl.

    This dish makes for a great (and impressive looking) 15 minute meal (which was about the time it took for me to cook 5 dozen mussels in a giant stock pot with wine and fresh herbs). For Sunday's seafood fiesta, I adapted from the Balthazar cookbook recipe, but this one by smitten kitchen works just as well - trust me I've tried it.

    Maryland Crabcakes

    Do crabcakes really come from Maryland? I've always wondered. But whatever it is, they are a damn tasty addition to any seafood dinner, they're also a lot easier - than most people think - to make. Swap fresh crab meat for the frozen variety. You're going to be mixing it up with all kinds of things like sauteed onions, bread crumbs, raw egg and the like, so I don't think fresh crab meat makes too much of a difference. This will also make your dish a helluva lot more affordable. 

    Be sure to shop around for your frozen crab meat - I found cans retailing for anything from $16 to $34, and I don't think it makes a whole lot of difference since it's already frozen. Two cans made twenty four medium-sized crab cakes, or 16 large ones. More than enough to feed a very hungry party of eight with one or two leftover.

    You can pretty much use just about any crabcake recipe out there (it's really tough to screw this one up), but I went for the most popular one on All Recipes. With 609 reviews, I'd say this has been tried, and tested and proved far too many times over. I swapped out the garlic powder for actual garlic and onion (sauteed), and topped them all off with lemon-garlic mayonnaise (mix 3 tablespoons of mayo with 1 teaspoon of fresh minced garlic and a generous squeeze of lemon) which happened to be the surprise hit of the evening.

    Shrimp Aglio Olio with Basil and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

    I am such a huge fan of this recipe. I've been making it for about 8 years now, and never once have I not had rave reviews. The recipe is adapted from the original domestic goddess, Martha, but with a few twists of my own.

    As far as possible, be sure to use fresh prawn - the flesh is firmer and sweeter, which makes a big difference since the recipe and ingredients are so simple. You will also want good quality cherry tomatoes (the sweet kind, not the sour yellow looking ones), and lots of fresh basil. If you've got top notch ingredients, this simple recipe will pop!

    Tweaks: I roast my tomatoes (tossed in EVOO and seasoned with sea salt and cracked black pepper) for about 20 minutes in the oven (at 200C) till the skin just starts to blister before tossing them in with all the other ingredients. I always substitute butter for EVOO because I love buttery pasta, but you can stick with the healthy (and very tasty) EVOO option too. Be sure to top it off with generous shavings of fresh parmesan or pecorino.

    Sides

    Seafood generally goes well with salads or simply prepared veggies. I made a carrot coleslaw to accompany the crabcakes and also served up some grilled corn on the cob, which is simple, fuss free, and always delicious. It also delivers on that seafood experience of eating with ones fingers. 

    Dessert

    For dessert we were treated to our resident baker's latest experiment - an apple tart that comprised a perfectly flaky pastry covered in a mosaic of thin-sliced baked apples slathered in caramel sauce and topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Drooling yet? I bet you are. That whole thing was quite literally gone in 60 seconds. It was the most beautiful apple pie I have ever laid eyes on.

    Everything above was way, way, way more than enough for eight people, I'd say the portions were suited to 12 hungry men. So I'll be having leftovers for a few days.

    Lucky for me, we had large pots of dark pink verbena lying around at home, with the lovely sunday evening sunset, gold tiffany chairs to match the gold napkin rings, blue placemats, white crockery, candles and great company, I didn't need much to make the setting magical. 

    Do date night

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    At the risk of sounding like someone out of a relationship self-help title, I’d like to talk about why we do date night, I don’t mean to do a Dr. Phil on you (what? You’ve never watched him on Oprah? Am I the only one who used to watch day time teevee in my teens?) but I’m a firm believer in date night (or date day, or date that involves McDonalds). It doesn’t have to be complex and it doesn’t have to be expensive – though who can say no to a nice dinner out with some beautiful wine to go along with it – it just has to be about two people spending some time together. Real time, not pretend time, not the kind where you’re both on your iPhones and talking to other people when it would do you a world of good to just talk to each other. Date night is one of the most underrated things in a relationship, but it really does help to keep things interesting – and reminds you of why you got into the relationship to begin with which is always, always worth remembering.

    Couldn’t have thought up a better way to spend a rainy Monday evening than out on the balcony sharing a bottle of wine, a DIY-ed platter of cold cuts & cheese, and most importantly, our thoughts.

    And since this is the perfect opportunity to tell you about the Anatomy of a Cheese Platter, let me share with you a simple tip for putting one together. Just remember:

    Something old, something new, something goat, something blue