New Years '09: The weather forecast was below zero, I didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars to go out, most people were out of town, and I just got my brand new Le Creuset cookware set. The obvious answer was to stay at home and cook an outrageous meal. No, you say? You went out and partied the night away? Anyways...
On the menu: blinis and caviar, crab macaroni and cheese, and berries and chocolate. What's that? You would have rather been eating at my place? Me too. The new cookware (cast iron skillet and dutch oven) was instrumental in this meal as was my day-of Whole Food's visit. First on the list:
Caviar selection, serving, eating: The choice was between an $8.99 Whitefish caviar (light orange, golden color) and a $29 Paddlefish caviar (dark gray color). I am no caviar connoisseur but I figured that the Paddlefish was the way to go. The seafood counter man assured me that it was delicious; the seafood counter woman wondered why I was only purchasing one. Seafood counter man, again, reassured me. Seafood woman handed me a piece of wax paper with the bar code on it. That's right, you have to pay first, then pick the caviar up from customer service (where it will be waiting on ice). There's a reason I only do this once a year.
The blini route traditionally involves buckwheat blinis (gluten-free!) but I chose to get a little creative and use ingredients that I already had at home. I made the whole spelt and cornmeal blinis from a combination of recipes that I found online:
spelt cornmeal blinis
Combine dry ingredients:
1/2 cup whole spelt flour (substitute any gluten-free flour here, if necessary)
1/4 cup yellow corn meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Whisk in wet ingredients:
3/4 cup milk (Lactaid milk for me)
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 egg yolks
Fold in 1 1/2 whipped egg whites
Butter pan and cook 1 tablespoon of batter per blini. flip when small bubbles form.
The blinis turned out a bit sweet from the cornmeal and sugar and were perfectly buttery for the caviar. I topped them blinis with creme fraiche, a bit of crumbled hard-boiled egg and chopped onion, and the caviar.
Crab macaroni and cheese: Originally, I thought I would make this with lobster but decided that crab meat would be just as good, more affordable and it actually turned out much easier to get at the store. I adapted a recipe from the Food Network's site (thanks, Brian Duffy, wherever you are!)
crab macaroni and cheese
1 pound brown rice macaroni
1/2 pound lump crab meat
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups milk
1 garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, chopped
2 tablespoons cornstarch, mixed into 4 tablespoons of water
2 pounds grated cheese: gruyere, sharp cheddar, pecorino romano (I only used 1 pound of cheese and it worked fine)
bread crumbs (I get gluten-free ones from Whole Foods) if you don't have these, crumble up some bread or crackers
cook 1 pound brown rice macaroni until al dente. drain and set aside.
in a medium pot sweat 1 small onion in 2 tablespoons butter, then remove.
to the same pot, add milk, garlic, shallot and pepper. bring to a simmer and season with salt and pepper. slowly whisk in the cheese until it is fully incorporated.
whisk in cornstarch mix and allow sauce to thicken.
stir in onions and crab meat.
toss sauce with pasta and add to shallow baking dish.
sprinkle bread crumbs on top and bake for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven, or until bubbly and browned.
Beware, sometimes gluten-free products don't seem to brown as well as wheat ones.)
Berries and chocolate: This couldn't have been easier. I bought pre-washed and mixed berries, then chopped up and melted some bittersweet chocolate in the microwave at low heat. Use small time increments so that the chocolate doesn't burn. When it's done, add a little bit more solid chocolate. The heat will melt and help temper it so it doesn't get funky. Pour the chocolate over the berries, or dip them, whichever you prefer!
Happy Eating in '09!