Soft-Shelled Crabs Meunière

Recipe here.  Please pardon the crummy cell-phone photo.

Making these recently at my best friend’s house in the mid-Atlantic region (during high soft-shelled season) is what gave me the courage to attempt the Sole Meunière.  Yum.  Yum.  Yum.  Soft-shelled crabs are one of my all-time favorite foods.  Paramount is getting the freshest crabs available.  Unfortunately, this is not possible in Central Texas, but my best friend has THE MAGICAL PLACE at her disposal.  A magical place where the crabs are decapitated and de-lunged when you order them.  If you cook them as soon as you get home, they might still be twitching.  Mmmm…

I followed the original recipe pretty closely, but did substitute Wegmans pan searing flour (a GREAT product) for the regular flour in the recipe.  They were, consequently, pretty peppery, but pretty fabulous.

Classic Sole Meunière

Recipe here.

This is one of my favorite “fancy restaurant” meals, but I’ve never attempted it at home before.  I’m SO glad that I did, because it was super easy and VERY delicious.  I think that the recipe’s suggestion to buy a couple of extra fillets is a good one, because it does take a tiny bit of practice to get the knack for how long it takes to cook each fillet and for how to turn it.  The sole fillets are VERY fragile and have a tendency to fall apart when you flip them, but even if they do, they’re still delicious, and it shouldn’t take you more than two or three “practice fillets” before you’re flipping like a pro.  You definitely need to have the butter, lemon juice and parsley measured out and ready to go, because when you need each addition, you need it NOW and there’s no time to chop parsley or squeeze lemons.

We served this with some sauteed spinach and basmati rice.  We added a bit of sauteed shallot, chopped parsley and toasted, chopped pecans to the rice and finished it with a tiny bit of butter after it was cooked.

Mexican Chocolate Eclairs

So, I decided to spice up the eclairs that I made recently to go with last night’s Mexican meal.  I used the same recipe, but added about 1/8 tsp. of Cinnamon Spice Blend to the vanilla filling and 1 teaspoon of McCormick Cocoa Chile Blend to the chocolate glaze.  I really liked the original version a lot, but this was a fun variation, too.  I have had fun playing with chocolate and spices in the past (with Winter-Spiced Molten Chocolate Cakes here and Cinnamon Cupcakes with Chile-Chocolate Buttercream here.) There was just enough chile “kick” in these without being too hot and the cinnamon really added a lot of depth to the filling.  If I’m going to do this again, it’s probably not worth using a subtle vanilla bean, if I’m just going to cover it up with cinnamon.  If I doctor it again, I’d probably use vanilla extract in the filling and not waste the effort (and money!) on a vanilla bean unless I’m keeping the filling plain vanilla, where the bean’s flavor can be appreciated.

Grilled Skirt Steak and Creamed Corn and Black Beans with Poblanos

This was inspired by this recipe in May 2008 Food & Wine magazine, but I adapted things quite a bit.

First, I thought that the plain “sprinkled with salt and pepper before grilling” skirt steak could be improved upon, so we rubbed it with some coffee spice rub, instead.  The one that I used is from Williams-Sonoma, but they seem to only stock it sporadically.  If you can’t find it, I’m sure that a simple Google search would net you a serviceable recipe.

Secondly, I diced the onion in the creamed corn, because I’m not wild about long strips of onion, but just prefer the flavor of them, without being confronted with their slippery stringiness (weird?  yes, but I’m cooking, so I get to choose…)  I also upped the amount of corn in the dish (tripled, probably) and toasted/roasted it in a tiny bit of oil in a very hot skillet, so that it had a little “char” on it before adding it to the poblanos and sour cream.  I also added one can of (drained and rinsed) black beans.  I left the amount of sour cream the same (1 cup) and it was still PLENTY creamy for our taste.  In fact, if we had not added more corn and the beans, I think it would have been WAY too rich.  Until I added the beans and more corn, it looked like corny sour cream, rather than creamed corn.  With the adaptations, however, it was OUTSTANDING and was something that I will DEFINITELY make again with other Mexican meals in the future.  It would also be fantastic as a taco filling (with a little smoked chicken added, maybe?) or in an omelet.

I served this with some more of the Spicy Cilantro Slaw (I overbought and had an extra bag of the shredded cabbage in the house, so I decided to make it again.)  I probably wouldn’t do that combination again, as it was just too many creamy dishes on one plate, although it was still a great meal.  Vegetarian Girl made a meal out of the corn/beans and slaw, plus a little of the leftover lentils.

See the next post to see what I paired it with for dessert.

Jamaican Jerk Grilled Tofu

We made this vegetarian adaptation for Girl the other night when we had Jerk-Rubbed Catfish and she loved it so much that she requested it again.  It was SO easy, quick and healthy.  She made the little arugula-spinach-tomato salad to go with it (we already had the Baby Bam croutons on hand.)  It’s really the spice rub that makes it; it is absolutely fantastic.

You don’t need an actual “recipe” to cook the tofu, just cut a slice the size that you want to eat (use FIRM tofu), rub it down all over with a little (about 5 drops or so – not much is necessary) canola or vegetable oil, rub it down generously with the spice rub and then grill it on a preheated grill or grill pan.  Try to flip it as little as possible, because it can be a little fragile.

Spinach Salad with Lentils and Crispy Goat Cheese

Recipe here.

This will be a definite repeat.  Lentils are one of our favorite foods (especially Girl.)  They are terrific for you and have tons of the precious protein that can be so hard for vegetarians to get enough of.  We also all really like spinach, as well.  And, crispy-crunchy-gooey melted cheese?  Well, doesn’t EVERYONE love that?

This is similar to another salad that I made earlier this year (by the same food writer, even!,) but forming the cheese into patties and frying it takes this to a whole other level.

I made two slight modifications:

I cut back the amount of oil added to the lentils significantly.  I put in just enough to keep them from sticking (2 tsp?) while the garlic cooked.

I also used a bit of balsamic vinaigrette on the spinach instead of the olive oil.

We loved this and will definitely make it again.  The goat cheese was a tiny bit strong for Boy, so I might make his with boursin or something milder next time, but was still a fabulous and healthy vegetarian treat.

Beer-Brined Butterflied Chicken

Recipe here.

This is my all-time favorite chicken recipe.  It turns out SO moist and flavorful.  It is an upscale version of “Beer Can Chicken” and is just downright delicious.  Takes a little time, with the brining and all, but really doesn’t take much hands-on effort…it’s mostly just “waiting” time.  Getting the hang of butterflying might seem daunting, but it’s really not that bad.  There are tons of “how-to” helpful videos around, if you are worried, but it’s much simpler that it seems.