Thursday Night Smackdown: Stop Me Before I Kill Again

risotto! lobster! and some other stuff

Kill my finances, that is. Sorry, no Christmas this year; mommy spent all her money on pre-cooked and shelled fresh lobster meat. Thank god I don’t actually have kids.

risotto! lobster! and some other stuff

The weather turned punishingly cold today, so it was time for something soothing and rich. Oh, and it had to taste good, and cost an inordinate amount of money. Ergo: Charlie Palmer, whose Guide to the New American Kitchen has never let me down, tasting-good-wise. Many of the dishes call for reasonably priced ingredients, but since I was going for “inordinate,” I opted for the lobster risotto with roasted squash, arugula spinach and vanilla.

Above, witness the vanilla oil steeping. It contributed to the inordinate cost by (1) involving a vanilla bean (which I had around, but spent good money on at some point) and (2) requiring grapeseed oil, which you’d think would be cheap because who gives a shit about the seed of a grape? but is not. Whatever, it made the house smell really good. And now I have a whole big-ass bottle of grapeseed oil to do WHATEVER I WANT with! Because you know they don’t sell that shit in small bottles, and how many times have I been rummaging through the pantry searching for that non-existent bottle of grapeseed oil?

Okay, maybe like, none times. A girl’s gotta rationalize what a girl’s gotta rationalize.

risotto! lobster! and some other stuff

While the vanilla oil steeped I roasted off a butternut squash, a squash which contributed to the total meal bill only negligibly.

It just took me 4 tries to spell that correctly.

My love for Charlie Palmer notwithstanding – and it is strong – the squash exemplifies one of my tiny bones with him: the complete omission of certain key directions from the book. For example, this recipe called for “1 butternut squash, roasted.” As in, you better already know how to roast a damn squash, because I’m not telling you. Luckily, my culinary prowess is great enough that I was able to roast the squash entirely under my own power, but is it so hard to give an oven time and temperature? I contend that it is not. Unless there’s some medical reason why Charlie Palmer can’t tell us, in which case maybe I’ll feel slightly guilty.

(Note, however, that I will continue to recommend this book to the heavens because every recipe is the most wonderful recipe ever.)

risotto! lobster! and some other stuff

While the squash was finishing up, I started the risotto. This recipe is in the “Formal Home Cooking” section of the book, and is meant to teach you the technique for risotto. My risotto-making skills are already at the advanced level, which must explain why I totally forgot to buy onions and picked up a white wine that was way too sweet.

I sweated some red onions down (they were already in the house, and no amount of cajoling was going to get Brian to go out into the arctic blast to get me a yellow onion, especially since he doesn’t actually like lobster all that much*), toasted the rice with the onion and butter, poured in more wine than I was supposed to, and started the stirring process. I kept my stock hot in a teakettle for easy pouring, and am not ashamed to admit that I pulled a bar stool over in front of the stove so I could sit and look at the Christmas tree while I stirred instead of standing like some kind of chump.

At some point, I also pulled the squash from the oven, went to scoop it out of its skin and immediately realized, hey! Maybe you should wait more than 3 seconds before handling molten squash! Just a thought! (Brian wasn’t in the room, or I would’ve just gotten him to use his magical nerve-less fingertips to pry the flesh from the skin. He’s useful for tasks where being numb is a virtue.)

*Yes, you heard that right.

risotto! lobster! and some other stuff

I also pulled out my lobster meat, both to take the chill off it and to cut it into bite-sized chunks.

Yes, look at this photographic evidence that I am a giant pansy. I could not make myself buy whole lobsters and plunge my knife into their little lobstery heads, so I wussed out and paid out the ass to have someone else do it for me. And when I say I paid out the ass? Yeah, only at Christmastime.

In my defense, my squeamishness is less about killing the lobster and more about the fact that lobsters look like giant sea bugs. And I? Am more scared of bugs than most people you will meet in your lifetime. A story:

Once, when I was a teenager, an aunt was visiting from out of state. She came to me and told me that she may have found a roach, killed it and put it under a bell I had on my dresser, along with a hundred bucks. If I could make myself lift the bell, the money was mine; I might have to come face to face with a bug, but I might not. I learned two things that day: One, my aunt was kind of a bitch, because there was no damn roach OR money. And two, even the prospect of free money ($100 to a 13 year old? JACKPOT.) was not enough to get me to lift that fucking bell. Eventually, I had to get my dad to go and check because I couldn’t fall asleep in a room where there may or may not have been a dead bug securely trapped under a bell.

risotto! lobster! and some other stuff

Lobsters being giant sea bugs, there’s no way I’m putting my hands on a live one. So, like my teenaged self, I am perfectly willing to give up money not to have to do so.

When the risotto was a nice al dente I folded in the lobster chunks, then stirred in some mascarpone – because this was not decadent enough – and the squash, along with some spinach that was supposed to be arugula but I’ve said a gazillion times that I hate arugula. One day, I’ll try a recipe and actually use arugula to see if my tastes have changed and I now like it – after all, I once hated onions, for god’s sake – but I’m not going to risk it on lobster risotto.

Once the spinach had wilted ever so slightly in the hot rice, I plated up a bowl and drizzled on some of the vanilla oil. Then I sat down at the kitchen table and started eating before Brian had even finished taking his portion because MY GOD. I’d tasted a mouthful straight from the pot, and knew there would be no pretense of waiting.

risotto! lobster! and some other stuff

There’s almost no point in me writing to tell you that this was really, amazingly, wonderfully, aromatically, mouth-wateringly, fuckingly good. I mean, it’s RISOTTO filled to the gills with fricking LOBSTER and fortified with MASCARPONE CHEESE. There were layers upon layers of different kinds of sweetness – the wine, the earthy sweetness of the squash, the fresh dairy sweetness of the mascarpone, the fragrant sweetness of the vanilla oil and of course, the delicate sweetness of the lobster. All mixing and mingling and punctuated by the occasional mineral bite of some spinach. You might think it sounds maybe too sweet, but YOU ARE WRONG. And of course, it was hearty and rich on top of that; utterly perfect for this frigid evening.

Charlie Palmer you, through me, have hit another one out of the park. Collectively, we rule the school.

15 thoughts on “Thursday Night Smackdown: Stop Me Before I Kill Again

  1. My wallet is green with envy and also hides away in fear of your money spending abilities for dinner.

    Which is my way of saying “Damn, I want some of that. NOW!”

  2. Holy shit. That sounds absolutely astounding. (I am now much less impressed with my shrimp and andouille sausage over polenta from earlier this week, which I had originally thought was pretty kickass.)

  3. I just can’t eat lobster altogether, because I get weird about the whole “throwing live animals into boiling water” thing. I hear, though, that they sell whole, flash-frozen lobsters, and for some reason it’s less barbaric in my head to freeze something or someone alive than to boil them alive. God I’m a wackjob.

    Charlie Palmer is a genius, and you’re not so bad yourself.

  4. Pretty sure I need to try making this.
    My 6 year old used to kill roaches for me when we lived in Texas. They grow them huge there and she had no problem crushing them with her brother’s shoe. Wonder how she’d do with a lobster…

  5. emily, there’s a reason tuesdays (and all other days, really) are for cheap meals, and it’s not for shits and giggles.

    kay, ain’t nothing wrong with no shrimp and grits. i will eat that any day of the week. whereas this was astoundingly good, but needs to be seldom consumed.

    anna, that’s why you buy them pre-shelled. not reminiscent of a bug at all!

    kristie, charlie has you kill them with a knife to the head first. full stop for me right there.

    julie, pretty sure you do. it was crazy good.

    can i borrow your 6yo? i still have a significant problem with bugs.

  6. I think if I were smart and clipped coupons and shopped at Costco and bought bulk chicken breasts likea a good little girl, I would be so much better off financially. Why do I like expensive stuff?

    I am so with you on the lobsters. They are ugly, scary, beasts. They ARE bugs. As one anti-lobster nutritionist said, “Lobsters are arthropods, cockroaches are arthropods. When you eat a lobster, you’re eating a giant cockroach.” Go and read my post about the time I made soft shell crabs and went to buy them and screamed at the clerk at the counter, “THEY’RE STILL ALIVE?” I have nightmares about crabs.

    So, on the rare, occasions I make anything with lobster, it’s always pre-made and expensive. But I don’t make much with lobster because, like Brian, I don’t like it. In fact, I don’t eat it at all. Feed it ot the hubby and make myself a nice pork chop!

  7. *whimper* That looks unfreakingbelievable.

    What does it say about me that I wouldn’t want to cook a lobster myself, but would have no qualms buying pre-cooked lobster meat?

  8. the vanilla oil sounds a little freaky – but otherwise, WOW!

    How do you feel about blue crabs? Nothing like a good crab boil!!! I would cook whole lobsters anytime – but I totally respect your phobia. Have wonderful holidays!

  9. I’d like to comment on this but my drool is covering the keyboard.

    it’s gonna snow like a bitch in SEastern PA tomorrow, this would have been great. I’m making chili instead!!

  10. Oh man does that ever sound fabulous!

    I have no problem whatsoever with lobster, dead or alive. I live in Maine where we snack on them right out of the ocean.
    I could make this for Christmas dinner. I even know how to roast a squash.

    Happy holidays and/or Merry Christmas Michelle! Love the blog!

  11. Hello – just passing through and couldn’t help but respond to the comments about boiling living lobsters… The point that some may not get is that most of the chickens (and other animals) that are slaughtered for “food” also endure horrific treatment either in the way they are raised, transported or killed. For these farmed animals, life (and death) is all a miserable event. Just thought I’d put the lobster in perspective to the 10 billion other animals… http://www.humanemyth.org

  12. rachel, ooh, i can’t do the soft shell crabs at all. it’s not enough that i have to kill it, but then you want me to just eat it whole? not happening.

    deb, try it sweetened with honey on french toast or a fruit salad. HEAVENLY.

    april, it says that you’re a giant wuss, just like me.

    kath, the vanilla oil was outSTANDing…now i just need to figure out what to do with the rest of it.

    miserichik, your wallet will be much happier about the chili.

    karen, thank you! people from maine are a little scary, but your state is lovely.

    bea, your point is well taken, and i think most people who come through here would agree that free-range, non-factory farmed meat is the way to go. at least, i agree.

    sean, this dish is no joke. and really easy, if you’re comfortable with risotto. a++, would do business with again.

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