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Tuesday, August 23 2011

Lobster makes the end of summer bearable, but in this tumultuous year even the costly crustacean can’t escape controversy.

First, Kobe the Lobster, a one hundred-pound, seven-foot sculpture was stolen from an eatery in the Hamptons. Then, New Orleans’ Times-Picayune reporter Doug McCash revealed that the lobster salad at Zabar’s, a popular New York City’s gourmet food emporium, was lobster-free.

“Start spreadin’ the news,” he wrote. “Apparently, if a crayfish gets the right breaks, it can become a New York City lobster.” That’s right crayfish was the salad’s sole seafood. Zabar’s owner justified the “lobster” label by citing a Wikipedia entry that says crayfish are related to lobsters. Yes, he really did.

And then there’s Denver chef Frank Bonanno’s lobster cooking technique. No pantywaist hesitations about animal cruelty. Bonanno decapitates, dismembers and only then cooks by placing claws and tail in separate bowls and covering with salted boiling water. Claws and tails cook at different rates, he says, so it’s just silly to plunge the entire thing into a pot of boiling water.

Not to worry. Just one bite of Chef Phil Deffina’s updated Lobster Roll dissipates concern for the lovely lobster. Look, if lobsters had brains and thumbs they’d probably boil us, too.

Deffina, Executive Chef of Highpoint Bistro and Bar in New York City, grew up with a mom who was “the worst chef in the world” and a Ron Popeil enthusiast dad. “We had three ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ rotisseries going every Thanksgiving,” he says. Learning to cook was critical to Deffina’s survival.

A protégé of the wildly inventive chef David Burke, Deffina’s Modern American cuisine keeps it simple—Potato Chip Nachos—makes it fun—Kobe Beef Corndog “Lollipops”—and makes it better—Lobster Rolls. He starts out with, uh, lobster and the usual suspects, a little mayo (“gotta be Hellman’s”) red onions, celery and chopped tarragon. Then comes the good stuff: Sriracha, a Thai chili sauce; a little garlic; chives; lemon zest (more flavor than lemon juice); Sherry vinegar and shaved fennel. He heaps it on a toasted buttered, miniature brioche cocktail bun.

His Lobster Saltimbocca is a variation on traditional Saltimbocca, an Italian veal dish topped with prosciutto and sage and cooked in wine. Deffina replaces the veal with a lobster “steak” made out of shrimp and lobster mousse and forms it with a ring mold. He wraps it in proscuitto, sage and Parmesan and fries it.

As a child, Chef Radames Febles used to set lobster traps with his Maine-born great-grandfather who made them (his great-grandmother made fishing nets) and learned how to cook from his Puerto Rican grandmother. And now he helms Santa Monica’s Latin-Asian fusion restaurant Zengo. It’s the only place you’re going to find Lobster Congee. (Congee is a Chinese “porridge” made with rice and water or stock.)

He constructs the dish with a Latin foundation, sautéing “sofrito,” a tomato/onion/pepper mixture that’s a base for many Latin dishes. He adds “dashi,” a fish-and-seaweed broth that’s a base in many Japanese dishes, punched-up with bacon, lobster stock and chipotle puree. He tosses in cooked sushi rice and simmers. Once he has the right texture he adds lobster and avocado and tops with micro-cilantro.

After earning a degree in graphic design in 1995, Lucero Martinez, helped her family open Atlanta’s first authentic Mexico restaurant, Zocalo. Twelve years later she sent her resume to Latin chef and impresario Richard Sandoval. He hired her on the spot and within four months she became Executive Chef at his New York City restaurant, Pampano.

In the Yucatan, says Martinez, Lobster Tacos often start with lobster ceviche, raw lobster marinated in citrus juice (the acid cooks the meat) and dried peppers. For her Modern Mexican version, she smoothes black bean puree and arbol salsa (a type of chile) onto mini-flour tortillas. She adds poached lobster tossed with butter and red onion for richness and texture, and tops with an avocado slice and cilantro.

Her Lobster Rolls, too, have that subtle and just-right South-of-the-Border touch. To a base of lobster, shrimp, chives, lemon juice and slaw (Napa and red cabbage), she adds chipotle mayo, pickled jalapenos and avocado.

Lobster empathizers, rest easy. A giant eighteen-pound lobster caught off the San Francisco coast was recently spared was because there were no pots large enough to cook him. New York Aquarium director John Dohlin just offered the seventy-five year “colossal crustacean” a permanent home. Too bad. Bet he’d have been good with a bucket of butter.


Lobster Congee

Chef Radames Febles, Zengo, Santa Monica, CA


6 ounces chopped lobster meat (tail and knuckle)

1 cup sushi rice (cooked)

1qt hot smoked dashi

1/2 cup of sofrito

1/4 avocado (diced)

1 teaspoon canola oil


In a small sauce pan under medium heat add oil, sofrito mixture, and lightly sauté.

Then add 8 ounces of the smoked dashi and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat down to a simmer and add the rice, cook for 2 minutes.

Add chopped lobster, avocado and mix all ingredients together to get porridge like consistency, add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the congee in a bowl and ladle the remaining dashi over the top.

Garnish with micro cilantro.

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 10:07 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, August 03 2011
When it comes to internal cooking temperatures, there seems to be a bit of disagreement between chefs and the USDA — until recently that is. While many people still fear slightly pink pork because of past threats of trichinosis, chefs and home cooks in the know have been serving their pork a little rosy in the middle for awhile now. The USDA finally consented and lowered the internal temperature to 145 degrees (except for ground pork and poultry that is). Like one home cook at the Smallholding Festival in Pennsylvania recently remarked, "It's about time they caught up, we've been doing this for years."

What’s the point of measuring the internal temperature? It’s one of the most foolproof ways to cook meat. Instead of guessing when your meat is done, a thermometer tells you when it’s ready so you don’t over- or undercook your dish. It is especially helpful in monitoring the progress of larger cuts of meat like pork shoulder or brisket. The USDA assigns these guidelines based on the temperature levels that will kill off any harmful bacteria in the meat (think salmonella and E. coli).

 10 Tips for Making the Perfect Burger

Using a thermometer isn't a must for cooking, but it is an effective way of cooking a dish properly and safely, so it can be an incredibly inexpensive and useful tool to have in the kitchen (just think, you'll never have the fear of serving raw meat or tough, chewy roasts to guests). Check out these basic tips and guidelines for cooking your favorite foods below.

Where to Place the Thermometer: In general, the thermometer should be inserted in the thickest part of the meat, away from fat or bone. When irregularly shaped, make sure to check in several different places. If using an instant-read thermometer, place it sideways in thinner cuts so that the entire sensing area is near the center of the food.

For roasts, insert the probe midway, avoiding the bone. For poultry, insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, also avoiding the bone. For turkeys, make sure to check the internal temperature of the stuffing as well (it should also reach the recommended 165 degrees).

Related: How to Make the Perfect Brisket

Letting it Rest: There is a difference between internal cooking temperature and final temperature because as the meat rests, the internal temperature will continue to rise from anywhere between five to twenty degrees (resting also allows the juices to redistribute and be absorbed so that the end result is flavorful and delicious). The time of resting depends on the cut of meat, so smaller chicken breasts and filets need only about five minutes whereas larger roasts will need around 30 minutes.

USDA-Recommended Minimum Internal Cooking Temperatures:

Beef, Pork, Lamb, Veal, and Bison
Ground: 160 degrees and it should not be pink but brown throughout. (This includes raw sausage.)
Other Cuts: 145 degrees is what is recommended but with the caveat that the cooking time can be extended due to personal preferences. This internal temperature would get you a piece of meat cooked to close to medium. Here are other cooking times that are not USDA recommended but are  general guidelines for cooking cuts of beef or lamb:
Rare: 120 to 125 degrees
Medium Rare: 130 to 135 degrees
Medium: 140 to 145 degrees (USDA recommended)
Medium Well: 150 to 155 degrees
Well Done: 160 Degrees and above

Poultry (Chicken, Turkey, and Other Game Birds)
Stuffed or Unstuffed: 165 degrees internally

Fish (Steaks, Fillets and Whole Fish)
140-145 degrees is USDA recommended, but for tuna and swordfish, if you’re looking to eat them medium-rare, which is usually the chef-recommended style, then you want an internal temperature of around 125 degrees.  

- Yasmin Fahr, The Daily Meal

More from The Daily Meal:
  • A Chef's Secrets for Cooking Fish
  • The Beef on Bison
  • Sustainable Fish Guide: The Best & Worst Fish
  • Chef's Tips for Cooking with Lamb
Posted by: Send a Meal AT 10:37 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, August 01 2011
What your child eats has a major impact on learning. Here are the best foods to help your child make the grade.

If you want to give your kids an academic edge this school year, you may ask them to study harder, spend less time in front of the TV, or log more hours at the library. But those aren’t the only ways to boost their brainpower. The key to good grades could be as close as your kitchen according to a 2008 Journal of School Health study which found that the quality of a child’s diet was directly linked to academic performance. Before your kids hit the books, make sure they fuel up with these power foods first.

Try: Whole Grain Marshmallow Crispy Bars

Related: Benefits of Eating Breakfast

Photo: Jennifer Davick; Buffy Hargett; Vanessa McNeil Rocchio

Photo: Jennifer Davick; Buffy Hargett; Vanessa McNeil Rocchio

Chili, a unique combo of beef, beans, and tomatoes, dishes up a hefty dose of iron, a mineral kids need to deliver oxygen to their brains. Making yours with lean cuts of beef, like top or bottom round, can keep it healthy by slashing saturated fat. You can also trim the fat by using 95 percent lean ground sirloin and draining off the excess fat after sauteing. Prefer to go meatless? No worries. The tomatoes in chili are rich in vitamin C which helps your child soak up more iron from the beans.

Try: Slow-Cooker Veggie Chili

Related: 10 Healthy Chili Recipes

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Rose Nguyen

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Rose Nguyen


If you feel guilty about serving white pasta to your child, you don’t have to. Unlike white bread, semolina flour used to make most dry pasta is packed with slowly digested carbs which kids need to provide a steady stream of fuel to their brains. It’s also fortified with iron too. Just one cup of cooked spaghetti serves up roughly 20 percent of the iron a school aged child needs in a day. Top it with tomato sauce and you’ll up its iron absorption even more.

Try: Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

Related: 7 Ways to Cook With Spaghetti

Photo: Jim Franco

Photo: Jim Franco


Kids who eat breakfast perform better on math and reading tests and pay more attention in school. Why not scramble up some eggs? They’re rich in choline, a nutrient needed to produce acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter that’s critical for memory). For a quick, portable morning meal, tuck a scrambled egg into a warm corn tortilla and top with a dash of salsa. One large egg sports half the daily choline a four to eight year old requires and a third of the choline needed for kids ages nine to 13.

Try: Scrambled Egg Burritos

Keep Reading: Back to School Brain Food

More from My Recipes:

Pack a Lunch With a Healthy Punch
Make Ahead Lunchbox Snacks
Kid-Approved Breakfast Bites
Posted by: Send a Meal AT 10:57 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email