Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Matchmaker Vs. The Lobster

I feel lucky to have my sisters. Now that we're all grown up, we get along fabulously. We look forward to spending time together. We pitch in to help cook dinner. We help each other when, say, one of us breaks an ankle. It wasn't always this way. Food brings us together now when it used to keep us apart.

Haley, my youngest sister, totally flipped out once when she opened the refrigerator to find a deer carcass. Cecily, my other sister, flat-out refused to eat the groundhogs I shot for dinner. But now, when we spend time together, it's not just harmonious, it's fun.

I've been hobbling around on a bad leg, so Haley volunteered to cook dinner under my guidance.

Haley is a professional matchmaker and personal stylist. Think Hitch + Millionaire Matchmaker, but without the pretension. She's full of love-based facts like, for instance, that lobsters mate for life. It's just the sort of thing you want to know just prior to plunging the poor critters to their deaths in boiling water. To avoid the guilt trip, I made Haley do it.

Haley doesn't really cook, so this was a great opportunity to get her into the kitchen. I think she had fun. I know I did.

Here's the recipe for the lobsters:

6 (1 to 11/4 lb) live lobsters
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 head roasted garlic, peeled
1 cup chopped cilantro stems
1 chipotle pepper in adobo

Boil the lobsters in a large pot for 4 minutes. (The lobsters will not be cooked through.) Remove the lobsters and let cook. Cut the lobsters in half lengthwise with a chef's knife or kitchen sheers.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Pulse the butter, garlic, cilantro, chipotle, and 1/2 tsp salt in a food processor. Spread the butter on the meat of the lobsters. Bake the lobsters, cut sides up, in oven until the meat is cooked through. This will take 5 to 6 minutes.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How the Luck of New Year Pork Can Save Your Life While Teaching Difficult Lessons

In the South, collard greens or cabbage, black-eyed peas, and pork are thought to bring luck in the New Year and are traditionally eaten as the year changes. Pork, it is said, symbolizes forward progress since pigs root forward and their feet point forward. Honestly, these reasons are just likely excuses to eat this tasty beast, but I'm not one to turn my back on tradition.

Bringing in the New Year with a healthy serving of pork is always a good way to get started and this meal is a tradition all over this country. In rural Pennsylvania, where I spent my first eve of the 2010, the pork is traditionally served with sauerkraut, a custom owing greatly to the large German-immigrant population of the past 150 years. I shared this meal with a handful of cousins and a few friends during a sort of guys' weekend where I decided to test the relational theory of pork and luck.

First, let me give you the recipe:

Pork and Sauerkraut
4 onions, sliced
1/2 stick unsalted butter
2 Gala apples, cored and sliced
2 lb sauerkraut, rinsed
1 (8 lb) bone-in pork butt
salt and pepper

•Cook the onions in a large heavy skillet with the butter and 1/2 tsp salt over medium heat, until they are well browned. This is the most labor-intensive step in this dish. You'll need to stir the onions frequently as they brown; it will take about 30 minutes.

•Add the onions to the kraut and apples in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Rub the pork all over with 11/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper, then place it over the kraut mixture. Cover the pan with foil and roast at 350°F for 31/2 hours. Uncover the pan and continue to roast for another 30 minutes, until the meat is browned and falling off the bone.

Here's a video of the finished product staring one of my cousins, Leif:

After we ate the pork I decided to test the pork-brings-good-luck-theory by jumping over a bonfire:

I broke my ankle. In three places.
The pork worked! It may not cure stupidity, but thanks to its magical luck, I managed to get away without being set on fire.