FAIRYTALE FEASTS

BECAUSE ONCE UPON A TIME, I HAD THE MOST AMAZING [INSERT FOOD HERE] …

July 26, 2010

Fairytale Feasts from Red Lobster


I was recently invited to enjoy a complimentary dinner at Red Lobster so that I could experience first hand the newly remodeled decor. Red Lobster restaurants across the U.S. have undergone a redesign that includes updated coastal touches both inside and out. The new design, inspired by the seaside village of Bar Harbor, Maine, aims at providing guests with the opportunity to experience fresh, delicious seafood in a vibrant, nautical setting.

Red Lobster guests in Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and Williamsport can now experience an atmosphere clothed in dark-wood paneling, warm-toned fabrics, nautical décor, shingle and stone towers and Adirondack-style benches, all intended to transport guests’ minds to the coast. Once the winter comes to Northeastern Pennsylvania, I know I will appreciate having a nautical place like Red Lobster to escape to while the snow is falling outside and the streets are covered with dirty slushy ice.
 

While I am usually wary of the food at chain restaurants, Red Lobster really has its perks and was named by Eat This, Not That as the healthiest chain restaurant in America! First, I like Red Lobster because there are many healthy options available on the menu that aren't laden with unncessary chain-style sauces scoured with copious amounts of sugar, salt and fat.  Red Lobster's "Today's Fresh Fish" menu lets the delicate taste of seafood shine through and is updated daily to reflect the wide variety of fresh fish available. Options typically will include fresh salmon, cod, tilapia, shrimp and trout that can be broiled or prepared over an open flame of a wood-fire grill.  Red Lobster also bravely but proudly debuts the nutritional information for all of the items on its menu on its website.
 
Second, who can resist the famous Cheddar Bay Biscuits at Red Lobster, even if you are planning on only eating grilled fish?  These flavorful little dinner rolls are served warm and with each bite you can taste a perfect combintation of butter, oil, garlic and hints of cheddar. They may be the best part of the meal. They make me nostalgic for my law school days when I used to make pillsbury biscuits and dinner rolls and add my own seasonings. (Note: one cheddar bay biscuit is supposedly 4 Weight Watchers points - so indulge and enjoy, just don't eat the whole basket!)


Third, I enjoy Red Lobster because of the service there. Once I am seated at the table,  I know my food will be served promptly and that I am not going to be there forever, nor am I going to be rushed. Most importantly, everyone is always very kind there and very knowledgeable about the items on the menu, which is often an overlooked but necessary component to a successful restaurant.
 
Lastly, my favorite part of Red Lobster (besides the Cheddar Bay Biscuits) is actually its website, which is really fun and informative for seafood lovers like myself. Not only does Red Lobster provide a generous amount of creative recipes for seafood dishes including some featured menu items, but they also provide educational how-to videos which explain how to grill the perfect piece of seafood, etc. These are really great tools for people who are intimidated by the idea of preparing their own seafood entrees and also for more experienced cooks who are looking for new ideas for preparing seafood.
 
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am a big fan of brushchetta so I really enjoyed the Wood-Grilled Shrimp Bruschetta. The round and thick baguette slices were crunchy and tomato mixture very flavorful.  Please see the recipe provided by Red Lobster for the Wood-Grilled Shrimp Bruschetta and the Peach-Bourbon Shrimp and Scallops below. I absolutely plan on making the shrimp bruschetta - its a perfect recipe to enjoy on a hot July day because it combines crisp, fresh flavors of local seasonal produce for a light meal. I will probably alter this recipe just a little bit because I like my bruschetta hot. If you would like your bruschetta hot, when you get to step #7, simmer the ingrediets in a saute pan and add in the basil at the end.  Also, do not chill the grilled shrimp as directed in #4. Instead, dice immediately.


Wood-Grilled Shrimp Bruschetta
Serves 4

12 medium-count shrimp
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 loaf French baguette
¼ cup melted butter
2 tsp granulated garlic
2 vine ripe tomatoes, diced
2 large, fresh basil leaves, chopped (or 2 tsp prepared fresh basil)
2 Tbsp diced red onions
¼ cup balsamic dressing (use your favorite or substitute equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Non-stick cooking spray, as needed
4 bamboo skewers (soaked in water for 2-3 hours)

1. Place three (3) shrimp each on four (4) skewers, all facing the same direction. Push shrimp together tightly to hold together.

2. Brush shrimp skewers with canola oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.

3. Prepare the grill by spraying the grates with non-stick cooking spray. Turn grill to high. (DO NOT SPRAY grill grates while the grill is on; aerosol can may be dangerous around high heat.)

4. Grill skewers for approximately 2 minutes per side, until shrimp are opaque and firm. Remove skewers from grill and chill in refrigerator for 3-4 hours (shrimp skewers can be made one day ahead).

5. Slice French bread in ½ inch slices. Brush with melted butter and season with garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

6. Toast baguette slices in pre-heated 350-degree oven for 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and hold at room temperature.

7. Combine tomatoes, basil, onion and balsamic dressing in small bowl; toss gently to incorporate dressing.

8. Remove shrimp from skewers and toss with tomato mixture.

9. Top toasted baguette slices with shrimp mixture.

In addition to the shrimp appetizer, here are some photos of the dishes that we sampled while dining at Red Lobster:

New England Clam Chowder 





Caesar Salad


Wood-Grilled Salmon Fillets


Crab Fest Special Feature: Snow Crab and Fried Shrimp


Lastly, here is another recipe for Red Lobster's new Bourbon Shrimp and Scallops:

Peach-Bourbon Shrimp and Scallops

Serves 4

24 jumbo shrimp
16 sea scallops
16 strips of bacon
1 cup peach-bourbon BBQ sauce (recipe below), divided
¼ cup canola oil
2 cups wild rice (prepare your favorite variety)
8 bamboo skewers (soaked in water for 2-3 hours
Non-stick cooking spray, as needed

1. Place six (6) shrimp each on four (4) skewers, all facing the same direction. Push shrimp together tightly to hold together. Refrigerate until needed.
2. Wrap each scallop with one strip of bacon, so the strip slightly overlaps (trim excess bacon if needed). If crispy bacon is desired, slightly pre-cook bacon in a pan or in the microwave for approximately 2 minutes.
3. Place four (4) scallops each on four (4) skewers, inserting the skewer where the bacon strip overlaps. As with shrimp, push scallops together tightly to hold together.
4. Prepare the grill by spraying the grates with non-stick cooking spray. Turn grill to high. (DO NOT SPRAY grill grates while the grill is on; aerosol can may be dangerous around high heat.)
5. Brush skewers lightly with canola oil.
6. Place shrimp and scallop skewers on hot grill. Grill approximately 2 minutes per side. Use caution with scallop skewers so as not to burn the bacon; you may have to turn them or move them to a cooler section of grill, depending on grill temperature.
7. Once skewers are cooked and seafood is opaque and firm, brush both sides with peach-bourbon BBQ sauce. Grill another 15 seconds per side to slightly caramelize sauce on skewers.
8. Serve one shrimp and one scallop skewer per person over your favorite wild rice blend. Mashed potatoes or couscous make a delicious dish as well.

Peach-Bourbon BBQ Sauce:
2 cups prepared BBQ sauce (choose your favorite)
½ cup peach preserves or canned peaches, well drained
3 Tbsp Kentucky Bourbon

1. Place all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth.
2. Pour mixture into small sauce pot over medium heat and bring to light simmer. Simmer 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking.
3. Remove sauce from heat and refrigerate until needed.


Notice below that you can now post a link to this blog on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Post a link to this blog on Twitter and include my name @fairytalefeasts for your chance to win a $10 gift card to Red Lobster! :-) I will be sending two of them out through the mail!
Enjoy!

July 2, 2010

Fairytale Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble: Best Thing I Ever Made


If you're looking for something to really WOW your guests this 4th of July, look no further.  This recipe for strawberry rhubarb crumble was hands down a top contender for the title of the "Best Thing I've Ever Made."   Rhubarb is a single stalk of a celery bunch and is one of the first items of produce available in the spring.  In 1947, the U.S. Customs Court in New York chanted rhubarb's designation from a vegetable to a fruit.  Rhubarb has a savory flavor and is commonly made with strawberries.  The flavors of strawberry and rhubarb go together like salt and pepper, oil and vinegar, bread and butter.  Take advantage of the abundance of in-season strawberries and rhubarb before its too late and TRY THIS NOW!!! 
 The first time I ever tasted rhubarb was at Blue Smoke when pastry chef Jennifer Giblin made a strawberry rhubarb pie for the restaurant. I never forgot my first bite, and was so blown away by the perfect marriage between the strawberries and the rhubarb. I knew the the love affair between me and the rhubarb would blossom into a life long romance and I was correct.

As a general rule, 1 pound of fresh rhubarb equals about 3 cups chopped or 2 cups cooked. When working with rhubarb, be sure to wash and trim the ends and remove the leaves before using.  (The roots and leaves contain oxalic acid and can be toxic.)  You will notice that the rhubarb stalks that are especially large have fibrous and stringy skin that needs to be removed.

Here is a recipe from an amazing Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, which I adapted from a recipe I found in Bon Appetite.  A crumble is a British dessert where raw fruit is topped with a crumble pastry mixture and baked.  This topping is usualy a streusel, consisting of flour, sugar, butter and spices. Streusel topping is very easy to make and can be sprinkled on coffeecakes, breads, muffins and cakes. This is an easy go-to recipe you will want to use again and again and is especially useful if you need to feed dessert to a crowd.

Fairytale Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
(Serves 8-10)

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar and 3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 stick of unsalted butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/4 cup of old-fashioned oats
1 cup of chopped almonds
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1//2 of vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 pound of strawberries, hulled and halved (or quartered if jumbo size)
1 pound of red rhubarb, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces (12 small stalks or 6 large, cut off ends)
Vanilla ice cream
Sprig of fresh mint

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, 3/4 cup of sugar and pinch of salt in a bowl. Rub in chunks of butter with fingertips until it forms coarse crumbs.  Mix in oats and almonds. Cover and set aside (if hot, let sit in refrigerator.)
 
Spray a large tray with Pam baking spray (or use crisco or butter). Place 3/4 cups of sugar in a large bowl.  Add seeeds from vanilla bean and mix well.  Add strawberries and rhubarb.  Scrape the fruit filling into a large shallow dish. (I used a 9X14 rectangular disposable tin baking dish.)  Sprinkle crumble topping over the fruit filling. Spray with Pam baking spray or add some thin slices of butter over the crumble filling to get a golden brown topping.



Bake until filling bubbles and and is crisp and crunch, 45 -60 min.  Let cool for about 15 minutes.  Serve warm with ice cream and a spring of fresh mint on top.


ENJOY! GOD BLESS AMERICA!

July 1, 2010

Fairytale Wisdom from the Cake Boss


Buddy Valastro, owner of Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken, NJ and better known as the "The Cake Boss," made an appearance last week at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes Barre. Valastro delivered a highly spirited interactive presentation to an audience full of googly-eyed Cake Boss lovers.  He conducted live cupcake decorating contests with young and old energetic audience members, some skilled in the specialized craft, others not so much.  But Valastro gave everyone a tshirt, and even gave one smitten Cake Boss fan the opportunity to propose to his fiance right on stage, complete with a rose and cupcake in hand. (She said yes!) Maybe he will make them a wedding cake?


Valastro engaged in a lengthy question and answer session with the audience, spilling secrets about his favorite cakes and not-so-favorite customers, all while carefully decorating a wedding cake by hand. He admitted that the most difficult cake he ever had to create was the life size version of his wife and that his favorite cake was the Disney Princess cake for his daughter Sophia because she is his "special princess."


Valastro's interactive show had an underlying message for Cake Boss lovers and aspring bakers of all ages that applied to life inside and outside of the bakery. "The American dream still exists today," said Valastro, who lost his beloved father at the young age of 17 and suddenly found himself responsble for not only the bakery, but his large Italian family. Valastro perserved and succeeded, brining the bakery to even newer prosperity by integrating modern baking and decorating techniques with his father's time tested and approved recipes. Valastro's brought fame to the Carlo's Bakery when his cakes began to appear in bridal magazines. He was then a guest on the Food Network Challenge. But his road to success wasn't always easy. Valastro struggled when his idea for a reality show about the bakery was rejected multiple times by the Food Network before being picked up by TLC.  He stressed the importance of family support, a strong work ethic, the ability to laugh, and the importance of never giving up on your dreams. "If you want it, you can get it," Valastro said. "You just have to work for it!"

 

The Cake Boss is now one of the most popular shows TLC and Valastro is flooded with requests to compete, teach his craft, and perform demonstrations around the country. To unwind, Valastro still enjoys baking and decorating cakes at Carlo's Bakery and most of all, he treasures spending time with his family.


Cake Boss lovers, if you can't make it to Hoboken to try one of Valastro's favorite infamous lobster tail pastries, don't despair. Valastro announced that the Carlo's Bakery was currently building a 40,000 square feet facility in Jersey City, NJ that will have shipping capabilities nationwide so you will be able to have your Cake Boss and eat it too, all within the comfort of your own home.


Enjoy!