Monday, January 3, 2011

Keeping Up With the Joneses

We live in a great time for home cooks, for we live in the time of blogs. I really don’t know how trends in home cooking were tracked before the legions of us stepped up, signed on and picked up our cameras in an effort to show the world what’s on our dinner tables. I know that I don’t just speak for myself when I admit that most everything on this blog has been consumed by my family shortly after being photographed.

In the wintertime, bloggers’ dinners have to be served early (like retirement home early or nuked later on) so we can capture our food bathed in the warmth of natural sunlight. At any given time during the winter my fridge is stocked with carefully plated food that has missed optimal daylight plastered with Post-it Notes exclaiming “DO NOT EAT” threatening my family with swift and certain death should it be missing for the next morning’s photo shoot.

On the other end of the spectrum, summertime is heaven for food bloggers because we can cook, snap and eat at our leisure all after having a second Margarita on the porch with our neighbors. Then there are those blogs that are born in reverse. There’s been a time or two that after cooking out of sheer enjoyment, I have had an epiphany and snatched my children’s half eaten plate of food from them, fluffed it up and photographed it before returning it to them so I can have “one in the can” just in case I go through a prolonged blogger’s block. 

I have especially enjoyed reading my favorite sites during this holiday season. Some of these people can really cook! Long gone are the days when you can get by with cocktail wieners, cheddar cheese balls and French onion dip at holiday get togethers. Now days a host really has to step up their game to keep up with the Joneses and impress their guests.

All your guests need to do is sign on to any one of the millions of blogs in cyberspace to find out that others are enjoying delicate aged Gouda Palmiers, baby red potatoes topped with sour cream and caviar, and poached oysters in champagne sabayon, to know that they have drawn the short straw of New Year’s Eve parties if you serve anything less. Even though I love having all these delicious recipes so available it really is a double edged sword. I kind of liked it when my guests were impressed with a seven layer dip and a bowl full of tortilla chips. Wow, those were the days.

7 Layer Dip shot without daylight (sorry, we couldn't wait till morning)

Luckily I didn’t have to worry about impressing anyone this year as we just stayed home. No black tie balls for us. I don’t dance and my husband doesn’t drink so you can probably tell that we are just the life of the party. We stayed home and played Scrabble and had seven layer dip. No kidding. Just so you don’t feel too sorry for my husband and embarrassed for me, I did stir up some Dungeness crab bisque for our main course. Whole Foods had a crab sale a couple of days earlier and I gladly obliged them by buying one. Before the fishmonger cleaned my beautiful Dungeness it weighed a little over 2 pounds. I’m kicking myself because I didn’t weigh my pile of lump crab meat after I cleaned it further when I got it home. I’m guestimating that I landed up with a good cup which meant that my meaty bisque would have impressed even the most well-read of party guests.

Before . . . and after

Crab Bisque

1 – 1.5 pound (500 - 750g) Dungeness crab claws or any other fresh crab
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove crushed
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups (500ml) chicken or vegetable broth
1/3 cup (125ml) champagne or white wine
1/4 cup (60ml) sherry
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
1 medium size bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste

Clean crab claws (mine produced about a cup of lump crab meat); set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter is sizzling, add the chopped onion and sauté until they begin to turn slightly transparent. Add the garlic clove and sauté for 1 minute longer. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and onion mixture and whisk in to form a roux. Slowly whisk in the broth, wine, sherry and then the cream; bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Add the bay leaf, Old Bay and cayenne.

Rinse any grit from a few of the larger shells and add to the pot, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the shells, shaking off any broth or crab meat. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve in warm bowls.

Serves 4 lucky people
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