12 April 2010
Paper Chef 51: Lots of ginger, lots of pans
Finally, after a long dry spell, I have managed to make and blog a dish for Paper Chef. The ingredients were selected by Adele of Will Work for Biltong, who won last month. Actually, her darling (gourmand!) daughter drew them, and she randomly selected lobster, apricots, and orange; with ginger added by Mama Adele.
Huh. Lobster?? I’ve eaten lobster twice: once in a seafood-leaning restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown, and once grilled at a local cookout. The only time I’ve even come close to cooking with lobster was faux lobster, and I’m not sure that counts. (Aside: Jonski Papa asks “if faux crab is spelled with a K, should faux lobster be spelled with a lambda?” It shall.) I looked at our primary general-purpose grocery store, and they had 8 ounce packages of faux-Λobster chunks for $3, and frozen lobster tails for $15. They might still sell live lobsters, but I wasn’t even going to consider that option! Especially given my recent history of buying ingredients and not following through (saffron for PC#47, vanilla beans for PC#36). I was tempted to substitute crab meat since it’s more of a known quantity for me, but figured as long as I was slight-substituting, the faux-Λobster was the way to go. But that brings up the taxonomic/zoological question: is it closer to substitute an ingredient in the same Linnean Order (lobster and crabs are both Decapods), or something made to allegedly taste like the item but from a completely different Phylum? (faux-Λobster is made from pollock, which is a fish and thus a vertebrate!)
Enough nattering, what did I create? Apricot-ginger rice cakes, with sauteed spinach, and orange-ginger lobster chunks. Or maybe I should call it “ginger, ginger, everywhere, and many pans to clean!” My paper chef entries tend to be a bit minimal, in that they stick pretty closely to the 4 ingredients, but I expanded my horizons somewhat here, with a total of 10 ingredients (if you don’t count olive oil and green chile seasoned salt).
Orange-Ginger Lobster Chunks on a bed of Sauteed Spinach and Apricot-Ginger Rice Cakes
salt to taste (I use Tia Rita’s Green Chile Seasoning Salt)
2 cups (already cooked) brown rice
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tab orange juice
3 oz (~ 1/2 cup) finely chopped dried apricots
1 Tab finely diced fresh ginger
half a package baby spinach, sliced into wide ribbons
1 garlic clove, finely diced
Sauce: (mix in small bowl and set aside until needed)
1/4 cup orange muscat vinegar
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1 thin round of fresh ginger, finely diced
4 oz (faux) lobster chunks, mixed with
even more diced ginger (another diced round)
1 Tab butter
1. To prepare the rice cakes:
- Moisten the rice with orange juice. Stir in the eggs, dried apricots, and ginger.
- Heat the griddle to medium low, then film with olive oil. Dollop out 1/2 cup measures of the rice mix for each rice cake. Press to desired thickness and roundness and let cook. Turn when the bottom seems to be browning, and the cake is firming up.
2. Meanwhile, cook the spinach:
- As the rice cakes are cooking, put a medium sauce or saute pan over medium high heat. Film with olive oil. Once the oil is heated, stir the garlic ever so briefly (don’t want it to burn) then add in the spinach. Cook until wilted to your preferred consistency.
- Remove spinach to serving bowl. Splash a little bit (1 or 2 Tab?) of the vinegar into the pan, stir it around until heated through and any spinach or garlic bits are loosened, then dump it over the spinach. Or you could stir it in during the last minute or two of cooking, but I have this suspicion that changes the color of the spinach.
3. Next, cook the lobster:
- Melt butter over medium low heat in a small saucepan. Stir in the lobster chunks. Salt if desired. Cook, stirring frequently, until it is warmed through and looks done. (Since I was using faux-Λobster that was fully cooked, I have no idea what kind of time you might need for raw lobster. Because, after all, I’ve never cooked raw lobster! Can one even get raw lobster if it’s not alive??) Remove to serving bowl.
4. Finally, the sauce:
- In your lobster cooking pan, melt a small bit of butter (maybe 1/3 Tab?) and pour in the vinegar. Cook over medium-low to low heat until it is reduced and starting to thicken – about 1 minute less than what I did (mine almost got too thick!). Pour / scrape into a small serving dish.
5. Plating the meal: (do I sound fancy or what??)
- Put a rice cake on the plate. Spoon 1/4 of the spinach on top of the rice cake, then 1/4 of the lobster, then top with some sauce.
So how did it turn out? Quite nicely! My husband said he felt like he was dining at a fancy restaurant (except our wine was in Ikea plastic cups, and we ate off Corelle dishes).
I started out with only 1 egg in my rice mixture, and the cakes seemed like they were going to fall apart, so I quickly cracked another egg, beat it, and spooned it over the rice cakes. This helped – that’s why I put 2 eggs in the recipe above. But they were still a bit crumbly. Jonski Papa reminded me that the rice was a bit under-hydrated to begin with, so maybe properly cooked rice – or sticky/short grain rice – wouldn’t suffer from this problem. Or maybe rice cakes need another ingredient to fully firm up?
On to the taste: the apricot in the rice cakes was not quite as prominent as I had imagined, but it was present. I liked them. Sauteed spinach with a splash of orange is one of my favorite ways to simply prepare it, so I knew I’d like that. The Λobster was tender and sweet and mild. It was a good mix of textures. The real winner was the orange-ginger sauce – a zingy splash of flavor. Altogether, it was a really nice dinner – very tasty, and very satisfying.
The orange muscat vinegar that Trader Joe’s sells is my all-time favorite product in the store (okay, favorite non-chocolate product!). It adds a special touch to any dish that it’s compatible with. I’m not sure the best way to replicate this meal without it – perhaps use a mixture of orange juice (maybe thawed concentrate) and a white wine vinegar? Or just OJ concentrate and something to thicken it?
We served 2 hungry adults with this dish, but you could probably stretch it to 4 (especially if you increased the spinach and maybe the lobster). I would definitely make this again! And I can, because I have all the ingredients…