Thursday, April 24, 2014

Lobster Mac & Cheese

              So here at mi casa, Hubby and I sort of have a Friday night tradition. It is nothing crazy creative or too mushy for you to handle, believe me. It simply boils down to an easy dinner at our counter-level peninsula where we try a new bottle of wine, enjoy some cheese and crackers and then manga on whatever is quick to heat up. We linger there for, oh about 2/3 hours, and then meander to the couch where I doze off and he catches up on whatever Netflix movie he has awaiting him. It may sound like nothing but to us it is a prized timeslot that we start looking forward to on Mondays!

            But every once in awhile, we get the urge to step-up these “date nights”. It may be some good news we are celebrating, a long- awaited Friday night (if we missed one), a new recipe we want to try out, an extra special bottle of wine we purchased or of course, a birthday, holiday or anniversary.

            So this year, we celebrated Valentine’s Day in our kitchen, at our spot, and chose a recipe worthy of this particular holiday. Lobster Mac & Cheese, enough said, right?  I went with a trusty recipe from Ina and couldn’t have been happier with the results. Although let’s be honest- a Friday night, Hubby next to me, great wine, cheese during appetizers, cheesy pasta in the next course, and a couch calling my name…..there wasn’t much room for failure. Enjoy…
Valentine's Day Selfie...

Lobster Mac & Cheese
Slightly adapted from: Food Network, Barefoot Contessa
Serves: 2-3
½ lb cavatappi or elbow macaroni
2 C whole milk
4 TBS unsalted butter, (1/2 stick), divided
¼ C flour
2 C Gruyere cheese, grated
1 C extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¾ lb cooked lobster meat, chopped
¾ C bread crumbs
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Boil a large pot of boiling salted water, add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package.  Drain well
3. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. In a larger pot, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. Still whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, ½  TBS salt, the pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni, lobster, bacon and stir well. Place the mixture in 3 to 4 individual gratin dishes
4. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, combine it with bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top of each dish
5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Heirloom Kitchen: Pizza, Pizza, Pizza Class


Heirloom Kitchen:
Pizza, Pizza, Pizza Class
with Jimmy Esposito of Esposito’s Pizzeria

            First off, hello again….I have returned and am alive! There’s been much going on since we last chatted…..the snow has melted, the days are longer and well, I’ve reached my 30s! With that said, some things haven’t changed though…..I’m still waiting for summer, I’m still a brunette and duh, I’m still cooking away…..

            Most recently, I attended a cooking class at Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge, NJ as a guest blogger along with a great friend of mine, Stephanie of Stephanie Cooks. Let’s start with the space: oh my goodness gracious- what a looker! The d├ęcor is a hybrid of Williams-Sonoma and Anthropologie.  I was obsessed with every little nook and cranny. Correction: I am obsessed and will be going back very soon because of this. But beyond the shopping areas, there is a pick-up-your-jaw kitchen studio where they regularly hold cooking classes. The set-up is one that took much thought and creativity. One area is an enlarged rectangular kitchen island where customers prep, cook, mingle, watch the pros and get comfy. Another area is where customers can sit and eat in a dining room-like atmosphere. This area is seamlessly chic and rustic and makes me want to devote more time to finishing my own dining room so that it could perhaps be more like this. One can dream, right?!? Anyway, back to the third area where more prep work takes place: the peninsula. Although we didn’t make use of this on our night, it stands as an open and bright countertop where stations can get right to business.


            So now on to the cooking…..I can’t believe I am writing this but yes, it has to do with pizza. I am beginning to think my mother consumed an unthinkable amount of slices while I was in the womb. Seriously, I can’t get away from the stuff. Maybe I should be writing a book or something?!? Haha, na- I’ll spare you the cheesiness! ;)

            Okay so the class…..Pizza, Pizza, Pizza with Jimmy Esposito of Esposito’s in Matawan, NJ. My friend Stephanie and I are huge fans of not only Mr. E, but his pizzeria as well. As locals, we both frequent his counter more than I’d like to say and can be caught discussing (and drooling over) what we got the next day at work. With that, taking this class with Jimmy was a no-brainer for us: We love to cook, love to eat, love to learn and well, love to gossip yip-yap and relax while doing so.

            Jimmy took us through some of his popular recipes. We made pizza doughs, watched him make a few sauces, and designed our own little pies. Although the ovens weren’t commercially-made pizza ovens where the temps get sky high and the bottoms are stone, they did do a nice job cooking our creations. Dancing between multiple wall ovens, Jimmy rattled off many tips and answered any questions we had. What I thought to be one of the best parts of the night was learning how to make his signature sesame-crusted pizza. Being a lover of this version, I had all my focus on his lesson. What I thought was going to be complicated was way easy and approachable. All it takes is coating your entire dough with seeds very heavily. I will soon be attempting this….stay tuned.


            Because every dinner needs dessert, we most naturally finished the night with Nutella pizza. Topped with fresh strawberry and banana slices, this sweet treat was just the slice to hit the spot. Before Stephanie and I took our goody bags to head home, we did what we'd been itching to do since we arrived: shop. After 20 minutes of perusing, we purchased new goodies for our own kitchens that might wishfully make them a bit more like Heirloom’s.


Heirloom Kitchen is located at 3853 Route 516, Old Bridge, NJ. Visit them at their website to view upcoming classes and further information.