Caribbean Lobster Salad

It’s been beastly hot and humid, and I’m due to give birth any day now.  Without a usable porch and grill, I haven’t been able to take the cooking outside.  This past weekend, I wanted something spicy, cold, and a little bit decadent.  It was also critical that I not have to turn on my oven or stove if at all possible.

When I was thirteen, I went to Bermuda with my family.  It was there that I fell in love with Bermudan Fish Chowder.  Bermudan Chowder gets its punch from sherry pepper sauce & dark rum.  Sherry pepper sauce is a condiment unlike any hot sauce you’d find in the States.  It’s a deep golden color, very thin, and both hot and smooth.  Fish chowder would have been lovely, but would have required a lot of time in front of the stove.  Instead I contemplated caribbean flavors and came up with this cold salad.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb cooked, cold lobster
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 mangos
  • 2 habanero peppers
  • 1 lemon or lime
  • 3-4 TBS dark rum
  • 1 tsp fresh ground allspice
  • 1.5 tsp brown sugar
  • salt

This is a forgiving and “to taste” recipe.  Mince your habaneros very fine, then add to a bowl with the dark rum, brown sugar, allspice,  and half the zest & half the juice of a lemon or lime.  I used a lemon, but I think a lime would have been better.  Add a pinch or two of salt, mix until salt & sugar are dissolved, then cover & set aside for at least an hour.  The finer you’ve minced your habaneros, the more of the flavor will be drawn out into the liquid.
Dice your avocado and toss with the rest of the lime juice to keep it from browning.  I’d aim for a smallish dice to allow you to get bites with a little of everything, but larger chunks are fine if that’s your preference.  I’d also recommend using at least one avocado that’s ripe but not too soft, and one on the softer side.  If you have a softer avocado, you can put 1/4 of it aside for mashing with the dressing.
Chop mangos, and lobster meat to a similar size as your avocado.  Toss in with the avocado & return your thoughts to the dressing.  Gently strain your habaneros from the dark rum.  You will be left with a rich, spicy, but thin liquid.  If you have avocado set aside, you can mash a bit in to thicken the dressing.  If not, don’t worry about it.  Add back as much of the habanero as you think you’d like.  I added back about half a habanero, minced almost to paste.  That was just hot enough for my lips to tingle a bit by the end of a serving.  If you like things pretty spicy, you could skip the straining & just go for adding it all in.  This creates four servings for a light lunch or appetizer.

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Better BLT

BLAT

It’s been uncharacteristically hot for early September in Upstate NY.  Not only do we not have air-conditioning in our kitchen, but we have terrible airflow to get the heat out.  Yesterday when it was ninety outside and in the mid-eighties inside, I did not want to cook at all.  I decided to go with the least cooking possible.

The BLT is an American standard.  Who doesn’t love bacon?  But too often it’s a disappointment.  The bacon is cooked to crisp shards.  The tomatoes have all the texture and flavor of styrofoam.  The lettuce?  Crunchy water.  We all know bacon isn’t exactly good for you.  So if you’re going to indulge in bacon, you might as well go for the good stuff.  If you’re going to eat a BLT, you might as well make it the best damn BLT you can.  This is a variation on my friend Shelley’s “Better BLT.”

For our BLTs we used:

  • 12 ounces Applewood smoked, thick-cut bacon
  • 1 baguette, cut into thirds
  • 2 garden-ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • summer-mixed greens
  • Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • fresh lemon juice

Okay, so those last two ingredients aren’t exactly typical BLT ingredients.  It’s worth it anyway.

Mash the avocado with a fork and the fresh lemon juice.  The lemon juice will keep it from browning, though you should put a bit of plastic wrap on the surface to reduce air contact.  Lightly toast your baguette pieces, while you fry up the bacon.  I sliced my bacon in quarters to create smaller pieces, since the baguette is narrow.  I also find that bacon stretches a bit further when you have more smaller pieces rather than fewer large pieces.

I recommend spreading avocado on one half of your baguette, and the mayonnaise on the other.  The avocado adds creamy richness that balances the salt from the bacon.  Yet somehow a BLT doesn’t taste quite right without a little of that mayonnaise tang.  Layer up your bacon, tomatoes, and lettuce.  I recommend a bit of pepper on the tomatoes.

Do this while you can still get summer tomatoes.  Your mouth will thank you.

Not-quite barbecued Ribs

I love barbecued ribs, but I have never been happy with making them at home.   While I have a grill, I don’t have the space or time for a smoker.  One of my major influences as a cook is Alton Brown.  The AB method of cooking ribs involves using your oven.  While I respect AB, when it’s ninety, I don’t want to be turning on my oven.  That said, I agree with some core tenets of his ideas of ribs:

  1. Tender ribs require a “low and slow” approach to cooking.
  2. Braising is one of the best ways to make meat tender.

This is not a recipe to throw together and forget.  Neither is it a recipe that needs your attention all of the time.  It takes some patience though, as many good things do.  It all starts with a rub.

Mix together:

  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP salt
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp pineapple sage (or regular sage)
  • 1/8 tsp dried habanero (optional)

Why did I build this rub this way?  The sugar and salt are the base of the rub.  Everything else is balance.  Cocoa gives depth to savory recipes.  Cumin is also a rich spice that really works in spicy foods.  Allspice is a sweet spice that is a staple in Jamaican foods.  Cayenne and habanero add heat.  (Habanero, while very hot, also works well with sweeter foods.)  And the thyme and pineapple sage round things out with that good, green herb flavor.  This is enough rub for about two racks of ribs.  I only had one rack of ribs, so I’ve got about half left over.

Now that you have your rub, it’s time to rub down your meat.  Sprinkle the rub on with a heavy hand.  You’re aiming for a good coating, not a light seasoning.  The bit of moisture on the meat will probably make it into a little bit of a paste on top.  Once you’ve coated your meat, stick it in the fridge to think about what it’s done for an hour.

When those are nearly ready, you can work on the braising liquid.  For that you’ll need:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 12 oz. beer
  • 2 fresh apricots
  • 1 T stone ground mustard
  • 1 T worchestershire sauce
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 T pineapple sage
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp cayenne

I started by blanching the apricots.  Once the skins were soft, I pulled them from the hot water, dumped out the pan & refilled it with the beer.  I used a lager, but you could use any not too strong beer or even a dry cider.  After slipping the skins from the apricots, I chopped them coarsely.  The whole mix went into the pot & simmered briefly.

Preheat your grill (or broiler).  You’re going to want it hot.  I think my grill was in the 450-500 degree range.  We’re not aiming to *cook* these ribs.  Just to give them a bit of char on each side.  A couple of minutes on each side should do.

Once you’ve charred your ribs, you can dump them into a crockpot.  I have a six quart that they fit into easily.  If you have a smaller one, you may need to cut them apart to make it all work.  Pour your braising liquid over the ribs.

I cooked these on high for about  two hours, and then low for about two hours.  I suspect they’d do fine on low for about six hours.  That said, I also flipped the ribs every hour to immerse the top side.

When they were nearly done, I removed the ribs and poured off the braising liquid.  I reduced it by half, then added about half of it to some barbecue sauce that I brushed the ribs with.

Tender, tasty, delicious ribs.