Today I'm bringing you a very special dish - something I whipped up for The Wine Lover, The Original Diva and Kuzak on Christmas Eve!
It's sort of my take on a Bouillabaisse, a traditional Provencal fish stew with a saffron broth.
Well, let me start at the beginning of my thought process here, something about which I often get asked. I believe that creating and constructing new recipes is my biggest strength as a chef, especially considering that I have no formal training whatsoever. So I'll let you in on the secret process.
It all began with lobster meat, which The Original Diva had lovingly procured from Indigo Farms, her rockin' local fish supplier. We had this great protein - already shelled and ready to use - but how were we going to use it? I'd already planned to make a homemade ravioli dish, but after careful consideration, I decided against a lobster ravioli. The lobster just wasn't going to work with the other flavors I already had in mind (goat cheese, caramelized shallots, "bruleed" delicata squash, red kale, roasted pepitos). Rather, it would have proven a pricey distraction.
How did I decide that?
Before I ever set foot in the kitchen or hand on saute pan, I envision the complete dish and do a virtual taste test in my mind, something at which I prove rather adept. So after I nixed the lobster ravioli idea, opting to make the goat cheese ravioli with whole grain spelt for a starter instead, I concentrated on a main course that would showcase the lobster as the star.
The Diva Making Goat Cheese Ravioli
After careful pondering, and many glances at the snow-filled landscape, I decided a rich soup would be perfect for that chilly day. Rich, warm, comforting, decadent, sumptuous. But what kind of soup? The Original Diva can't eat cream or milk, and I prefer to limit my consumption, so after surveying the cupboard, I settled on making a homemade bouillabaisse-like fish stock as the base for the soup, using saffron, achoveys, herbs, tomatoes and a bunch of other flavors. This is my original recipe.
With that settled, I finalized my components. The lobster would be quickly poached in butter. I had purchased some stunning Yukon gold fingerling potatoes. I planned to poach those in the saffron-based stock, which would transform them into a gorgeous yellowy-orange-ish color.
Ravioli Filling (Goat Cheese, Parmesan Reggiano & Caramelized Shallots)
The final major component? Bacon! Not only does bacon, like butter, make most things taste awesomer, but I loved the meaty, smoky, fatty, indulgent flavor it was going to bring to an otherwise rather austere dish. I knew it would compliment my flavors, rather than overwhelm them, especially since I planned to crumble the bacon over top, adding punches of flavor rather than a whole chunk of meat. Luckily, I had purchased a package of applewood smoked, center cut bacon (nitrate-free of course!) earlier in the week.
Goat Cheese Ravioli with "Bruleed" Delicata Squash, Red Kale & Pepitos
All of this, and I hadn't even stepped into the kitchen yet. This is how I work. I let my ingredients guide me, rather than trying to force what's available into a preconceived mold. I find that I turn out better, more creative food that way that conforms to the seasons, rather than the other way around.
I sort of hate being right all the time, but this was a spectacular dish! I labored over my stock all day, simmering it, straining it, and further reducing it to a pure, rich broth (and this was sans dairy or thickening agents). The plating, the flavors, everything came together into a restrained, comforting, tasty soup.
What's left but to give you the recipe?
Lobster "Bouillabaisse" with Poached Yukon Gold Potatoes & Bacon
Serves 4 people
2 cups lobster meat, poached in butter, removed from shell and seasoned with salt & pepper
2 cups Yukon gold fingerling potatoes, quartered
4 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt & pepper
1 shallot, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp tomato paste or 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
4 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp saffron
3 anchovy fillets packed in olive oil, rinsed, patted dry & chopped
6 cups filtered water
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
To make the bouillabaisse stock, add the olive oil to a pot and heat over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and carrots and saute for a few minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and anchovies and cook for another minute. Push the mixture to the side and add the tomato paste or tomatoes, cooking it alone for a minute before stirring it into the mixture. Cook for another minute. Add the white wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the herbs, saffron, peppercorns and filtered water and simmer uncovered over low heat for about ninety minutes (can cover and continue simmering longer).
"Bouillabaisse" Stock After Straining
Remove from heat and strain the stock. Return to a sauce pan and continue to simmer until reduced to about 4 cups. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
To poach the potatoes, simmer them in the stock until tender and cooked through, about ten minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove them from the stock and season to taste with salt and pepper.
To cook the bacon, quickly saute it over medium heat until crispy. Drain on paper towels.
To plate, arrage some of the potatoes in the center of a wide-bottomed bowl. Top with a generous portion of butter-poached lobster. Ladle the broth over top. Finish with crumbled bacon, chopped parsley and fresh cracked pepper.
Business mentioned in this post:
Serving the New River Valley since 1993, they're providers of fresh seafood and specialty meats.
CLICK HERE to visit their website and see their schedule!
Source for Ingredients:
lobster meat from Indigo Farms (Floyd, VA)
Yukon gold fingerling potatoes, thick-cut nitrate-free bacon, saffron and anchovies from Harvest Moon (Floyd, VA)