Category Archives: Side dishes

Lobster Arancini

Each Christmas Eve for about the last decade, Peg and I head over to the house of our friends Jonathan and Karen. Karen is from an Italian-American family, and one Italian tradition for Christmas Eve is the Feast of the Seven Fishes. We don’t always make it to the full seven fishes, but I try to bring along a dish in the theme. I also try to compete with Karen and her three sisters, all of whom are excellent cooks.

My attempt this year was Lobster Arancini – golf-ball sized balls of risotto stuffed with a chunk of lobster meat, then rolled in bread crumbs and deep-fat fried. No, not really the healthiest of treats, but this happens only once a year. It may never happen again because these were a pain to make. But oh, were they good!

I made a double batch, but a single batch is probably manageable. For a single batch (and this follows pretty closely with Giada DiLaurentiis’s recipe, as her recipe came up in my research).

This recipe should make about 16 arancini, enough for 4 servings.

Risotto:
2 T butter
1/2 C finely chopped onion (or shallot)
1 C arborio rice
1/2 C white wine
3-4 C lobster stock (or chicken)
1 C grated Parmesan cheese
1 t salt
1 t pepper

Arancini:
2 C Panko bread crumbs
1 egg
8 ounces lobster meat, in 1/2″ cubes
vegetable oil

Heat the stock to a simmer. Melt the butter and gently saute the onions until translucent. Add the rice and cook for about five minutes. Then add the wine, and stir the rice until the wine is all absorbed. The start adding the stock, about 1/2 C at a time, stirring almost constantly until it is absorbed. After 3 cups of stock is absorbed, check to see whether the rice is tender (al dente). If not, add another 1/2 C of stock, and perhaps another, until the rice is done.

Stir in the Parmesan cheese, and let the risotto cool. You’re going to be handling it.

Beat the egg and combine that and 1/2 C of the bread crumbs with the risotto.

Take 2 T of the risotto mixture and form into a firm ball about 2″ in diameter. Make an indentation in the ball, insert a chunk of lobster, and form the risotto around the lobster to seal it completely. Coat the ball with the bread crumbs as you go, and when you have them all done, deep fry them in 350F oil until golden brown, about four minutes.

Drain on paper towels.

Progressive Scalloped Potatoes

We usually make a traditional recipe (Betty Crocker’s was the base recipe) scalloped potatoes, but I had an odd thought the other night and thought since Peg wasn’t home to pooh-pooh the idea, I went with it, and I was pleased with the results – to the extent that this is going to be my lunch for the coming week.

Heat your oven to 350F

2 # peeled potatoes, sliced thinly (1/8″ is ideal, but if you’re knife challenged, anything smaller than 1/4″ is OK. (Hint – take two slices off one side of the potato, then rest it on the flat side for easier slicing. Nobody cares how they look.
1 small onion, diced
1 cup cubed ham, sliced ham, chopped ham, whatever
2 C frozen kernel corn
3 C milk
4 T butter (divided 3 T & 1 T)
4 T flour
salt & pepper to taste

Slice the potatoes as thinly as you can
Dice or slice the ham into smaller-than-bite-size pieces
Dice the onion quite finely

Grease an 9×13 casserole with some of the 1 T butter
In a heavy skillet, melt the butter, add the onion, and saute until tender.
Add the flour and mix thoroughly, then cook the flour mixture (called a roux) for two minutes over medium heat.
Using a whisk, stir in the milk, continuing to stir completely until the mixture (now a Bechamel sauce) comes to a boil for two minutes and thickens. Take the sauce off of the heat.

Pour a thin layer of sauce into the casserole. Layer half of the potatoes in the casserole, and then layer half the ham and half the corn. Evenly distribute half of the sauce, then layer more potatoes, ham, corn, and sauce.

Dot with butter. Cover with foil, bake for 40 minutes. Uncover, bake for another 60-70 minutes until the potatoes are tender but not mushy.

Serve alone, or as a side for ham or anything else. Excellent as a hot picnic dish. Reheats well in the microwave, arguably with more flavor.

Kenda’s Crock Pot Macaroni & Cheese

This recipe comes from Kenda, Peg’s best friend (probably mine, too), and it gets rave reviews everywhere. We normally make a double batch. Peg has some notes. I have some footnotes.

8oz pkg elbow macaroni, cooked until still firm
12oz. can evaporated milk [1]
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided 3c/1c
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper [2]
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated

In the slow cooker, combine lightly cooked macaroni, evaporated milk, whole milk, melted butter, eggs, 3 cups cheddar cheese, salt and pepper.
Top with remaining cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese. [3]
Cover. Cook on low 3 hours. Watch the pot – one pot’s “low” can burn
the outside and make it like rubber.[4]

Peg’s Note:

I doubled this recipe when I made it to take to a party.
It really doesn’t need the butter. It makes a very rich mac & cheese dish without the butter in it!!

John’s Note:
I once put 1/2tsp of ground mustard into a double batch, but there was no discernible difference. I was hoping for just a little more “zing”, thinking it would play off of the ham, ┬ábut didn’t go strong enough.

[1] Original recipe called for 13oz. Evaporated milk comes in 12 oz cans. Don’t kill yourself over detail if it’s not baking.
[2] Really, does anybody still have white pepper? Black pepper works just fine.
[3] Peg normally mixes the Parmesan in with the main ingredients.
[4] Ask John how he knows.

It reheats well in the microwave, too.!

Summer Stew

I don’t really know what to call this. I accidentally made it one year and it turned out pretty good, so I continue to make it on occasion. Sometimes Peggy even requests it. And it’s vegetables!

It should be no surprise that the fresher the vegetables, the better the taste. #1 – your garden #2 – the farm stand #3 – the grocery store

2 T vegetable or olive oil
1 onion, rough chop
1 t – 1T chopped garlic
2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
3 large garden tomatoes. roughly cubed (or a 28-oz can of whole tomatoes, hand crushed)

Heat the oil and add the onions. Cook until tender, and add the garlic.
Cook until the onions are caramelized, just starting to brown,
Add the squash, and let it saute for a bit.
Add the tomatoes, lower the heat, and let it simmer for 20 minutes or so.

A little salt, a grind or two of fresh pepper, voila!

I often serve this over rice for a hearty side dish. Start the rice right after you add the tomatoes, everything is done at the same time.

I’m too lazy to make rice the right way. I use medium grain rice most of the time. And it’s usually Goya rice if you can find it in your area.

2 C water
1 C rice
pinch of salt

Heat the water until boiling (or almost boiling if you’re in a rush like I normally am)
Stir in the rice and add the salt.
Reduce to very low heat and cover.
20 minutes later you have rice.