So, the CSFB (Competent but Sexy Finnish Babysitter) is back. But my husband went to Los Angeles. It's like a revolving door of people here. One comes, the other goes...
When I was a kid and my Dad went on a business trip, my mother saw the opportunity to get the hell out of the kitchen for a day and she served us TV Dinners. She used to do this actually on TV trays in front of the TV, which was, as I remember it, a HUGE treat. I really relished how casual and decadent it felt to watch TV AND eat frozen food at the same time.
To this day, the Swanson Salsbury Steak Dinner and the Fried Chicken Dinner with that little pad of chocolate cake, make me feel all warm and toasty inside.
I, of course, do no do TV Dinners. I haven't eaten one in years and not a single frozen chemicalized Swanson morsel has passed over my children's lips. I know this sounds elitist and kind of hypocritical, seeing as how much I enjoyed them myself, but I have to draw the line somewhere and I draw my line in the sand there. And with box mac and cheese. But that just goes without saying.
But when David goes out of town I move to the "Default Menu". My own little version of a TV Dinner. We relax the rules a bit. Let down our hair. We declare a "Pajama Party!!" right around dinner time and whip up a fav off the "Default Menu" and usually invite some friends from the neighborhood.
No need to sit still at the table. The kids can eat in their play room while they paint or watch a little "Max and Ruby" with a bowl in their lap.
I'm a rebel.
Anyhoo, I'm going to share with you a dish from my "Default Menu" It's a crowd pleaser and it couldn't be more simple. I was inspired to do this after reading the recipe for Thomas Keller's Butter-Poached Lobster. I do love butter-poaching lobster and have done it a few times now. The kids think it's wonderful and always gorge themselves, but who wants to cook lobster on "Daddy's Away, Pajama Party Night"?
So I butter-poach some fish.
Here is Chef Keller's original Butter-Poached Lobster Recipe which you can see done step-by-step over at French Laundry at Home. If you want to go the easy and cheaper route, my adapted recipe is below. By the way, if you have a hard time getting your kids to like fish or something besides fish sticks, butter poaching is the way to go. It tastes absolutely decadent and really, nothing like fish. And it also tastes, not surprisingly, like butter. And how can that be bad?
I often serve it with another dish off my "Default Menu", Brown Buttered Corn. Also, simple. But sophisticated and satisfying. And even more butter.
There's a theme here.
Think of us in our pajamas in front of the TV tonight...
Thomas Keller's Butter-Poached Lobster
with Leeks, Pommes Maxim and Red Beet Essence
From ''The French Laundry Cookbook'' (Artisan, 1999)
1 pound unsalted butter at room temperature, in pieces
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced leek rounds
1/4 medium-size ripe tomato, peeled, flesh cut in small diamond shapes
2 teaspoons minced chives
1 teaspoon each finely diced carrot, turnip and dark green of leeks
Red-beet essence (see recipe)
Par-cooked meat from 3 lobsters at room temperature (see recipe)
Pommes Maxim (see recipe).
1. Place 2 tablespoons water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to very low, and whisk in butter piece by piece. Continue adding until all butter is emulsified. Set aside, and keep warm (the best way is in a thermos); do not allow to boil.
2. Bring a 3-quart pot of water seasoned with 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water ready. Add leeks to boiling water, cook 5 minutes until just tender, drain in a sieve and place sieve with leeks in ice water until leeks are cool. Drain, and transfer to a small sauté pan. Place over low heat to reheat. Add tomato, chives, diced carrot, turnip and leek greens. Stir in 1/3 cup emulsified butter. Season with salt and pepper, and cover to keep warm.
3. Place beet essence in a small saucepan. Whisk in 3 tablespoons emulsified butter, and cover to keep warm.
4. Heat oven to 300 degrees. Place lobster pieces in single layer in a large saucepan or sauté pan. Add remaining emulsified butter. Lobster meat should be just about covered. Place pan over low heat, and cook 5 to 6 minutes, until meat is just heated through. Remove knuckle pieces, drain and fold into leek mixture.
5. While lobster cooks, place potatoes in oven 2 to 3 minutes to reheat.
6. To serve, place a spoonful of warm beet essence in center of each of 6 plates. Briefly reheat leek mixture, and spoon onto beet essence. Remove lobster tails and claws from butter mixture, draining well; place a tail piece and a claw on each plate, on top of leeks. Break potatoes in six pieces and place on top of the lobster. Serve.
Yield: 6 servings.
Pictures courtesy of Carol at French Laundry at Home. Thanks Carol!
The Yummy Mummy's "Daddy's Away, Default Menu" Butter-Poached Fish
Serves a couple of adults and four to six kids
2 Tablespoons of water
2 Sticks of unsalted butter
6 Fillets of Swai (or another buttery white fish)
Chives (cut small)
1. Place 2 tablespoons water in a small to medium size saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to very low, and whisk in butter piece by piece. Continue adding until all butter is emulsified. Do not burn the butter.
2. When butter is melted, add the fish fillets. Cook about 3-4 minutes on each side depending on thickness and heat but be careful not to over cook and fry the fish. You can ladle some of the butter over the top of the fish to get that buttery goodness everywhere. If you feel the fish is nearly done, turn off the heat and just let it sit for a minute in the warm butter.
3. With kitchen scissors, cut small pieces of chive over the fish. Salt to taste. And plate with lemon wedges.