20 Sep A Few of Mike’s Favorites
Picking out my husband’s birthday gift is no picnic, and this year was no different. It was even stickier, you might say, as Mike reluctantly turned the big 5-0 last week.
When asked what he’d like for his birthday, he said, “All I need to be happy is chocolate cake, time to work and a few of my favorites.” (I think when he said favorites, he meant friends. I went directly to food, of course.) That was all I needed to know. Gathering up the gang of guests and a cooler chock full of special surprises, we headed out for a big birthday weekend away.
Of all things, it’s meatloaf that tops the list of Mike’s most desired dishes. Sadly, in fifteen years of marriage, I have never once made it for him. There’s something about the word “loaf” in the context of food I can’t seem to get past.
But, lucky for him, our good friend Jamie Doan came to the rescue and made meatloaf cupcakes, baked in a muffin tin and then frosted with broiled mashed potatoes for his Saturday birthday lunch. Boy, were those delicious!
Prior to the unfortunate closing of Flavors on Central Avenue next to The Udder Company, Mike was a regular lunch patron who often ordered their famous lobster bisque, a luscious soup with velvety-smooth consistency, slightly spicy flavor and a generous quantity of lump lobster meat. Flavors owner Jani Nisbet kindly gave me the recipe so I could try my hand at replicating it for Mike for Sunday’s lunch. Topped with a sprinkling of cayenne and served with cheese straws, the lobster bisque was a definite hit.
If meal planning in our family fell upon Mike’s shoulders, his motto would be “Beef: it’s what’s for dinner”. We’d have steak for every meal, I think, or at least red meat. In accordance with his wishes, Sunday night’s birthday dinner entree was savory Beef Stroganoff on buttered spinach fettuccine, a quick and easy dish simplified at serving time by some previous prepwork. (Grilling the flank steak ahead of time leaves little more than sautéing of the mushrooms and steak and assembling the sauce at the last minute, a real timesaver for the cook.)
Nothing else would do but chocolate cake for the birthday boy. So, our grand finale featured a jazzed-up milk chocolate model with layers of malted milk nougat and caramel with a milk chocolate glaze, the top swirled to resemble a Milky Way, his favorite candy bar. A birthday weekend filled with favorite friends and foods, it’s one we won’t soon forget.
In celebration of Mike’s big birthday, I give you this week’s Special of the day: A Few of Mike’s Favorites” with recipes for Lobster Bisque, Beef Stroganoff and Milky Way Cake-the makings of a menu for an upcoming celebration in your family, perhaps. Happy Cooking!
Lobster BisqueInspired by Jani Nisbet’s Lobster Bisque at Flavors (serves eight) ¼ cup butter ¼ cup sweet onion, finely chopped 3 tablespoons celery, finely chopped 1 cup roasted red pepper, chopped and ½ cup of the juice from the jar 1 cup crushed tomatoes, drained 2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning 1/8 teaspoon white pepper 2 cups water 3 bay leaves 2 tablespoons sherry 2 tablespoons flour 3 cups heavy cream 4 frozen lobster tails, thawed, shelled, meat removed and cut into bite-sized pieces ½ cup butter Cayenne pepper for garnish In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium high heat, melt butter and sauté onion, celery, red pepper and tomatoes until soft. Add red pepper juice, seasoning, white pepper, water and bay leaves and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Add sherry and flour and whisk until smooth. Add cream and stir to combine. Remove from heat, strain and refrigerate until ready to serve. When ready to serve, melt ½ cup butter in medium sauté pan and poach lobster pieces just until pink and opaque. Do not overcook. Remove lobster with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Rewarm bisque and add lobster, heating just until hot. Do not overcook. Serve bowls of lobster bisque sprinkled with cayenne pepper, if desired. Enjoy!
Beef Stroganoff(serves eight) 1 flank steak, about 1 ½ pounds ¼ cup olive oil 2 tablespoons squeeze basil (produce department) or more, to cover ¼ pound provolone cheese, thinly sliced ¼ cup butter 2 cups mushroom slices 2 beef bouillon cubes ½ cup sour cream Fresh thyme sprigs for garnish Heat barbecue grill to 400 degrees. Cover flank steak with plastic wrap and pound to a thickness of ½ inch. Brush both sides of flank steak with olive oil. Transfer prepared flank steak to preheated grill and brush with squeeze basil to cover. Cook for 3 minutes and turn. Spread other side of flank steak with basil and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Top with cheese slices to cover. Turn grill off and let cheese melt, then remove flank steak from grill to rest. This can be done ahead. Wrap cooked flank steak and refrigerate until ready to proceed. When ready to serve, slice flank steak across the grain into ¼ inch thick slices. Melt butter in large sauté pan over medium high heat. Saute mushrooms briefly. Add steak slices and cook for 2 minutes, or to desired degree of doneness. Add bouillon cubes and let cook, then smash with wooden spoon and stir into mixture. Stir in sour cream until incorporated. Serve hot over buttered noodles with fresh thyme sprigs. Enjoy!
Milky Way Cake(serves eight) Make cake: 1 supermoist chocolate cake mix 1 ¼ cups water 3 eggs 1/3 cup oil Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cake ingredients in electric mixer bowl and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Spray cake pans with baking spray. Pour into prepared pans and bake according to baking times on box. Do not overbake or cake will be dry. Make nougat filling: ½ cup butter, room temperature ½ cup powdered sugar 1 tablespoon honey 1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped 1 cup malted milk balls, crushed Cream butter in electric mixer bowl. Add powdered sugar and honey and beat to combine. Carefully fold whipping cream and malted milk balls into butter. Refrigerate until ready to assemble. Caramel topping: ½ cup butter 2 cups sugar 2 tablespoons corn syrup 1 cup whipping cream In medium saucepan over medium high heat, melt butter. Add sugar and corn syrup and stir to dissolve. Continue cooking until mixture is amber colored, swirling pan occasionally. Remove from heat and add whipping cream, whisking until smooth. To assemble: Slice cake in half horizontally. Pour caramel over cut sides and freeze. When set, fill with nougat filling, spreading to cover. Set cake top bake on top. Freeze until set. To glaze: 1 cup heavy whipping cream 2 cups milk chocolate chips In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, heat cream to a simmer. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips. Allow to melt. Then whisk until smooth. Pour chocolate glaze over top and sides of cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.