Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kitchen Stadium Challenge: Lobster Pot Pie

by Erin

I know what you're thinking: "Enough with the restaurant reviews! Don't you broads cook??" Well yes, yes we do. And this past weekend we did some serious cooking. We're talking almost 6 hours straight. Lives [of lobsters and oysters] were lost, almost every pot and tool in the kitchen was used (even the chinois!), and we only made one dish!

Last weekend, Xani and I headed out to Blackacre, our parents' wonderful home on Maryland's Eastern Shore, to visit them (and the dog!) and do some serious cooking in honor of Xani's 30th birthday. We decided to attempt a dish that we have been talking about doing, literally, for years: lobster pot pie! We enjoyed this dish at Michael Mena in Vegas, and while it was very good, we felt that it had some weaknesses (soupy sauce, not thick enough for pot pie; the crust was very thin, not fluffy/flaky enough). This encouraged us to attempt it ourselves on the special occasion of Xani's big 3-0.

Xani and I left Baltimore on Saturday morning but we had to pick up a few veggies and of course, the lobsters, before we headed out to the shore. We went to Fresh World International Supermarket, a combination of Asian market and Latin market, and it was GIGANTIC with lots of exotic produce, meats, fish, and snacks. We picked up the items on our short list, including four, 2-3 lb lobsters for the pot pie.

After a quick 2-hour drive east, we arrived at Blackacre and got cooking IMMEDIATELY. The parents were not home - they were in College Park watching the Maryland Terps DEFEAT North Carolina in a fantastic basketball game!! So, Xani and I had free reign over the house and the kitchen (though not the dog - he was roaming free). We were basically following Ina Garten's LPP recipe, though she used pre-cooked lobster and fish stock. We needed to cook our lobsters and then make our own lobster stock from their shells and other yummy ingredients.

So, the game plan was to cook the lobsters, take out the meat, make the stock, make the roux/pot pie filling, cook some veggies for the pot pie, assemble and finally bake. Whew! We started the water to boil so we could cook the lobsters. While the water boiled, we prepped veggies for the lobster stock. Then it was time for the boys and girls to go into the hot tub. It still freaks me out a little to boil lobsters, but I know it's necessary and Xani tells me to just think of them as gigantic bugs so I don't feel so bad?

Anyway, once the lobsters were cooked, we took the meat out and cut up the shells to go into the stock. We used a recipe from this chowhound post as a guideline. We fried up the shells in some oil, then once they were browned up, we added veggies, vermouth, and water, and cooked it at a low heat for about 2 hours. During those two hours, we watched the aforementioned amazing Terps game.

Cutting up the shells for easier frying pre-stock

The beginnings of the stock


Xani and Gellie enjoy the game!

After the stock was done, we strained it and set it aside and began the prep on the actual pot pie. We mostly followed Ina's recipe here but made a few changes in ingredients to fit our tastes/pantry (e.g., replacing fennel with garlic, replacing Pernod with Sherry). We started by sauteing some garlic and onions up in -- what else? -- bacon fat (we just happened to have some on hand), and then sprinkled in the flour to start the roux. After that cooked for a while to become a blonde color, we added the stock, sherry, and some salt and pepper. We watched it thicken up and look just like pot pie filling!

The roux begins...

Xani devilishly adding heavy cream

Meanwhile we cooked up some mini-potatoes to put in the pot pie (another change from Ina's recipe), and cut up the lobster meat into bite-size pieces. I had to seriously restrain myself during this part so I would not gobble it all up!

How much meat did we get out of 9 lbs of lobster?

1.5 lbs! That's it! Still delicious though...

Then it was time to put everything together. We put frozen peas and pearl onions, plus the lobster meat into the sauce to heat through. We knew it wouldn't take long for the puff pastry to cook, so we wanted everything to basically be hot when it went into the oven. We placed the potatoes in the bottom of the pan, poured the sauce with the lobster over the top, and then placed the rolled out puff pastry dough over the top of everything. We brushed it with an egg wash and into the oven it went for about 15-20 minutes.

While we were waiting for the LPP to finish, we enjoyed a first course of delicious oysters (I learned how to shuck them!), followed by a second course of Mom's famous caesar salad. Soooo good. Sooo garlicky.

Then, the pot pie was done! And it was awesome!


It had great lobster flavor from the stock and the lobster meat itself, the meat was not overcooked (a concern of ours), and the sauce inside was creamy and thick -- take that Michael Mena!! The puff pastry worked well and was light and flaky. I'm glad we didn't bother making our own dough - the recipe was complicated enough as it was! The potatoes and peas were great, but we all agreed we could do without the onions.

At the end of dinner we had a little birthday suprise for Xani: cupcakes! Mom and Dad picked them up from Touche Touchet Bakery in Columbia, and we enjoyed red velvet and yellow with chocolate icing, along with some super-strong coffee (the BCD parents use espresso beans for their coffee - yum). We also had coconut cupcakes waiting in the wings, but we were too full and never got to them. They were left in the garage (staging area where Dad put in the candles for the surprise), and the next morning, we discovered that Gellie ATE THEM! Wrappers and all. The box was completely in tact too. I swear he's much smarter than we give him credit for.

Guilty as sin...

What a meal! It was a lot of work but so much fun to make this dish with Xani, and enjoy it with the whole fam. Cooking in that kitchen is the best!! Next up in Kitchen Stadium: sweetbreads!

Happy 30th, Xani! I love you and I have loved celebrating with you! Here's to the next 30 - nay, 60 - years!


ps. Before we headed out to the shore, we headed to Dunkin' Donuts because we had received coupons to try their new Waffle Breakfast Sandwich for free! Hey, sometimes it pays to be a food blogger. The verdict: the sandwich was good! We love waffles (especially Xani) and it was a nice little bite for breakfast. Sort of like a McGriddle but better, although I could do without the cheese. We got a few donuts too, as insurance (credit default swap?) just in case the sandwich was a flop, but they weren't necessary. We enjoyed them later in the day while we watched the Terps...

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