Recipe: Baked Lobster Tails with Broccolini and Cheddar Cheese Polenta

Lobster Tail with Polenta and Broccolini

Serves: 2-4

Prep. time: 10-20 minutes

Cooking time: Approx. 30 minutes

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Ingredients

For the lobster tails:

  • Salted butter
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • 2-4 lobster tails, cleaned
  • ½ – 1 package (2-4 servings) instant polenta
  • 1-2 bunches broccolini, stems cleaned and ends removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Chicken stock
  • 4-6 strips of bacon
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 bunches green onion/scallions
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon juice
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Sharp cheddar cheese (Cracker Barrel Vermont White Cheddar is lovely), shredded
  • Heavy cream/milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400*F. Steam or parboil the broccolini to get it a little tender, then set aside. Measure out the liquid for the polenta (I usually use all chicken stock or half chicken stock and half water instead of all water—chicken stock adds flavor) and pour into a large pot and start to heat it. Cook the bacon strips in a nonstick pan until crispy, then remove them to drain on paper towels and reserve a few tablespoons of the bacon fat. Cut a slit down the underside or back of the lobster tails to expose the meat (cut a chunk of shell out to expose more meat, if desired). Melt salted butter for the lobster tails, blend in the seasoning, and drizzle onto the meat of the lobster tails. Place the tails, uncut shell side down, on a piece of foil, wrap the foil around them, place them on a baking sheet, then place in the oven. Cook for 10-20 minutes, until the meat is white and tender. While the lobster is cooking, heat up the reserved bacon fat with a little butter and olive oil over medium heat, then add the green onion and broccolini and season with salt and pepper—cook until tender, then keep warm over low heat. Instant polenta generally takes 3-5 minutes to cook, so start to cook this when the lobster is just about finished. Pour the polenta into the boiling chicken stock (or water) and cook according to package instructions. When done, reduce the heat to medium-low, slowly stir in the shredded cheddar, add a splash of milk or heavy cream and a chunk of salted butter, and season (garlic powder, salt, and pepper) to taste. Keep warm over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the lobster is done, remove it from the oven and unwrap it. Carefully remove the flesh from the shell and plate it atop the creamy polenta and tender broccolini on a plate or in a large, wide bowl.

Cook’s Commentary

This is an easy to make meal that feels like a dish from a fancy downtown restaurant. Lobster has this sort of savory-sweetness that is much more delicate than the flavors of shrimp and other shell-fish, and cooking it in melted butter and seasoning lightly flavors it. Polenta is delicious on its own, but adding cheese to it brings it up to a whole different level and turns it into the ultimate comfort food. Broccolini is like slimmer, dainty broccoli and combined with the sharp, oniony taste of the scallions, it adds much-needed color and lightness to this dish. This dish is very easy and quick to make and will impress anyone from a significant other to a guest from out-of town.

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Recipe: Pasta Bolognese

Servings: 2-4

Prep. time: 10-15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 strips prosciutto, cut into small pieces
  • 6-8 oz. lean ground beef*
  • Approx. 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • White wine (cooking/dry)
  • Marsala wine (cooking/dry)
  • Chicken stock
  • Cinnamon
  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • 8 oz. pasta**

*I prefer 90-93% lean.

**I used medium shells. Papadelle and other long, wide noodles are great with this sauce, but small pastas, like shells or orchiette, are great too.

Directions

Heat a large, nonstick pan over medium-high heat, then add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove the bacon to a plate covered in paper towels to drain. Add a little butter and olive oil to the bacon fat in the pan and add the onion and carrot, cooking until tender and fragrant, then add the prosciutto and continue to cook. Add the beef and cook, breaking the meat up as it cooks. Add a splash of marsala and splash of white wine and the garlic and continue to cook, letting the wine reduce and the beef continue to brown and cook. Crumble in the bacon strips and add the tomato paste, stirring to combine, then cook for approx. 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, a little more of each wine, and reduce the heat to medium, stirring occasionally. Add in a pinch of cinnamon (a quick whiff of the sauce should let you know it’s there, but don’t add too much; 1-3 tsp. is probably enough) and paprika (1-3 tsp.), as well as some salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, covered. While the sauce is cooking over low heat, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook for 6-8 minutes, or until al dente, then drain, and add the finished pasta in with the sauce, tossing to coat. The finished sauce should be a brownish-orange color, scented with cinnamon and paprika, and it should be somewhat thickened.

The sauce, as it's cooking

The sauce, as it’s cooking

Pasta Bolognese

Cook’s Commentary

There are many different ways to make a bolognese sauce—some recipes call for plum tomatoes while others call for just tomato paste, some use ground beef and veal while others use ground beef and pork, some suggest pairing it with long pasta noodles while others encourage the use of smaller pastas—I looked at many of these differing recipes and went my own way. Beef is the bulk of the meat in this dish, while the bacon and prosciutto add a little texture and saltiness to the sauce. Cinnamon and paprika add a heat and sweetness that balances the tanginess of the tomato paste and the salty-savory flavors of the meats. Chicken stock and wine create a sort of brothy sauce that soaks deliciously into the pasta noodles. It’s a hearty meal perfect for cold weather, and the sauce is delectable sopped up on a piece of bread at the end of the meal, and absolutely perfect paired with a red zinfandel or other sweet red wine.