Everyday Gourmet (7/30/09)

The sog blog

July 30, 2009

By Kim Dannies

Enough about the weather! Sure, it’s been a super soggy summer, and too many picnics and parades have been rained on, but we still get to eat great food in the most glorious of seasons. Think of it this way: All this rain gives a cook more time to experiment with new techniques, equipment and recipes.

I’m having a ball solving old problems and trying out new ideas. First challenge: I’m tired of my kitchen smelling like a ship’s loo every time I cook seafood. So when I found soft-shell lobsters for $4.99 a pound, I bought six lobsters and a disposable aluminum steam pan. I fired my grill to the max, boiled 10 cups of water and created a bain-marie steam table in which to cook the lobsters. I placed the lobsters into the steam, covered them securely with foil and shut the lid. After a full 10 minutes of no peeking, I popped the lid and uncovered the lobsters; the cooked ones were bright red and the main antennae snapped cleanly in half. I removed those lobsters to a holding pan (a smaller disposable with a hole poked in the bottom, to drain the debris). All grills vary in temperature, so there is no precise way to time the cooking; simply rely on the “snap test” and plan anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes for 1- to 1 1/2-pound soft-shells.

Once the lobsters were cooked, I cracked and drained the shells, harvested the meat, disposed of the remains and hosed down the area — voilà, seafood heaven! (Don’t forget to grill your fresh corn and tomatoes, too.)

The disposable pan method also works well for mussels and clams. Just rinse and place a bunch in a pan with white wine, herbs, garlic, tomato and onions; cover, and steam for 15 to 18 minutes. Serve this mélange right from the pan with chunks of sourdough bread and a chilled Pinot Grigio.

My new toy is a cast-iron griddle, also known to South American cooks as a “planka.” I found it on amazon.com by googling Weber griddles. I carefully seasoned the cast iron, and now I have a very, very hot surface to play on.

My first experiment was sweet potato rosti. I peeled and shredded a large sweet potato along with 4 garlic cloves. Then I mixed it with a little olive oil, kosher salt and red pepper flakes. I dropped 4 round spoonfuls onto the hot planka and made 4 potato pancakes that rocked my world. On the other grill section I seared some skirt steak; then, I measured out 1 cup of Hellmann’s mayo and mixed it with 2 or 3 teaspoons of Sriracha sauce for a spicy aioli.

With summer eats like this, I’m not thinking about the rain. What rain?

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.