Tuesday was Valentines day, and my boyfriend took me to one of the best Asian restaurants in Austin, Uchi. The dessert was this deconstructed cream and berry course and I loved it. When I asked Mark what he thought of the dessert, he said “It’s okay, it’s not as good as the Pineapple updside-down cake you make”. I asked him what he would like to eat with his Pineapple Upside down cake, he thought about it, and said “Oysters, Lobster, and Pasta”.

I started with the Pineapple upside-down cake, since I’ve made it before and it can sit while I make the rest of the menu. The recipe is from Flour, which is a bakery in Boston started by an ex-chemistry major. Since my boyfriend is a huge fan of pineapple upside-down cakes (his mom made it for him for his birthday when he was little), I’ve experimented with several different recipes, and this one he loved the most and would request all the time.

The recipe starts with making the caramelized sugar sauce for the pineapples. Caramelizing sugar is something that is not hard to do, but is easy to mess up. Some people prefer adding a lot of water to the sugar and boiling it gently so that they have plenty of time to check on the sugar, and make sure that it doesn’t burn. I actually prefer Flours method, which is adding enough water to make sure all sugar is moistened, then setting the pan on high heat and not stirring or shake the pan until you see a smudge of color on the edge of the pan. Then you swerve the pan to ensure the sugar gets caramelized evenly and not burn. It takes much shorter time than if you add a lot of water. It’s always a good idea to use a pan with a bottom that will show the color of the sugar, so a metal colored bottom or a white colored bottom pan is the best. I’ve used black bottomed pan and a gold pyrex pan before and it was always really really hard to tell what color the sugar is.

Also remember that your burner, either gas or electric, will not have completely even heating, so I’ve noticed that it’s always one edge of the sugar that starts browning before the other. It’s very important to watch your sugar as it cooks, because the turning point between bubbling clear sugar and burnt caramel can take less than 30 seconds.

After the sugar becomes a golden brown, verging on dark brown, butter is added to the caramelized sugar to make caramel, and fresh pineapple slices are added to the caramel and cooked on low heat until golden. The pineapples are removed from the sauce and set aside.

The sauce is then reduced on medium low heat for 15 minutes, then the Pineapple chunks are placed in the bottom of a 9 inch baking pan, and the sauce poured over the pineapples.

A batter made from butter, sugar, and flour is poured over the pineapples and sauce and baked in 350F oven until the top is golden and springs back when you press on it. You want to check on the cake near the end of the baking process since the recipe called for 50-60 minutes of baking, but my cake was done probably around 45 minutes.

After the cake is done, it needs to rest in the pan for at least 30 minutes. If you pop it out right after it’s cooked, there is a good chance it will fall apart. After you flip the cake out of the pan, it still should rest another 30 minutes on a plate before you serve. The cake will be good, covered, in room temperature for a few days. I’ve also frozen the cake for two weeks and came back to it tasting delicious.

For the Lobster, I found a recipe for Lobster à l’Américaine, which is a classic French Lobster recipe of lobster meat in lobster shell sauce, from the now closed Aix Brasserie in NYC. Live lobsters are flash boiled, then chilled in ice water to stop the meat from cooking, de-shelled, and set aside. Cracking lobster shells can be bad for your hands, so tools like kitchen scissor, lobster claw cracker, and a hammer or mallet is always recommended along with good thick kitchen towels.

To make the sauce, the larger pieces of shell are cooked over high heat olive oil, then cooked on low heat along with diced, celery, shallots, carrots, and tomato paste.

After about 10 minutes of sweating, cognac is added to the pot and cooked for a couple of minutes. Afterwards, a puree of wine and tomatoes, rosemary and tarragon and parsley stems, and onions are added to the pot.

The sauce is cooked over medium low heat for about 30-40 minutes, and then strained of all solids, pressing on the shells to extract as much liquid as possible. According to the recipe you are supposed to cook the lobsters in a oiled pan and then add the sauce to the Lobster and serve with rice. Since Mark wanted pasta, I took the strained lobster sauce, then added about 1 cup of whole milk to it, and cooked it on low heat for about 20 minutes to reduce it a bit, then tossed the cooked lobster meat, and cooked al dente pasta with the sauce. It was a great alteration and my boyfriend loved it.

I finished up the Menu with a French inspired Sugar snap pea and Endive Salad. The crunchiness of the snap pea and endive contrasted nicely with the creamy Parmesan dressing. It definitely was a nice refreshing start to the meal.

Lobster à l’Américaine Recipe: http://nymag.com/listings/recipe/lobster-a-l-americaine/
Sugar Snap Pea and Endive Salad: http://nymag.com/listings/recipe/sugar-snap-pea-and-endiv/

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