My Dad loves seafood! So when the idea of entertaining him for dinner around his birthday came up, seafood was my first idea. I had originally thought of doing a Bouillabaisse (a French shellfish and fish stew) adding to my list of classic French dishes to make before going to France in September. However, convenience, as it often does, won out. I was flipping through one of my Ina cook books and came upon Easy Lobster Paella. So I went from French to Spanish with the flip of a page. Paella is a Valencian dish of rice, veggies, and meat. Seafood paella is very common among Spanish restaurants. I was also looking for a dish that I could easily pack up for my Dad as left-overs. And this will do nicely.
Who doesn’t love lobster? Costco had nice sized fresh tails, not frozen. We got two packages of 2 as I needed a pound and a half of meat and what’s wrong with going a little over? As it turns out, minus the shells, I had just the correct amount. Now, I don’t have much experience with lobster tails. But what’s so hard about boiling them? Nothing, it’s separating the meat from the curled up spiny shell that’s the hard part (several small cuts to the fingers later). Also, two of the tails of meat separated from the shells with a rather large amount of grey on the inside them. I don’t think this was anything to worry about, but visually it didn’t look pretty, so I tried to get rid of as much of it as possible without taking the meat with it – that stuff is expensive!
When the paella was finished (it smelled heavenly) I was somewhat disappointed that it was rather bland. I added more salt & pepper, fresh lemon juice of 2 lemons, more red pepper flakes and several shakes of Tabasco. I asked Michael to taste test several times and so did I. In the end I found a winning combination that only got better as the flavors melded with time.
I had also originally thought of fresh oysters on the half shell for an appetizer. But if you’ve ever attempted to shuck an oyster, you know why I ended with shrimp cocktail. I adore (small fresh Puget Sound) oysters. I would have loved a beautiful display of 2 dozen oysters on ice garnished with lemon. But I was not about to put Michael and myself through that. Because for that kind of display, there has to be no shell and maximum salvation of the “nectar”, which is very hard to do. Anyway, shucking them is a pain in the a**! And so a classic shrimp cocktail with lemon & cocktail sauce was what we had instead.
My Dad also likes butterscotch and butterbrickle flavors. So when I came across a recipe in my Gourmet Comfort book called Irish Coffee Sundays with Caramel Whiskey Sauce I knew this would be a great finish to his dinner. I did however, simplify the recipe. Instead of making the caramel sauce, I did the next best thing I bought Fran’s caramel sauce. It was a new twist on a classic Sunday: coffee ice cream, warm caramel sauce and candied walnuts on top.
In the end, the guest of honor was happy and that’s all I need to bring a smile to my face. I’m beginning to think more and more that a home cooked meal or a meal out for that matter, is one of the best gifts to give. Because we all need to eat and who needs more stuff? Time with friends and loved ones over a great meal is a gift of an experience, that can’t ever end up at the Good Will or on a Garage Sale table.