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Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: An Indulgent Last Meal Before a Healthy New Year

Posted Dec 31 2008 12:00am

Tomorrow I, like many well meaning Americans, will make that cliche New Year’s Resolution to eat healthier, workout more, and (hopefully) lose some weight in the process. Because of this I am certain that tonight many of us will be indulging in what I have heard affectionately called “The Last Meal.” That is, the meal in which we enjoy all the naughty things we presume will be off-limits until we reach our goal weight or quite possibly, forever.
Normally I’m the kind of person that advocates for an approach of balance. But even though I, in my rational mind realize the importance of balance, the word ‘diet’ still makes me want to call out for a late night pizza before the clock strikes midnight.
So when Foodbuzz put out a call for entries for the blogging event 24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs I knew it was an excuse to whip up an over-the-top last meal. This wouldn’t be about a Big Mac scarfed down in haste while pulling away from the drive thru, but homemade comfort food inspired by fond foodie memories. It would be the kind of meal that forces you to slow down and really savor the flavors and the company, which in my opinion is how I want it to be if I’m eating in indulgently.

Tonight’s Menu
Slow Cooker Braised Short Ribs
Maine Lobster Mac and Cheese
Assortment of Deep Fried Candy Bars

For the main course we had Braised Short Ribs and Lobster Mac and Cheese. The short ribs were inspired by a memorable meal on the island of Maui while vacationing in 2006. I’m not a huge meat eater, but these won me over with their Asian-inspired sauce. They melt in your mouth and burst with complex flavors. I was excited to find the restaurant’s recipe online and adapted it for my slow cooker.
The Lobster Mac and Cheese was a throwback to a tremendous meal at Artisanal in NYC that was essentially a celebration of cheese. I included lobster to add a celebratory flair fit for New Year’s Eve. The sauce is really silky and goes well with the sweetness of the lobster. I used a whole box of pasta to stretch out the sauce, but you could easily cut back if you like a saucier mac and cheese. I also used pre-cooked, packaged lobster to cut down my cooking time. You can find it in the refrigerated packaged seafood or freezer case at your local grocer.

Dessert consisted of Deep Fried Candy Bars with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, a tribute to one of my favorite childhood destinations: the Minnesota State Fair. The Fair for me is synonymous with indulgence and fried food. Given how indulgent candy bars are by themselves deep frying them seems a tad much, but trust me, deep frying adds an extra special element. It turns the bar molten making it the perfect compliment for a scoop of ice cream with caramel and chocolate sauces. I love the juxtaposition of cold and hot, crispy and soft. If you’re serving them for a group you could also skip the ice cream and present them on a platter with a light dusting of powdered sugar. When using mini-size candy bars they make for a perfect one bite dessert.

I hope you enjoyed sharing my last meal with me. You can expect healthy meals to come with occasional indulgences in the New Year. Have a happy New Year Everyone and let me know if you try any of the accompanying recipes.
Slow Cooker Braised Short Ribs
Serves 4
Ingredients:
-4 lbs beef short ribs
-1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
-1 teaspoon vegetable oil
-3 shallots, chopped
-2 stalks celery, chopped
-2 carrots, chopped
-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
-1 1/2 cups beef stock
-2 tablespoons cornstarch
Spice Bag -2 tablespoons toasted coriander seeds
-2 tablespoons crumbled toasted star anise
-2 tablespoons chopped lemongrass
-1 tablespoon toasted black peppercorns
-1 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds
-1 tablespoon peeled and chopped ginger root
-1 teaspoon chopped lime rind
Method:
Preheat your slow cooker to high heat. Sprinkle ribs with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; brown ribs in batches, about 8 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker. While ribs are browning, combine all the ingredients for the spice bag in a reusable spice bag or a square of cheese cloth secured with kitchen twine. Set aside. In the same skillet, fry onion, celery, carrots and garlic over medium heat until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Pour in beef stock along with 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits. Pour over ribs in slow cooker and add the spice bag. Cover and cook the meat for 5-6 hours on high, or until the meat is fork-tender. Transfer the ribs to an oven proof pan and discard spice bag. Keep warm in a 250?F oven. Strain pan juices through a sieve into a medium saucepan, gently pressing solids; let stand for 5 minutes. Skim fat off the juices in the pot and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 12 minutes. Stir the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water; whisk into sauce. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring, until slightly thickening, about 2 minutes. Lightly brush about 1/4 of the sauce over the ribs and serve the rest on the side.
Maine Lobster Mac and Cheese
Yields 2 10 12″ pie dishes of Mac & Cheese
Serves 6-8 (unless you love Mac & Cheese and then it serves about 4)
Ingredients:
-1 pound dry elbow or cavatappi (or similarly shaped) pasta
-5 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
-1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
-3 cups whole milk
-2 1/4 cups shredded gruyere
-1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
-8 ounces pre-cooked lobster meat, chopped
-3/4 cups bread crumbs (I prefer homemade or panko)
-1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-ReggianoSalt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Method:
Preheat the oven to 350?F.Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until al dente according to the directions on the package, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well. Meanwhile, slowly melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat in a saucepan. Add the flour, stirring until well incorporated, and cook for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Pour in the milk and cook for 5 minutes, whisking constantly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add in the Gruyere and mascarpone and continue to whisk until the sauce is well incorporated and has thickened up. Remove pot from the heat and pour the cheese sauce into a large bowl. Add the pasta and lobster meat to the cheese sauce and stir until well combined. Meanwhile, put the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan or small skillet over low heat. Add the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano, toss well, and set aside. Pour the macaroni mixture into 2 pie dishes. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, approximately 30 minutes. Serve.

Deep-Fried Candy Bars
Ingredients:
-2 quarts sunflower oil, for deep frying
-1 cup self-rising flour1 cup soda water
-1 10.5 oz bag mini sized candy bars (I used a bag with a mix of Twix, Milky Way, 3 Musketeers, and Snickers)
-Powdered sugar and/or ice cream, caramel and chocolate syrups, for garnish
Method:
At least 7 hours before you plan to make Deep-Fried Candy Bars pop the bars in the freezer. After the bars have spent their time in the freezer, heat sunflower oil in a dutch oven to 350?F. In a large bowl, add the flour and gently whisk in the soda water. Start with 3/4 cup of the water and continue until you’ve reached the consistency of a thick pancake batter. You are looking for batter that is able to cover the bars easily. Submerge each bar in the batter and place it right in the hot oil, allowing it to fry for about 3 minutes or until the batter is puffed up and golden brown. You will need to work in batches to keep from lowering the oil temperature significantly. Using tongs remove the battered bars and place them on a paper towel lined plate. Transfer them to a separate plate and dust with powdered sugar or top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, and caramel syrup.
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