Sunday, June 7, 2009

Loiusiana-style Surf & Turf

Louisiana's southern-style cuisines are heavily influenced by its melting pot cultures, specifically the Creole and Cajun styles of cooking. Creole cuisine is inherently more sophisticated and blends the influences from French, Spanish, Mediterranean, Caribbean, African, Canarian and southern American cooking while Cajun cuisine provides a more rustic style that makes full use of local ingredients. In many ways, both Creole and Cajun styles of cooking have definitely influenced each other and the line is sometime blurred and you get a blend of both styles. So, taking a cue from Louisiana's Creole and Cajun cuisine heritages, I melded flavors from both styles of cooking to produce a surf and turf dish that you see above. There are three components to this dish: first is obviously the succulent lobster, second is the spice-rubbed pork tenderloin and finally a vegetable side dish that incorporates some of the ingredients found in New Orleans cuisine.

To start, the pork tenderloin should be left marinating for at least a couple of hours in order to get the intense flavors seeping into the meat. I made a spice rub using olive oil, Caribbean jerk seasoning, Cajun spice, paprika, chili powder, dried herbs like oregano and thyme, fresh ground pepper, salt and some fresh cilantro. Let it sit in the refrigerator while you prepare the other components of this dish. The lobster is easy, just bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and cook the lobster for 15 -20 minutes, depending on the size of the crustacean. The one you see here is approximately 1.5 lbs and it took about 20 minutes to be done cooking. Once it is done, take the lobster out of the pot and submerge it is ice cold water to stop it from cooking any further. Don't worry about it being cold as we'll bake it for a little while in the oven before serving.

Next is the vegetable side dish. The ingredients that I used include celery, bell peppers, onions, okra, zucchini squash, garlic and chickpeas. Known as the holy trinity of Cajun cuisine, the ingredients celery, bell pepper and onions are used as the base for many dishes that originate from Louisiana. This is quite similar to the French mirepoix of celery, carrots and onions. So chop up these ingredients and get them ready.

For the next step, heat up a pan of oil and start searing all round the marinated pork tenderloin, producing a delicious crust. After that's done, transfer it into the oven and finish cooking it for about 30-40 minutes at 450F. After the tenderloin is done, slice it before serving. Now, using the same pan with the yummy bits and pieces of the pork that was left behind, start cooking your vegetables, deglazing the pan with some dry sherry.

To bake the lobster before serving, we need another important component. Take a stick of butter and melt it in a small pot, throw in some chopped garlic and cook. Finish it by adding lemon juice, sherry and a pinch of salt. Now, crack open the lobster tail and its knuckles and pour some of that decadent lemon and sherry garlic butter over the meat and bake in the oven for less than 5 minutes (or until the lobster meat is hot).

Now you are ready to serve. For garnish, I chopped up some cilantro and sprinkled it over the pork and vegetables, together with a slice of lemon.

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