Nimbus Publishing recently sent me a copy of their Prince Edward Island Tastes Cookbook. I was so excited! I loved visiting PEI last year and the booklet had recipes in it from PEI’s best restaurants. I managed to pick up a cooked lobster for $4 and calamari for just over $1 (one of the major benefits of living on the east coast) so I took on two of their recipes.
The first was fettuccine all’aragosta (fettuccine with lobster and lobster sauce) by Italo Marzari, Sirenella Ristorante. It sounded fantastic but I immediately had issues.
I divided the recipe in half because I only had the one lobster. I was supposed to remove the meat from the lobster and saute with the shells in olive oil over medium heat for 15 minutes. This should have been my first clue that I might have problems. I did not want to overcook the lobster so I listened to my instincts and kept the meat on the side and just added the shells with a couple of teaspoons of brandy, a cup of mirepoix and half a tablespoon of Italian spices. I also wish the recipe told me what kind of pan to use but it didn’t so I used my braising pan, unsure of whether this was a good idea or not.
I cooked everything until the vegetables were tender and then added in the crushed tomatoes. You were supposed to simmer for 40 minutes and then strain. I only simmered for 20 minutes since I was using half the liquid which did not look like it was going to last that long.
It didn’t. I was left with next to nothing so I added some red wine. Still wasn’t enough for a sauce.
So I added some clam juice which I keep in my pantry for seafood emergencies like this one.
Then you were supposed to strain the sauce. Um… What sauce? Gives a whole new layer to the cooking term “strain.” After trying to force what I could through the strainer, I was left with mere tablespoons of sauce!
At this point, it was clear that I had to take control of the recipe and do my own thing if I was going to save this lobster pasta dish. I sauteed some shiitake mushrooms, added the lobster, more brandy and some spinach and the so-called sauce. Still wasn’t enough! So, I added some heavy cream. Better. I boiled some linguini and tossed it in the now-existing sauce.
Thankfully, all these additional ingredients saved the day. This was a lovely bowl of seafood pasta but wow, talk about stressful! I am so glad I held back putting the lobster meat in with the sauce. I am sure it would have been over-cooked. It was perfect in my dish, thank goodness!
Next was the spicy calamari by Lisa Cameron of Globe World Flavours. I cut the tubes into 1/4″ slices, dusted them in seasoned cornstarch (not flour) because I was not going to deep fry them, just shallow fry. I do not have a lot of foodie rules in my kitchen but that is one of them. No deep fry!
Using cornstarch makes whatever you fry nice and crispy. I made the sauce which was tomato sauce, mayonnaise and Sriracha hot sauce. I used crushed tomatoes instead which I realized later is a bit thicker than the tomato sauce.
The calamari crisped up nicely but as I tossed them in the sauce, I realized, that was going to steal away their crispiness, whether I used tomato sauce or not.
Which is exactly what happened. The sauce would have been lighter if I had used the tomato sauce but really, this would have worked much better had the sauce been instead a dip. I know I went off the map here a bit but after the lobster dish, I was wary of the directions. Thankfully, despite the goopy calamari, this ended up being very tasty.
The writing and editing of the spicy calamari recipe was much better than the lobster pasta dish. Still, in general, I found the recipes to be so simple in their explanations I was often left wondering what type of pan should I be using? How long is that going to take? How do I do that???
I wish I could give these recipes a rating but I can’t. You can tell these recipes are written by chefs who assume the readers knows how to go about making the dish but for the typical foodie like me, I was very frustrated. Had I spent a fortune on lobster and tried making that pasta dish, I would have been beyond furious.
Sadly, instead of rating this cookbook, I just will not make anything else from it. I lucked out getting seafood on sale but it is not always this inexpensive. Due to health and financial issues, I will let this one go.
Mushrooms Canada says
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Ordinary Day says
How frustrating for you! Glad you were able to use your foodie instincts and save the dishes! Out of curiosity, where did you source your calamari?
Mushrooms Canada says
It sounds (and looks) delicious! Glad you were able to make the save!
Strain the sauce… LOL!
Suzie Ridler says
It was frustrating and exhausting. I actually spoke with my fishmonger and asked her about calamari. She said that they will order it in if people ask so I did. It wasn’t fresh though, previously frozen so I was worried it was going to be rubbery but it wasn’t, thank goodness!
MC, so glad you appreciated the humour of straining the sauce! That is exactly how it felt, what a pain in the butt. My poor hands! Ugh…
There is a fine art to writing a recipe, One that is lost on most people.
That why I wrote my posting on “How to write a recipe”. I too, have been left many times wondering what to use or what was suppose to have happen.
Such a shame, it looked like a great cookbook too.
Hey Suzie. The recipe reminds me of a lobster bisque at the beginning. Did they maybe leave out some liquid at the start. Typically you develop a broth with the shells & miripoix, strain it, then add the Tomato, nectar & cream and simmer to reduce.
The way you describe it, there seems to be something missing !!
Suzie saves the day! You have a magic wand somewhere in that utensil drawer right? How else can such an inadequate recipe turn out so delicious looking?! Oh how I envy your access to mouthwatering seafood. Too expensive here!
Suzie Ridler says
PK, I totally agree, writing a recipe is an art. One that sometimes gets whittled down too much and the readers is left alone and lost.
Wayne, I agree! I have made lobster bisque too and was wondering if they left out a broth or something? That is how I have made sauces before, so confusing and yes, I think something is definitely missing.
Ava, aren’t you funny! I love the idea of a foodie magic wand and need to brand one, LOL. It’s true, when it comes to seafood I am so spoiled. Lobsters here are not that cheap every day mind you, it was a Mother’s Day special. I can’t keep buying lobster for recipes that leave me hanging! On to the next cookbook…
Emily Malloy says
Holy Moses! This looks so good!
Debra She Who Seeks says
Not every cookbook is a winner, that’s for sure.