The long stretch of keeping to home has given me the opportunity to catch up on some necessary spring-cleaning projects. Clothes have been sorted, books dusted and windows washed. One fruitful endeavor was tackling the kitchen refrigerator and freezer.
I practice the frugal, homestead cooking technique of saving containers of food scraps in the freezer. A bag of frozen onion skins, carrot peelings, tomato cores, celery ends and parsley stems are simple to turn into a vegetable stock when cooked in a pot of water. Adding the carcass of a roasted bird to the pot makes for a delicious chicken stock.
Bags of leftover crusts and bread ends are used for stuffings and puddings, or ground in the food processor for breadcrumbs and toppings. Stale corn and tortilla chips are kept separate — the gluten- free crumb of my choice. Cookies and brownies become cheesecake crusts, or toppings for cobblers and fruit desserts.
Of course, these simple methods of capturing all the savory goodness of our food take time. But these days, many of us have time in abundance.
On my refrigerator cleaning adventure, I was delighted to discover a bag of frozen lobster tails. The Dec. 19 label confirmed that these crustaceans had been hoarded since just before Christmas, when we picked several lobsters for stew. The red curves of cooked lobster had me dreaming of family shore dinners, cookouts on the deck and warm summer days.
Although there was not enough lobster meat for a meal, just for a taste, I was inspired.
The preparation for Lobster Cheesecake comes from my archives. Recipes to fry lobster, stew and “boil to eat cold the common way” first appeared in 17th century English chef Robert May’s “The Accomplisht Cook, or the Art and Mastery of Cooking” (London, 1660). By the early 1900s, thrifty Maine housewives and fishing families had developed numerous recipes using both cooked and canned lobster. Lobster and noodle ring, lobster croquette and lobster rarebit were some, as was the idea for my lobster cheesecake.
This is a very easy cheesecake-type recipe, with three simple ingredients: soft cheese, eggs and a base. The soft cheese (cream cheese, goat cheese or fresh dairy cheese) and egg are combined to provide the cheesecake structure. The base, chopped lobster and minced herbs, provide the flavor.
There are many potential variations and I encourage you to be creative. No lobster in the freezer? Use canned lobster, shrimp or clams. A combination of scallops and lobster is tasty, as is Maine crab. Not a seafood lover? Try chopped spinach or cooked broccoli.
I scoured the herb garden for fresh chive spears and wintered-over parsley. Finely minced red onion or garlic, a touch of pesto, trimmings from a rosemary plant, even dried herbs will taste delicious.
We enjoyed one lobster cheesecake as cocktail fare, with crusty bread and carrot sticks. For lunch, I served up the second cheesecake with roasted delicata squash, a simple salad and more crusty bread. It was just enough Maine lobster to keep me dreaming of more.
Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. She welcomes food-related questions and comments at [email protected]
These savory cheesecakes are a relaxed and easy appetizer. The recipe may be doubled and also
works with Maine scallops or crabmeat.
8 oz. cream cheese or soft goat cheese at room temperature
¼ lb. Maine lobster meat, cooked and chopped
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped shallot or onion
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 2- to 8-ounce ramekins.
Finely chop the fresh herbs and shallot.
Chop the lobster (or seafood of your choice) into small pieces.
Add the room-temperature soft cheese to the bowl of your food processor or electric mixer. Pulse or beat the soft cheese until it has a smooth consistency with no lumps. Slowly beat in the egg. Add the chopped herbs and the Maine lobster and gently mix.
Spoon the mixture into the greased ramekins. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden and set.
Serve with fresh veggie sticks and crusty French bread or crackers. Each ramekin serves three people as an appetizer for a total of six servings.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 132 calories, 12 grams protein, 1 gram carbohydrate, 9 grams fat, 91 mg. sodium, less than 1 gram fiber.