Guest Post: Eugene's Seafood Feast

Editor's Note: This year for New Year's Eve I attempted the most difficult task I've ever undertaken in the kitchen...I let someone else do the cooking. Eugene decided that he wanted to be the one to prepare the feast this year and so, with only a hint of reluctance, I handed over my Dutch oven and resigned myself to sitting quietly in the living room while he did all the cooking. Well, sort of...

Here, in his own words, Eugene relates the tale of our New Year's Eve feast.


Emily Dickinson never let Judge Otis Lord write her poems. Alfred Stieglitz never painted a portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe's lady parts. Joseph Albright never sat across Kim Jong Il in his wife's stead. However on New Year's Eve 2009, Eugene Smolenskiy tried to cook a 3-course, 5-dish dinner for Alejandra Ramos.

A little background is in order.

Alejandra and I spent New Year's Eve 2008 in our apartment where she prepared a lovely dinner while I popped champagne corks. As great an evening as that was, I felt that this girl deserved to be taken out and paraded around in a fabulous evening dress at a classy New York City party. I became resolute in making that happen at the upcoming turn of the decade, but clearly things did not work out as I had intended. In the intervening time between Thanksgiving and the week leading up to New Year's Eve, Alejandra and I booked a one-week trip to Puerto Rico and threw an over-the-top 1960s-themed Christmas Party. I have to admit, I felt a bit of sticker shock, and therefore had to make the executive decision that New Year's Eve 2009 was going to have to be less ambitious than I had originally wanted.

Of course "less ambitious" does not mean "slummin'" by any stretch of the imagination. I optioned to impress my lady by really extending my very limited culinary abilities and put together a feast worthy of the great Alejandra Ramos. Coming up with some dishes that she would love proved difficult at first: "Just make something I would want to eat." A bit later, Alejandra provided some additional parameters: "No potatoes, no pasta." Fair enough. No longer working in the complete dark but within a murky fog, I put out the idea of cooking a seafood meal, which was received with an appreciable amount of enthusiasm and excitement. I had my theme.

I had decided on featuring my favorite kinds of seafood: crab, lobster, and shrimp, so I jumped on the computer and began looking for appealing recipes. A few minutes on Google and Tastespotting and I had what looked like brilliant recipes for Lobster Bisque, Broiled Lobster Tails, and Shrimp Skewers with Cilantro Pesto. The bisque was going to be the opening course, followed by the shrimp and lobster as the main, but I still needed a side. Initially I was thinking vegetables, but ended up deciding (with a suggestion from Alejandra) on a Lemon Risotto.

The dessert took a little longer to pick. For some reason I wanted to do something with strawberries despite the fact that winter is not strawberry season. But hey, this is America, if I want strawberries in December, then by God there will be strawberries in December (I think the Founding Fathers would have been proud).[Editor's Note: Please be advised that the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not reflect those of the owner and editor of this site, whom we hear actually prefers to eat her berries when they are lush and locally in season]. Jumping back on Tastespotting and doing a search for 'strawberries,' I found a delectable-looking recipe for a Strawberry Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding. I put the grocery order into FreshDirect and gave myself a hearty pat on the back for constructing a scrumptious menu that had class and taste in spades.

My two biggest concerns going into the dinner: timing and risotto.

I was having a hard time figuring out the correct timing for starting the various dishes and stages of prep. Do I start the bisque and then marinate the shrimp? Do I get the risotto going and then prep the lobster tails? Do I toast the bread pudding bread before making the shrimp marinade? I feared the risotto. I have seen enough Hell's Kitchen episodes to know that a risotto can flummox even the most experienced of chefs. I did not want Alejandra to smash plates and yell obscenities in a British accent if I happened to overcook the rice.

Putting all these fears, questions, and doubts aside (I figured I'd just wing it), I sprang into action chopping shallots, mincing garlic, defrosting the shrimp and the lobster, melting butter, etc. As soon as I got the first dish on the stove (the risotto) things started to get hectic. Failing to realize how closely the risotto needed to be monitored (constantly adding broth, stirring) I quickly began to lose my cool. Ingredients and containers began to fly, the floor became a work surface and the sink quickly ran out of space, no longer able to accept the constant stream of dirty bowls and utensils. The entire time I tried to put on a brave face for Alejandra, who was quietly watching me from the kitchen entrance.

"Do you need me to put away some of these dirty dishes?"
"No it's ok, I got it."
"Do you want me to chop something?"
"No, everything is under control."
"Did you season the risotto yet?"
"No, not yet, I'll get to it after I get this bisque going."
"Do you want me to keep an eye on it?"
"Umm.. well.. okay."

And so it was Alejandra's turn to spring into action, which she did, seasoning and stirring, leaving me free to concentrate on the bisque and prepping the lobster tails--which I forgot to do in advance. While the bisque was simmering, I marinated and skewered the shrimp and marinated and broiled the lobster. Alejandra finished off the risotto and moved to assembling the bread pudding while I finished off the tails and broiled the shrimp.

In the end, the dinner was an amazing success. Everything was cooked to perfection and tasted amazing. The meal was complemented by an incredible Cupcake Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc (highly, highly, highly recommend!) and St. Germain-champagne cocktails. I might have been over-ambitious in terms of selecting a menu that matched my abilities, but with the help of this amazing woman, without whom I could not live--never mind cook--without, the evening turned out to be one that I'm sure we'll remember for the rest of our lives.

[Editor's Note: It really was a wonderful meal!]

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  1. Hooray for Eugene...but I couldn't have done it - I couldn't give my kitchen to my husband...maybe I could if I could supervise!

  2. Very impressive spread! I'm going to send this post to my boyfriend and shame him into cooking for me this week ;)

  3. hahaha! what a fun post - and a sweet boy to make such a nice meal for you, Alejandra!

    i hope there will be more guest posts in the future. ;)

  4. You guys are completely adorable. This was fun to read - well done, Eugene, and well, done Alejandra, for letting him!

  5. Can you maybe send Eugene over to my apartment to cook sometime? This meal looks amazing. Eugene is a good writer - this post is funny!

    My husband cooked a brilliant 4 course meal for me once and only once. It was amazing, but the chaos and destruction that remained in our tiny kitchen has led me to declare our new kitchen (new apt) a no boys zone. Happy New Year and congratulations on having such a nice boyfriend!

  6. Thanks all. This was a lot of fun to write (and cook). Special thanks to "mah behbeh" for letting me do this.

  7. What a sense of timing! I truly believe that there is a mystique about timing in a relationship. When is right, it's fabulous. When it's wrong, its a disaster. It takes listening to the inner self to make it work. You both are so cute together, your ability to reply at the right time- and in the appropriate manner-made your time together sparkle. What a beautiful story Eugene. Great writing, great story, Great Man! Love'a!

  8. You guys are SO CUTE. It looks like such a festive meal, too! Things would not turn out so well if Zack were the one in the kitchen, I can tell you that much (at least he makes a great bowl of matcha).

  9. How sweet is Eugene? Looks like it was a fantastic meal. Hope you enjoyed the Strawberry Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding!

  10. Here I am a very proud mom! I always knew that you are very special. I am really glad you found Alejandra who inspires you and makes you happy.


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