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A Session With Chef Trotter

Chef Charlie Trotter is a firm believer that a recipe is only a guide for creating a meal.

What truly makes the meal is the imagination one brings to the combination of ingredients used.

This inspiration from within is but one culinary theme found in the cookbook, "Workin' More Kitchen Sessions With Charlie Trotter."

Here are the recipes featured on Friday's The Early Show.

Serves 4

Lobster and squash are already a superb combination, but this interpretation with its textural and flavor notes of citrus, apple, and watercress, reaches a higher level. Peppery watercress provides a magnificent contrast, cutting through the sweeter components. Star anise is lightly dusted over the lobster meat and soup for just the right hint of exoticism.

1 Hokkaido squash, halved and seeds removed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground star anise
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups water
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon butter

3/4 cup butter

4 small lobster tails, cooked and cut into 1/3-inch thick medallions
1 1/2 tablespoons brown butter (above)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

24 stems watercress, thick stems trimmed away
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup small-diced water chestnuts
2 tablespoons small-diced Granny Smith apple
1 orange, peeled, supremed, and segments cut into thirds
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon ground star anise

To prepare the soup: Preheat the oven to 374 F. Rub the inside of the squash with the olive oil and star anise; season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down in an ovenproof pan and add 1 cup of water. Roast the squash for 1 1/2 hours, or until tender. Remove the pulp from the skin and puree the pulp in a blender with the remaining 2 cups water, the orange juice, and the vinegar until smooth. If the soup is too thick, add additional orange juice and water. Transfer the soup to a saucepan and warm over medium heat; whisk in the butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To prepare the brown butter: Place the butter in a small saucepan and melt over medium-low heat. Continue to simmer the butter slowly, allowing the milk solids to rise to the top. Skim off the milk solids. Once the butter has a nutty aroma and dark brown specks in the bottom of the pan, it's ready to use.

To prepare the lobster: Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lay the lobster medallions flat in an ovenproof pan; drizzle with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the brown butter and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven for 2 minutes, or until just hot. Remove the lobster from the pan and reserve the juices in the pan.

Toss the watercress in the reserved lobster juices; season to taste with salt and pepper. In the center of each shallow bowl, arrange some of the water chestnuts, apple, and watercress (reserve 8 stems of the watercress). Divide the lobster among the 4 bowls and arrange in an overlapping row atop the watercress. Sprinkle the orange segments around the bowl. Carefully pour some of the soup into each bowl around the lobster. Drizzle some of the brown butter over the lobster and around the soup. Sprinkle the orange zest and star anise over the soup and lobster and arrange the reserved watercress over the lobster.

The Hokkaido squash soup is rich with a low level of acidity, and is accented by an apple and orange garnish. The full-bodied Cuve'e Sainte Catherine Riesling from Domaine Weinbach has lively acidity that cuts through the brown butter and reveals the citrus notes. A Pinot Blanc from Chalone accentuates the spice notes and makes another stellar pairing.

Serves 4

Instead of a traditional cheese course before dessert, try this fairly simple tart. The beautiful thing is that it can work nicely in just about any portion size, depending on the heartiness of the other courses. You could even serve a wedge or two next to a mound of salad greens for a splendid lunch. Or try presenting it with a whole roasted apricot on the side as a complete dessert.

325 ml (1 1/2 cups) Sauternes
1/2 cup minced dried apricots
3 sheets gelatin, bloomed

1/2 cup Simple Syrup (see Appendices)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
3 tablespoons fresh basil

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