Archive for February, 2012
This was the first time I ever tried to make risotto, probably because I have always heard that it was a pain to constantly have to stir it for a ~30 minute cook time. That level of attention is usually not conducive to making other courses to go along with dinner. Silly me, I should have known that America’s Test Kitchen would have figured out a more user friendly version of the recipe. To make this gooey, cheesy, white winey goodness, you will need:
- 3.5 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
- 3 cups water
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, minced
- Salt & pepper
- 2 cups Arborio Rice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- fresh thyme
- 1 lb cremini mushrooms, trimmed & cut into small wedges
- 1/3 oz of dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
Bring the broth and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and keep warm on the lowest possible stove setting. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until lightly browned, about 9 minutes. The original recipe also calls for you to stir in 1/3 oz of dried porcini mushrooms, “thoroughly rinsed and minced”, to the onion mixture in this step. I forgot this step, despite scouring the grocery store for dried porcini mushrooms that day, and really didn’t think the recipe was lacking in any way. I would try the dried mushrooms if you want, but don’t stress yourself out looking for this ingredient. I kind of like the way it turned out where the mushroom flavor was in the mushrooms themselves and sort of contrasted with the brothy-wine flavor in the rice.
At roughly the same time that you start cooking the onion, melt the other 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until the mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and about 1/2 teaspoon of minced fresh thyme. The garlic and herbs really only need to cook until they are fragrant, about 15 seconds or so. Finally, transfer the mushrooms to an oven safe container, cover them, and keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until the risotto is basically done. One final note about the mushroom cookery: you want these to brown, not steam. If too much liquid comes out of the mushrooms while cooking, enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan, drain that off into the broth/water mixture you have going on the stove. It will add some good mushroom flavor to the final product.
Stir the rice into the onions and cook until the edges of the grains turn translucent which takes about 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until the wine is completely absorbed. Then add 3 cups of the warm broth mixture and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has been absorbed. It will be very helpful for this recipe to have a ladle on hand so you don’t have to pour hot liquid from the pot into a measuring cup and then from the measuring cup into the rice. Continue to cook the rice, stirring in 1/2 cup of the broth every few minutes, allowing each addition of broth to be absorbed completely before adding more. Continue this process until the rice is cooked through but still somewhat firm in the center, about 11 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and the parmesan, season with salt and pepper to taste. As always, buy real parmesan wedges and grate it yourself for the best result. Luckily, my brother Danny gave me a two pound wedge of parmesan for Christmas, so this recipe was a perfect way to use part of it.Serve the risotto next to a beautiful peice of grilled meat, and garnish with some parmesan shavings and maybe some minced flat leaf parsley or chives.
The final dish was everything I hoped it would be. The rice was soft but firm, the broth and wine combined to make some great layers of flavor, and the parmesan made everything that much more creamy and salty. By adding half of the liquid immediately and allowing it to cook down for a while, you really cut down on the amount of time during which you have to devote lots of effort and attention to the risotto to keep it from burning. What I really love about this recipe is that it’s fairly easy to keep all the ingredients in your head, and the steps are not exact science. Once you have added and reduced the 3 cups of water/broth, you pretty much just keeping adding liquid and stirring and reducing and adding liquid and stirring until the risotto tastes and feels just right in your mouth. After making this recipe just one time, I’m pretty confident I could recreate the final product without having the recipe around to follow.
Becca, Nick’s girlfriend, pulled off an amazing Super Bowl creation: the edible stadium. Constructed primarily of cardboard and tinfoil, this stadium held an epic amount guacamole for the field with queso and salsa for the end zones. Pure awesomeness!
I was first introduced to hot pot a few years back by my roommate Nick. For the uninitiated, hot pot, does, as the name suggests, involve a hot pot. On the table, you have a pot of broth or oil (or both) simmering away into which you dip all manner of raw veggies, meats, and seafood. As the dipped food cooks, it absorbs the flavor of the broth. Personally, I can’t get enough of anything cooked in the spicy broth that imparts a slow satisfying burn. Not only is hot pot delicious, but it’s fun–a great time for everyone seated around the table. True interactive eating. So when a group of co-workers decided to it was time to head down to Chinatown for some of this stuff I had to say yes.
Our dining location was XO Taste. What I first noticed about the place was it’s size. The dining room is spacious and well lit, the tables far enough apart that you don’t feel on top of your neighbor. The hot pot was in an all-you-can style, including non-alcoholic beverages, appetizers, the hot pot (of course), and desert for just $27.
We were fortunate to have Sarina, and her impeccable Chinese language skills, to guide us through the ordering and describe items as they came out. The first wave of food, served as the pots worked their way up to a simmer, were fried dumplings and a scallop dish. The dumpling were good, better than the standard affair–more crispy with big pieces of ingredients inside. The scallop came in a way I’ve never encountered before: on the half-shell with a layer of mayo and covering of melted cheese. XO tasty, I would say, and incredibly rich.
The food rolled out in waves of beef, pork, veggies, and fish. One of my favorite items were what Sarina called omega balls. Similar to dumplings, the casing is made from fish skin, these balls pack a strong fishy flavor. We ate and ate until we could eat no more. We were, tragically, beyond satiated before we got into the real seafood portion of the buffet. And then came desert. Bowls of ice cream (green tea, red bean, and vanilla were passed around), a Chinese custard (picture a gelatinous falan), a hot red bean dish, and a peanut sesame past dumpling (a fantastically savory dessert).
I have to admit that Little Lamb Hot Pot in the Flushings Chinatown still leads as my belly’s number one love for hot pot. In fairness to XO Taste, I didn’t get really try their seafood. Even with seafood aside, Little Lamb seemed to have a wider array of vegetables and proteins, in addition to having a sauce bar where you came invent concoctions in which to dunk your freshly cooked treats. But, all-in-all, XO is good, cheap, fun, and conveniently located. I see return trips to XO in my future.
IT’S SUPERBOWL!!!!!!!! This is like the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and your first frat party all rolled into one. Throughout my whole life, this weekend has always been an epic party. When I was a kid my dad would take me to one of his friend’s houses out in the boonies and all the guys would stand around the deep fryer in the garage, watching crispy and golden delicious chunks of deep fried pheasant, grouse, walleye, and chicken-fried venison cutlets emerge from the bubbling witches cauldron of peanut oil while the game played on a projection TV. Side note: is there any better way to enjoy nature than deep frying critters?
But without a doubt, my favorite SB parties were in college. You get 15-20 guys together in a house, along with 15-20 cases of beer, and play beer pong and NFL Blitz for hours before the game even starts. And once the game does start, everyone picks a side and cheers for them as though they were your hometown team. Notice how I precluded the possibility of the actual home town team getting into the Superbowl, for we reside in the tundra – land of the Vikings.
So for this holiest of all weeks, we’re going with a trinity of appetizers: beer cheese dip, polpetini (tiny meatballs), and a shrimp cocktail with honey chipotle cocktail sauce.
The beer cheese dip we’ve done before, here. Except this time I’m going to replace 25% of the cream cheese with sour cream.
The polpetini will be made roughly from:
- 1lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground pork, veal or mild italian sausage
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 shallot, minced
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3 tablespoons dry red wine (optional)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
This is a slightly modified version of the Joy of Cooking recipe which has been previously posted. This time we’re going to roll it into smaller meatballs, about 3/4 of an inch in diameter. Then lightly coat them in either seasoned flour or breadcrumbs and fry them in a pan with just enough oil to coat the bottom. A minute or two each side should do, just long enough to get some good color. Then they go in the oven at 300 degrees, until a meat thermometer says they’re about 140 degrees inside. Take them out and let them cool a bit, then put them on a toothpick with a cherry tomato, small mozzarella ball and a leaf of basil. You can either roll the basil into a tight roll and skewer that, or kind of weave it over the meat, cheese and basil on the toothpick.
These are pretty good at this stage, but you can make them even better. Mix extra virgin olive with aged balsamic vinegar (which I happen to have laying around because my brother Danny knows EXACTLY what to get me for Christmas) at a ratio of about 3:2. Whisk this together and add it to a jar with a lid, then shake it up. Drizzle that over the tasty skewers, then top everything with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.
Now its time for the brand new recipe which I found on one of my favorite foodblogs, The Food in My Beard. Now, I love shrimp cocktails but my undying hatred of horseradish prevents me from enjoying the typical condiment associated with them. That makes this recipe perfect for me.
- 1 7 oz can of chipotles in adobo
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- 2 limes
- 1-2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
Take the peppers out of the can, split them open and remove all of the seeds. Add the peppers to a food processor along with the adobo sauce left in the can, the juice of both limes, the honey and the garlic. Process that until smooth, then add a few tablespoons of the cilantro leaves, and pulse a few more times. Once you put it in the serving bowl, you can garnish with a few more cilantro leaves. Serve with delicious shrimps. I’ll be buying mine frozen from the grocery store, because boiling my own would be just a bit too much work combined with everything else.
Dedicated readers (or maybe just the authors) will remember that at the beginning of the football season, I made 6 predictions for the 2011-12 NFL season. Let’s see how hard this NFL commentary business is:
- Barring injury, Adrian Peterson will rush for 2,000 yards this year. While we don’t have the greatest O-line Minnesota has ever seen, the reports are that we have abandoned the zone-blocking crap which plagued us in the Childress era.
- Outcome: Well this one obviously failed to come true, and I won’t even hide behind the hideous knee injury which ended AP’season and maybe permanently dimmed the prospects of his career. He wasn’t really close to the pace of a 2,000 yard season. 0 for 1.
- As an aside, I am terrified about AP’s prospects for a comeback. He tore his ACL AND MCL. If you didn’t have a chance to see what happened in that game, check this out. Warning: you will feel his pain after watching that clip. Adrian is the most amazing running back I’ve ever watched. Pretty much half a dozen times every season I see him do something so amazing that I thank Odin that he somehow fell to the Vikings in the draft. And it seems like better than even odds that he won’t be anything special when he makes it back onto the football field.
- The Colts will be in contention for the first overall draft pick by the end of the season. This team is GARBAGE without Manning. He ran the whole offense and he elevated a team that has drafted crap the last several years. (Sub-prediction: this will create endless ESPN contaversy about whether Peyton will allow them to draft Andrew Luck)
- Outcome: NAILED IT ON BOTH COUNTS! Full disclosure – all of these predictions were written after the pre-season so there was already a hint of how god-awful the Colts were going to be, but that’s not going to stop me from claiming credit for this one. Seeing as how both prediction and sub-prediction came true, I’m 2 for 3.
- The Houston Texans will finally make the playoffs. I mean, they kind of have to. Jacksonville and Indianapolis will be terrible, and I just don’t think the Hasselbeck-led Titans will steal the division away from them.
- Outcome: Also correct. It’s intriguing to think about what would have become of this team if they hadn’t lost Mario Williams, Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson for most of the season. Think about that! That’s arguably your best player on both offense and defense plus your starting quarterback, and they still won a playoff game. If the injuries had shaken out a different way, the Texans probably could have made the Superbowl. 3 for 4.
- The Lions will still fail to hit the .500 mark. I know everyone is in love with them and they have certainly created a monster d-line, but Stafford is made of porceline and I still think they need another season to wipe out the stink of 0-16.
- Outcome: Ouch, and I fall to 3 for 5. The Lions exceeded the .500 mark, made the playoffs and Stafford made it through the season without missing any appreciable amount of time. This team has lots of potential with an improving Stafford, Megatron hitting his prime and a solid core of Suh and Fairley on the D-line. They just desperately need a running back to make it through the season.
- Lastly, the GB Packers will fail to make the Superbowl this year. Because they’re evil. Superbowl pick: New England over Philly.
- Outcome: Ahhhh this is the sweetest one to get right. A Rodge was getting just a bit too cocky, and I’m glad the Giants came along to serve some humble pie. And that makes me 4 for 6. OVER .500 THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
One of the things I miss most about living in Minnesota is my regular dinners with Mike and Fayaz. Every two to four weeks, for about three years before I moved to New York, Mike, Fayaz, and I would spend a weekend night cooking and eating elaborate meals. After eating, we’d often retire to Mike’s outdoor hot tub for scotch and cigars.
On my recent trip to Minnesota for my sister and her new husband’s open house I was finally able to get in another amazing dinner with Mike.
Being in a health conscious mind set, we abandoned our fatty four legged friends and we set out for a sea food meal. Mike took charge of the entree planing. Starting with the idea of seafood, Mike reached an amazing creation: crab and shrimp stuffing wrapped in delicious walleye. Mike cooked the the shrimp with a moderate amount of butter (okay, the healthy angle was more in thought than practice) mixed in some bread crumbs, some chicken stock, and the crab. The oceanic stuffing was placed into mounds on a baking sheet and wrapped the in beautiful fillets of walleye. While these baked I blanched a little bok choy, seasoned a little soy sauce which I cooked down for a little sauce for the veggies. In the final minutes of baking, Mike knocked out a little quinoa.
The result? Amazing and decadent–as almost every meal Mike and I have made together. All with my favorite accompaniment of all: good conversation. Conversation with an old friend and a new. This–with Mike and a number of others–is what I miss most from Minnesota.
As you may have noticed, my prodigious posting of 2011 has faded. The good news is, after passing the New York bar, I am gainfully employed. Unfortunately, work manages to occupy nearly all my waking hours. (Increasingly even those of the weekend.) The job is great, but it leaves me with little time for culinary activities and even less for writing about it. The flood may be receding slightly and I hope February will yield most posts.