Mushroom Risotto, v. 12,005,359,359

Down the hatch!

  

One of many variations on a theme but significantly different enough to make me want to post the recipe.   

While on Christmas vacation, Chris and I dined at a place called the Dock Cafe in Stillwater, Minnesota, overlooking the frozen St. Croix River.  It was a total guess and a lucky one in the end. Good food and it was 1/2 price wine night. After much dithering, I went for the wild mushroom risotto with pancetta. It was very good and very filling- I couldn’t get through even half of it especially as I wanted to save a bit of room for dessert.  The nice thing about this risotto was that it was creamy without a lot of added creamy fats like cream, butter and cheese.   

I did not recreate that risotto for dinner tonight but I was inspired by it.  I have made risotto with mushrooms on many previous occasions, hence the post title. I also have a nice mushroom noodle thing with ground meat that shares much in common with this dish.  

Ingredients   

1 cup arborio rice
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3-4 slices bacon, sliced in to lardons (or pancetta, maybe?)
8-10 oz mushrooms, sliced- any kind is fine, I used shiitakes and crimini
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely diced/pressed
2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup apple brandy, from Uncle John’s Winery in St. Johns
1/4 cup shredded cheese blend (parmesan, …)
3 cups broth or water or combination
salt & pepper
olive oil (maybe) 

Directions   

1. Saute bacon in large pan until crispy. Remove to paper towel-lined plate to drain. If necessary, drain some fat from pan leaving approximately 1 tablespoon.   

2. Heat broth or water to simmering in a separate pot (or in the microwave like I did)   

3. Add sliced mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and cook over medium-high heat until thoroughly cooked down and most of liquid has come out of mushrooms. Remove from pan and cover to keep warm.   

4. If necessary, add olive oil or some bacon fat back to pan. This step is only necessary if the pan is pretty dry.   

5. Add onions, celery and garlic to pan, season with salt, pepper and thyme.. Cook until softened and onions have slighltly yellowed.   

6. Add arborio rice and stir to combine. Add apple brandy (or other liquor/wine or even just broth or water) to deglaze pan. Scrape bottom of pan to pick up any tasty bits.   

7. Once most of liquid from step 6 has been absorbed, begin adding 1/2 to 1 cup of broth or water to pan at a time, stirring continously until mostly absorbed then adding more liquid.   

8. Continue adding broth or water until rice reaches desired doneness. Ideally this should be al dente- with a slight bite- but its mostly a matter of personal preference.   

9.  Return mushrooms and bacon pieces to pan along with 1 teaspoon thyme.10. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese blend. This step is also optional but as this is not a very brothy risotto, I think it adds a nice punch while keeping the mix somewhat creamy.  


Okay, true confession time. I almost never stir my risotto constantly as per the usual instructions. I’m usually too busy with cooking the other parts of the meal or running in to the living room to check Facebook (or something else equally important). On the night I made this, I did stir pretty much continously.  

I’m now a convert.

At least when I have the time.  It cooked much faster and actually used less broth than usual.  


 

  • The apple brandy was a fall purchase during a visit for cider and donuts. We sampled the wines, learned that neither of us are big fruit wine people then decided to buy the brandy, mostly for cooking purposes. I was also envisioning making a sangria type thing in the future.  I had only used it once before, for an apple dessert dish that did not turn out, through no fault of the brandy.  Tonight, I used it because primarily because the bottle was already open and I didn’t want to open a bottle of white just for this dish. 
  • The apple flavor was pretty subtle in the end dish but on the whole, it felt more warm than when I make it with wine. A good pairing with the thyme and bacon.

 

  • I updated my Facebook status during the cooking of this dish and received a comment from a friend to stop posting about food because I was making her hungry, even though she’d just ate.  As it happens, she’s a vegetarian and wouldn’t be able to enjoy this particular dish but, her comment did make me think about how to adapt for the non-meat eaters.  I am not a big fan of the fake bacon but if you are vegetarian and like it, then go for it. I would suggest replacing the bacon fat at the beginning with some butter though. Mushrooms cook up better in animal fats than vegetable fats like olive oil, in my opinion. Combining equal parts olive oil and butter would also probably work- I often go that route to saute onions when I’m making plain(er) risotto.  If you are a vegan, you are on your own.

Jambalaya

Monday happened to land Chris and I in Livonia for an appointment. This was a good turn of events as I had to exchange a mis-sewn chair cover purchased at IKEA back in October. This also became an opportunity to visit Whole Foods. We used the GPS to find the closest one (to IKEA) which turned out to be the more southern Ann Arbor location, between A2 and Ypsilanti. I have, somehow, never been inside this particular Whole Foods- maybe its a relocation?- although I have been to the Panera right next store. Anyhow, its huge and now I’m going to be sad next time I go to a smaller location. I’m not a fan of the one in West Bloomfield/Farmington- I feel like I’m missing a whole section every time. The deli area is either a really good thing or a really bad thing- depends on how much money I am looking to spend and how hungry I am. A-hem.

Because the appointment went over the lunch hour we decided to eat before shopping. After walking through the entire store, we realized that if you just turn right immediately upon entering, you can go along the wall and come in to the deli area. In this area, you can buy whatever you like and go eat it in a small cafe area. I made a salad and Chris opted for the hot buffet.

Duly nourished, we started shopping. Our mission was to get things we couldn’t get in Lansing and focus on healthy stuff. We still came home with a block of cheese and 2 bottles of wine (reminds me, we might need to start drinking this stuff soon- our rack is full again). We also picked up some Key West Pinks, the only shrimp Chris will eat, a number of bags from the produce section and 2 packages of gourmet sausages: pork andouille and a chicken chorizo from Sausages by Amylu.

Right away, with a planned focus on eating more rice in my future, I knew I’d take the andouille sausage to make some jambalaya. Not that I have the slightest idea what goes in to an authentic jambalaya except rice.

Internet to the rescue! Except, there are thousands of recipes for jambalaya using various proteins, mostly. Ideally, I would have made a shrimp and sausage combo but someone was supposed to work on deveining the shrimp earlier and did not. I ended up scanning about 10 recipes and then just winged it.

Jambalaya

Ingredients

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup long grain rice
1 can diced tomatoes (any flavor will do, I happened to only have “with basil, garlic and oregano”)
1 1/2 cups water/vegetable/chicken broth
8-10 oz andouille sausage, sliced
1/3 cup corn (frozen/defrosted or can)- optional
1 bay leaf
1 /2 Tbsp dried thyme
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Parsley or Cilantro to garnish

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pan (like the everyday pan from Calphalon).

Once oil is warmed and shimmering, saute onion and garlic until onions are lightly golden. Add salt, pepper, cayenne and thyme to onions. Cook just enough to release aromatics in herbs.

Add bell pepper and cook for another minute or two.

Add rice and stir to coat, allowing the rice to absorb some of the oil. You can let this cook for 1-2 minutes until you smell the nutty fragrant of toasted rice.

Add tomatoes and water or broth along with bay leaf and bay seasoning. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer 20 minutes or until rice has absorbed most of liquid.

Add sausages and corn, allow to cook until sausages are just cooked through.  Serve garnished with fresh parsley or cilantro.


Notes:

1. Corn, as noted in ingredient list, is optional. I only used it because we had some leftover that needed to be used within 24 hours.

2. The sausages I used were pre-cooked so they just needed to be heated up at the end. If raw sausages are used, I’d suggest cooking them in the pan first then using the drippings to cook the onions, etc.

3. Adjust cayenne pepper to your taste and also the heat in the sausages.

4. If I’d added shrimp to this, I would have used more Old Bay Seasoning. Usually when we boil shrimp, we use Bay Seasoning and pickling spice. Chris is in charge of this process so the exact ratios aren’t known to me. But, the Old Bay is required, I’m told.

Rice Pilaf the Geek Way

Standing in line at Target the other day, I noticed the Food Network magazine. Apparently it comes out on a regular basis but I’ve never noticed it before. This issue is the Thanksgiving galore edition with 50 versions of mashed potatoes. Since I’m probably hosting Turkey Day again this year, I need to start working on my meal plan so I picked it up, just $4 for the issue.

I’ve folded over 3 or 4 pages for the future but decided I wanted to make Alton Brown’s rice pilaf as soon as possible. Alton Brown is my hero. His shows are the perfect combination of silly props, real science and cooking (which is, after all, a science as well as an art). I learn things on his show that can be applied far beyond the one or two recipes he’s making. It dawned on me today that I will be able to watch the new season, now that we have returned to the world of cable (TV and internet).  I hate the bill but I’ll survive, I guess.

 PA188340The ingredients in the Rice Pilaf a la Alton are nothing unusual: onions, red pepper, rice, peas. Its the method that brings out the geek. Because all we get from the magazine is the directions, I don’t know exactly why Alton chose this method. I think I’d need his book, which I sadly do not own at the present time. There is a second version of the recipe at the Food Network website but its not a 1-dish version which is much nicer, clean-up wise.

 

 

Ingredients
1 medium onion, small dice
1 red bell pepper, small dice
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups long grain rice
2 bay leaves
1 1inx2in slice of orange peel
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
pinch of saffron in 1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 teaspoons salt plus 2 pinches
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup shelled pistachios, chopped

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350.

In large saucier, or in my case the Everyday Pan, melt butter over medium heat (must be an oven-okay pan with a lid). Add onion and pepper with 2 pinches of salt, stir to coat. Reduce heat to low and sweat vegetables until onion is translucent but not browning, 3-5 minutes.  Return heat to medium and add rice to pan. Stir constantly for 3-4 minutes until rice is coated and nutty aroma begins to waft through the kitchen.  Add broth, saffron with water, orange peel, bay leaves and 1 1/2 tsp of salt. Bring to a boil.

Here is where it gets geek: Thoroughly wet a large kitchen towel. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle the peas over the top of the rice.  Lay towel over the pan then place the lid on. Wrap the ends of the towel up over the lid and place the whole thing in the oven.

Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and keep covered for an additional 15 minutes.

 

PA188346

Remove lid/towel and remove orange peel and 2 bay leaves. Transfer to serving dish, fluff with fork and sprinkle raisins and pistachios over the top. Serve family style in the center of the table.


 

I only transferred about 1/2 to a serving dish since there were just 3 of us (the recipe serves 6, generously). The other reason I didn’t fancy up the whole thing was due to some disappointing results. Mostly in the center of the pan, there were pockets of rice which were not cooked. Really not cooked- still crunchy. I am all for al dente but some of the grains were nearly raw. I believe the error lies in the amount of cooking liquid and was all my fault. I added some wine to the pan before the aromatics and broth. In the end, I shorted the broth slightly and should not have. Every bit of liquid was absorbed in the stated cooking timess so I think, but cannot be sure, that if I’d put a little more broth in, we’d have been fine.

Jon didn’t say anything and Chris didn’t seem to mind: both went back for seconds. I believe I avoided most of the really uncooked bits, in any event.

Other than that issue, the pilaf was great. Nicely flavored without overpowering or even competing with the main dish (grilled pork in a chimichurri marinade in this case). I have noticed a number of disappointed reviews around the ‘net complaining of a lack of flavor. I would call this delicate but it definitely had flavor. While I do like vampire-repelling ultimate garlic dishes, I can also appreciate something a little more subtle too.


Thanks to the dedication (obsession) of a particular fan of Good Eats*, I was able to learn the why of cooking this rice in the oven. The oven, with its highly controllable temperature, is most like a rice cooker; a rice cooker doesn’t work too well for pilafs though as you must first saute your rice and optional flavorings in a pan before adding the liquid.

On the subject of Good Eats, the new episodes are Monday nights at 8pm. Rejoice, I have cable and can watch them!! Except, oh crap, one of the (only) two shows I watch regularly is also on at 8pm Mondays. We may have to upgrade to the DVR package.

*If you go, the episode is called Power to the Pilaf, full transcipt available and even some YouTube.

Arroz con Pollo

I borrowed this recipe from Elise, over at Simply Recipes. Some modifications for serving size and timeliness along with what was handy.

Arroz Con Pollo

Ingredients

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 package boneless skinless chicken breast, patted dry (approx 3 breast halves with tenderloins)
1/2 cup of flour for dredging
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Paprika

1 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup jasmine rice
1 1/2 cups* chicken stock
1 cup of diced tomatoes (canned, oregano, basil, garlic flavor), strained
Pinch of oregano or more
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup frozen mixed vegetable blend (beans, carrots, peas)

Directions

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large pan with a lid.

Mix flour, salt, pepper and paprika together on a small plate. Dredge chicken in flour mixture and saute in pan until lightly browned on both sides. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Add the rice to the pan to brown. Add a little more olive oil if necessary. Stir first to coat the rice with the olive oil in the pan. Then allow it to sit and brown lightly. Add the onion and garlic. Cook the onion, garlic and rice mixture, stirring frequently, until the onions have softened, about 4 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix the stock, salt, oregano and tomatoes together.

Place the chicken pieces on top of the rice. Pour the stock mixture over the rice and chicken. I added a little more dried oregano here but its optional. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to low, and cover. Cook 15 minutes until the rice has absorbed all the stock.

Add frozen vegetable blend to pan and return lid. Cook 3-5 minutes until vegetables are heated through. Fluff rice with a fork before serving. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

This made 4 servings. It all came together pretty quickly – maybe 30 minutes start to finish. No picture- it was quick but a late start to dinner so I didn’t want to impede Chris by taking glamour shots first.

Arroz con Pollo would make a great make-ahead dish. You could freeze individual portions.

Making it up as I go along, part deux

Now this, I really did just make up as I went along. I had to make a dish to pass for Thursday’s holiday luncheon at work. I planned to make something like the squash risotto but then I just did not feel like doing all the stirring required. And cutting up a hard, awkwardly shaped squash.

On our sign-up sheet I had marked “casserole” and US/Italy as the country (this year’s theme was international). A little departure from that but I definitely think I got the US of A part down!

All American Rice Casserole

Ingredients

1/2 bunch asparagus
1 small red onion
1 can creamed corn
5-6 cherry tomatoes, halved
Gouda cheese
brown rice (2 cups dry)
1/4 cup sliced almonds
chicken broth
nutmeg
sage
salt/pepper
1 mashed clove of garlic

Directions

  • I cooked the rice in the rice cooker first. Took about 40 minutes for 2 dried cups of short grain brown rice. I let that work its magic while we ate dinner (see Part 1). When ready, preheat oven to 350°.
  • Trim asparagus, set tips aside then cut stems in to 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Quarter the red onion then slice thinly.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds then add red onion. Sprinkle a little salt on the onions to encourage the water to come out.
  • Season onions with 1 teaspoon dried sage and 1/4 tsp nutmeg (I grated part of a whole nutmeg using a microplane grater). Reduce heat to medium-low and allow onions to soften and begin caramelizing.
  • Meanwhile, spread cooked brown rice in the bottom of a large casserole dish. Unless the rice is very moist, pour a 1/4 to 1/2 cup broth (chicken or vegetable) over it. Sprinkle generously with grated Gouda cheese. Spread 1 can of creamed corn over the rice and cheese. Season with 1 teaspoon dried sage and a dash or two of nutmeg.
  • When onions have just started to brown, add sliced asparagus stems to pan. Cook 2-3 minutes until asparagus turns bright green.
  • Spread onion-asparagus mixture over corn in casserole dish.  Cover completely with grated Gouda; get right up the the edge of the casserole dish.
  • Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove covering and raise temperature to 475 or turn on broiler. Scatter tomato halves, asparagus tips and sliced (or slivered) almonds over top of casserole. Cook 10 minutes more until almonds begin to turn light brown. I did this under the broiler, about 8-10 inches from the element. Closer in, I would say 5 minutes or less- watch for burning!
asparagus corn casserole
asparagus corn casserole

 


Since I really did just make this up as a I went along, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. Then I was late getting in the buffet line today and wondered if I’d get to try out my own dish! But I did. It was about 1/2 gone (and completely gone by the time the serving was over). I’m pleased but I would say that this dish is best served hot from the oven with the cheese bubbling. Being reheated and held in the oven dries out the rice.