30. March 2016 · Comments Off on Risotto With Less Babysitting · Categories: Cooking, Food · Tags: , , , ,

Risotto is, in essence, fancy rice porridge. Pretty much every culture that eats rice has a variation – congee, juk, canja. The Italians goose their version with richer ingredients – wine, stock, and cheese – as opposed to plain water or broth. Traditionally, to get its creamy consistency meant standing by a simmering pot adding stock a bit at a time and stirring constantly until it is absorbed. And to be sure, this produces a silky, creamy rice dish. But no one wants to do this on a weeknight for dinner.

So, taking some inspiration from the folks over at America’s Test Kitchen, I tried a modified method. And, it wasn’t bad. The rice texture was good, the overall consistency appropriately creamy. Perhaps a bit of graininess creeps in, but that could also have been my over-mixing the shredded chicken I added at the end or the roast squash that got stirred into the rice in largish chunks.

Here’s what you need:

2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups water
5 cups stock or broth (chicken usually, but shrimp or fish stock works very well if you’re adding seafood)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced (or substitute finely minced yellow onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp minced fresh green herb, such as rosemary, thyme, or marjoram
3-4 large sprigs parsely, roughly chopped, plus some for garnish
½-¾ cup of grated hard Italian cheese (Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, Asiago, etc.)
Juice of ½ a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Small vegetables and/or protein to mix in (small cooked shrimp, sweet peas, sauteed mushrooms, steamed asparagus cut into ½” pieces, diced cooked chicken, etc.)

Combine stock/broth and water in a 2-½ to 3-qt. saucepan and bring to a simmer. Keep hot over low heat.

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, melt 2 tbsp. of the butter over medium heat until it foams, then sauteed shallot/onion and garlic until fragrant and just turning translucent – about a minute. Add dry rice to pot and stir to coat. Reduce heat to medium-low and, stirring frequently, toast the rice in the butter for about three minutes. The rice will start to smell nutty and the grains will become slightly translucent with a white core.

Add the wine, stirring constantly, until completely absorbed. Add 5 cups of the hot broth mixture and your green herbs, stir, bring to a simmer, reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer, cover, and set a timer for 20 minutes. While the rice is cooking, prepare your mix-in additions. During the cooking process, stir vigorously about every five minutes. Almost all of the liquid should be absorbed.

After 20 minutes, uncover and stir constantly while adding the cheese until it is fully incorporated. The creamy texture of the risotto should develop as you mix. If the rice seems too dry, ladle in another ½-¾ cup of hot broth (start with less, add more if needed) to keep a creamy, loose texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste, stir in the remaining 1 tbsp of butter, the lemon and the chopped parsley. Add your vegetables and/or proteins and mix through to warm.

Serve hot, garnished with a bit of parsley (or a rosemary sprig).

I used rosemary as my green herb, Asiago as my cheese, shredded chicken from making broth as the protein, and some roasted acorn squash. Feel free to experiment.

29. March 2016 · Comments Off on Linguine alle Cozze con Pomodoro · Categories: Cooking, Food · Tags: , , ,

A classic hearty pasta dish. Delicious when mussels are in season.

Prep time: about 20 minutes if starting with fresh tomatoes, 10 minutes if using canned
Cook time: about 15 minutes.

What you need:
1 1/2 lb. Roma tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, and chopped (or two cans of whole tomatoes, drained and diced)
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/3 cup fresh basil, cut in ribbons
1/2 cup dry white wine, unoaked
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lbs mussels in shell, scrubbed and de-bearded
1/2 lb. dried linguine
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Kosher salt or fine sea salt

What you do:

Sort and clean mussels, discarding any with cracked or broken shells, or dead specimens (shell will gape open and not stay closed when squeezed shut).

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add linguine and cook until al-dente, about 11 minutes.

While pasta cooks, add olive oil to a large covered skillet and place over medium-high heat. Add garlic and oregano and stir, until garlic is aromatic, but not colored. Add mussels and turn heat to high. Toss with oil and let cook 1-2 minutes, then add wine, tomatoes, and all the basil but about a tablespoon, cover, and cook for 3-4 minutes until mussels are just opened.

Remove mussels from pan to a bowl, discarding any that did not open. Continue to cook tomatoes over high heat for another 4-5 minutes, or until sauce is reduced by about half. Add lemon juice. Season with salt to taste.

Reserve a dozen mussels to the side, and remove all the rest from their shells. Drain pasta and return to pot, add sauce from pan and the shelled mussel meats and toss for 1-2 minutes over medium heat. Remove from heat and serve pasta surrounded by a half-dozen mussels in the shell and topped with a large pinch of the remaining basil.

Makes 2 hearty servings.