Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Red Wine Risotto with Mushrooms

I've been wanting to put risotto on the blog since I first started it. It's one of those things (like making a roux) that has a mostly undeserved reputation for being difficult. Mom got an old copy of Marcella Hazan's cookbook and taught herself from there. Here's the first myth busted - you don't have to stir it constantly. You do need to hover a bit so it's not great for when you're busy with a million other things. The 2nd myth to discard - it doesn't take forever to make. I timed this one and from when I picked up the knife to cut the onion to serving it took 45 minutes. Again, not an every night thing, but even Rachel Ray can't be too unhappy with that. Make risotto just to prove to yourself that you can; make it because it's so creamy and satisfying; make it because you want something insano purple on your plate just for fun.

Red Wine Risotto with Mushrooms
serves at least 6, but it works well to cut this recipe in half
printable version

1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c Arborio Rice, or short-grain sushi rice in a pinch
2 c red wine
6 c chicken stock, simmering
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
4 T butter
1/2 c Parmesan plus more for garnish
  • Click here if you want more step-by-step instructions and photos.
  • In a thick-bottomed saucepan, heat 2 T of the butter until bubbling. Add the onions and saute until they are starting to become translucent.
  • Add the garlic and saute for about 5 minutes more. If things start to brown, turn down the heat a bit and move on to the next step. For the record, risotto doesn't traditionally have garlic, but I like it.
  • Add the rice to the pot and saute until you see one or two grains start to brown. If you don't see that, just saute for 5 minutes and move on. This is a great time to twist in a little pepper, but not salt (it will make the rice tough).
  • Add the wine and stir well. Adjust the heat so that the rice is bubbling well, but not furiously boiling. You should be able to walk away and just give it a stir every 2 or 3 minutes.
  • Now you'll add the heated stock in 1 cup batches when the liquid has mostly cooked off, but the rice isn't sticking to the pan (every 5 minutes or so). I think this is the intimidating part, but you can't really mess it up unless you let it stick and burn. For the first couple of additions you should be able to see the bottom of the pot when it's time to add more. I've also seen recipes that just dump all the stock in and have you stir frequently (they claim to be just as good, but I've never tested this).
  • While the risotto is going, saute the mushrooms in a hot pan with 1 T of butter until they are browned.
  • Before adding the last cup of stock, give the risotto a taste. It should be creamy and thick and the rice should be cooked, but not mushy. You should be able to eat it with a fork. Sometimes I don't need the last cup, sometimes I need 1 cup more.
  • To finish the risotto, add 1 T butter and about 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Stir vigorously and the risotto turns creamier and it's done.
  • Now you can add the mushrooms and adjust the salt.

P.S. This basic method works great for a simple (non-purple) risotto as well. Just omit the wine and use 2 cups more stock. You can also skip the mushrooms and add just about any cooked ingredient that suits the mood you're in - asparagus, roasted squash, shrimp, peas, corn and lime, herbs and lemon.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Succotash (that turns into soup)

I once had to make a soup version of Succotash even though I'd never even tasted the real thing. Since this was in the dark ages before Epicurious I completely winged it based only on knowing that it should have corn, lima beans, and probably ham. I've since discovered that there are endless variations and arguments about what should be in Succotash. So my made up recipe that starts as a side and becomes a soup may not be what you (probably Brian) think of as Succotash, but it'll do. Serve it with all sorts of summery dishes, as a main when you see the last fresh corn on sale (like we did), or in the dead of Winter when you are missing corn. Also, John thinks he doesn't like Lima beans so I used black-eyed peas, but I think little baby Limas are great.

makes a ton - enough for 4 to 6 as a side and then there will be leftovers for the soup below
printable version

5 ears fresh corn (or 2 cans)
1 pound good ham, diced (I use Black Forest from The Swinery)
4 cloves garlic, diced
5 medium yukon gold potatoes, cut bite-sized
2 cups cooked black-eyed peas (or other bean)
Tabasco or other hot sauce
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t thyme
  • Start your potatoes either in a pot of water or in the oven to roast.
  • Saute the garlic in a little olive oil until it just starts to brown. 
  • Add the ham cubes and saute until they have brown edges.
  • Cut the kernels from the corn and add it to the ham along with the peas, cumin, thyme, cooked potatoes, and a few dashes of Tabasco.
  • Saute on medium until the peas are heated through and the corn is cooked, about 10 minutes. Splash in a little hot water or olive oil if your pan is getting dry.
  • You're done.

Soup from the Leftovers
3 cups leftover Succotash (or whatever the equivalent corn & beans & ham would be)
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
4 to 6 cups chicken stock
thyme & cumin to taste
1 medium-sized winter squash, peeled and diced (2 -3 cups)
1 cup cream (optional)
  • Saute the onions and garlic in the bottom of a soup pot until the edges are starting to brown.
  • Roast the squash cubes in a 400 degree oven simply by tossing in olive oil, salt & pepper and letting them cook until the edges are brown.
  • Add the leftovers to the pot and cover with chicken stock, adding it bit by bit until it's the consistency you like - you'll be adding the squash to bulk it up, but them cream to thin it again.
  • Once it's all warm enough to taste adjust the seasonings.
  • Simmer this on low for at least 30 minutes (an hour or more would be good if you have it).
  • Stir in the cream about 10 minutes before eating.
  • Serve with buttered toast (always!).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Beef Stroganoff

Now that I know how to make a real, yummy, sort of fancy,  Beef Stroganoff I never make the simple Hamburger Stroganoff that I grew up with. Partly it's because I don't do recipes that require a can of Cream of Anything Soup (too many mysterious ingredients), but it's also because now that I know this version, even nostalgia can't make me crave the other one. That's my warning: you might never go back. This isn't the simplest recipe I know, but it is one of my most favorite comfort foods to make at home. In the steps below I've include a way to short-cut things if you just don't feel like dealing with making a roux.

Beef Stroganoff
serves 4

3/4 pound Crimini mushrooms (or white button), sliced
1 1/2 pound top sirloin cut into bite-sized strips
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 T butter
2 T flour
1 1/2 cups beef stock
1 T Dijon mustard
5 T sour cream
1 T paprika
1 t dill
serve with:
  1 pound egg noodles tossed in butter and a pinch of salt
  • Melt 2 T of butter in a high-sided frying pan. Toss the beef with salt & pepper. Cook hot & quick in the butter just until the edges are brown. Remove to a bowl leaving as much butter and juices in the pan.
  • Add the onions and mushrooms to the pan. Add a little more butter or oil if needed, but try not to. Mushrooms will dry out the pan at first, but then they start to release all their juices and you'll be fine.
  • When the mushrooms have started to brown, add the garlic and cook until it is just starting to brown as well. Add this all to the bowl with the beef (this time getting the pan as clean as possible).
  • Now make a roux to thicken the sauce: melt 2 T of butter in the pan and sprinkle it with 2 T flour. Whisk it well until it starts to brown (I like it medium brown, just about the color of caramel). Add the beef stock in a steady stream while whisking like crazy.
  • Whisk in the sour cream, mustard, dill, and paprika.
  • Add all the reserved ingredients and adjust the salt & pepper.
  • Cook the beef, mushrooms, onions, and garlic together until the beef is cooked through and the mushrooms are tender.
  • Add the paprika, dill, half the stock, and half the sour cream. Mix well.
  • Add more sour cream and stock until it is a consistency and flavor you like (without the flour-butter roux it won't be as thick and rich, but it's still yummy).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Leek and Chick Pea Soup

My sister served me this soup one afternoon and I was startled by how good it was. She's a great cook, but the ingredients list was just too simple. The first time I made it myself, I grilled her about the recipe - she must have left something out. After getting in trouble for doubting her, I agreed to try it without overly doctoring it up. It was great again. It reminds me to let the ingredients come out; it reminds me to cook with leeks more often. This recipe originally came from Jamie Oliver (who wrote that he got it from a friend), then I got it from my sis who had modified it a bit, and now I've made some adjustments. I love passing along recipes and watching them change.
P.S. What am I going to do about all these lame soup photos? It's so hard to take a picture of soup!

Leek & Chick Pea Soup
serves 6 to 8 (I freeze it for lunches)

1 T butter
2 T olive oil
3 to 4 leeks (depending on size)
4 cloves of garlic
2 T of ground cumin
5 cups cooked Chick Peas (about 2 cups uncooked, or 2 cans)
8 little red potatoes, quartered
8 to 10 cups stock
bay leaf
salt & pepper

  • Prep the leeks by first cutting off the tough green ends, then slicing them lengthwise before cutting into thin half-circles. Rinse them well - leeks are dirty.
  • Heat the olive oil and butter in a large soup pot and then throw in the leeks and garlic. Cook these down until the pan is pretty dry (about 10 minutes, stir frequently).
  • Sprinkle the cumin over this and continue to cook until the cumin is stuck to the pan (about 2 minutes)
  • Add the potatoes, chick peas, bay leaf, salt & pepper, and 8 cups of stock.
  • Simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. Add more stock if needed.
  •  Adjust the salt & pepper and serve with Parmesan cheese on top.
I make this in my slow cooker just so that it's ready when I come home from work, but that's completely optional. I also add chicken to make it even heartier. It's so simple to just put two raw chicken breasts in when you add the stock. Then fish them out after work, chop them up, and add back to the soup.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Chicken Cacciatore

The first time I looked up recipes for Chicken Cacciatore I was amazed by how much the different versions varied both by ingredients (olives, peppers, mushrooms, eggplant and zucchini, or none of those things) and by cooking method (oven, stove top, slow cooker). The heart of this dish is chicken cooked with tomatoes to make a hearty not-quite-stew that I like to serve with polenta. What I'm really saying is feel free (like I did) to change this around as much as you'd like and let me know how it goes!

Chicken Cacciatore
serves 4 to 6
printable recipe

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, quartered
1 red bell pepper, sliced (or roasted red peppers)
1 T tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 cans (15oz) diced tomatoes
1 T oregano
smidge of cinnamon
1 big sprig of rosemary
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
5 to 10 olives of your choice
Parmesan cheese
  • Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a deep-sided saute pan (or soup pot if you don't have a saute pan big enough). Sprinkle one side of  the chicken with salt & pepper. Place the salted side down in the pan and cook until it's a little brown. Sprinkle the other side and repeat. You will probably have to do this in two rounds. Set the chicken aside.
  • In the same pan, saute the onions and garlic (add a little more oil if needed) until they are just starting to brown.
  • Add the mushrooms (keep the heat high, mushrooms like that) and peppers and saute until they are starting to get brown edges. If the onions and garlic start to head in the direction of too brown, just go to the next step and it will all still turn out great.
  • Add the tomato paste to the vegetables and saute for about 2 more minutes. Tomato paste always tastes better if it is browned.
  • Add the wine and bring to a boil for a couple of minutes. Scrape all the good browned bits off the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the chicken, tomatoes, herbs and spices, and the olives.
  • Give it all a good stir and allow it to simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes. Just check it a couple of times to be sure nothing is sticking
  • Serve with pasta or polenta and top it with grated Parmesan cheese. Yum!!
PS - No, I still don't really like olives, but I do use them to season dishes. I just don't eat them.
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