Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sorrel and spring pea risotto

Remember when I said 2008 was the year of the risotto? Clearly I meant it. For Easter this year we had Paul, Ryan and Betsy over for dinner. I had been to Morningside farmer's market so I had beautiful frisée salad greens, more watermelon radishes (although that farmer told me that this is probably the end of them for the year, so sad), spring onions and a beautiful bunch of sorrel. Sorrel is a leafy green with a wonderful lemony flavor. It is bright and pretty until you cook it, then it turns a muddy dull color. But it tastes amazing! So I thought I'd make a creamy risotto to go with the bright, snappy sorrel and add some tiny sweet green peas at the end to keep a springtime color.

Minced 2 shallots and the white ends from a bunch of spring onions. You can just use 4 shallots instead, if you have no spring onions at your market. I think regular onion would be too strong here. Sauté the shallots and spring onions in 2 tablespoons butter until softened in a large pot. Add 1 1/2 cup arborio rice and continue to sauté for another 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock, stirring over medium heat until the rice has completely absorbed it. You will repeat this step (slowly adding 1/2 cup of liquid at a time) for 6 cups worth of liquid. I use 5 1/2 cups chicken stock plus 1/2 cup of white wine to make 6 cups total. Betsy told me a story about how she was once at a professor's house during her undergrad and the guy made a big stink about how hard it is to make risotto and how easy it is to screw it all up unless you are Mr. Awesome Kitchen Guy and blah blah blah. Meanwhile the guy's wife is calmly making the entire rest of the dinner in the kitchen and this dude is going on about how hard it is to do the sole task he's taken on: the dreaded risotto. It isn't that hard. The only thing you can screw up is adding all the liquid at once. Don't do that. Be patient, add it slow, stir it and wait for it to absorb before adding more. That's all. After you have added your last 1/2 cup of liquid and everything is creamy and delicious, stir in a bunch of washed sorrel. De-stem it first and cut the leaves into thin strips. At this point, also stir in about 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese, salt and fresh pepper to taste. Dump in about 3/4 cup of tiny green peas--I found mine frozen and labeled "petite pois" at Whole Foods. Turn off the heat and cover your risotto. The retained heat will steam your peas to perfection. Stir once before sevring to mix them in well.

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Day 2008

As usual, I celebrated St. Patrick's Day by corning many pounds of brisket and inviting as many people as possible over to drink beer and eat. The party was early because March 17th has fallen on a Monday this year, which is a rough day to get all your friends drunk. The past 3 actual St. Patrick days have all fallen happily on party days (Thursday - Saturday) which really facilitated the drinking and corned beef extravaganzas. I do like to celebrate on the correct day. But, alas, leap year and the normal passing of time conspired to make the party on March 15th this year. Whatever, we still ate a lot, got drunk and wore green. As in all past years, Rick made his excellent Irish soda bread and I ended up corning about 12 pounds of brisket in the fridge for a week, then simmering it up with potatoes and cabbage. If you want details on the corning process, they can be found in last year's St. Patrick's Day post. This year I actually made a dessert: Guinness chocolate cupcakes with whiskey cream frosting. I made a double batch for the party and it produced an insane amount of cupcakes, so if you just want the usual 2 muffin tins worth (about 24 cupcakes), make sure you cut all amounts in half. Or you will be swimming in cupcakes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and get out two very large bowls, a hand mixer, cooking spray and 4 12-cup muffin tins. If you don't have 4 muffin tins, you can either 1.) borrow from your neighbors, 2.) bake these in 2 batches (that's what I did) or 3.) cut the recipe in half. First the wet ingredients: in one of the big bowls and using your mixer, combine 2 12-ounce bottles of Guinness, 1 cup milk, 1 cup vegetable oil, and 2 tablespoons vanilla. When these are all mixed up together, beat in 6 eggs,one at a time, then mix in 1 1/2 cups sour cream. Now some dry ingredients: in your other big bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, 4 cups sugar, 5 cups flour, and 3 teaspoons baking soda. Make sure you get everything all mixed up well together--don't be lazy. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, using your hand mixer because it is easier than stirring. Get it all mixed up--it will be sort of thick and a delicious dark chocolatey color. But don't eat it yet! Spray your muffin tins really well with the cooking spray. You could also use little cupcake liner but I think they look more elegant as little cakes, so I just got the tins really greasy so that the cupcakes would pop right out after cooling. Try it! After you have prepped your tins, pour the cupcake batter in with a little space to spare right at the top. They won't raise too much. Stick them in the preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes, then haul them out and let cool in their tins. Like I said, if you use cooking spray or otherwise grease well, they should pop right out after cooling for about an hour. Here's a delicious frosting to make while your cupcakes are baking/cooling: beat 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese with your mixer until it is smooth and fluffy. Slowly add in 2/3 cup heavy cream until fully incorporated then slowly add 1 one-pound box of confectioner's sugar. Keep beating until it is smooth, then add about 3 tablespoons whiskey, or to taste. You don't want it boozy but you do want a hint of it. When the cupcakes are cool, dollop them with the frosting, like a little hat on top. I also had these super cute little shamrock sprinkles from my last trip to Fante's in Philadelphia, so we put those on top. Ali and Tiffany were instrumental in the cupcake frosting process and Charlie was instrumental in the discovery of splitting open a cupcake and pouring Jameson over the halves before consuming. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Coq au vin blanc

Here is an easy coq au vin that is made with white wine instead of the more common red version. A Riesling would be particularly good, and in fact, there is a good recipe for chicken with Riesling in this month's Gourmet, but I am lazy so I used the run-of-mill Chardonnay hanging out in my fridge. Also it was Sunday and God doesn't like us to be able buy wine for our chicken on Sundays, so what can you do?

Get a chicken and have it cut into 8 or 10 pieces, whichever you prefer. If you don't usually ask your butcher to cut a chicken up, you can buy precut-up chicken pieces instead. Heat 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Shake up your chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then brown them in the hot oil-butter mixture. I did mine in batches--I really can't fit more than 4 or 5 chicken pieces in my pot at once, so just fit in what you can, pull them out and set aside. It takes about 8-10 minutes to brown each batch, flipping them over at least once so that both sides become a beautiful dark golden color. Set chicken aside, and at this point you should set your oven to preheat to 350 because this will all end up in there eventually. Chop 2 leeks into small pieces (just the white and light green parts) and swish them around in a bowl of water to clean all the dirt out. Leeks are always sandy and gritty so be sure to do that. Fish out the clean leek bits and dry them off, then add to your now-empty pot to sauté along with 2 more tablespoons butter and one small, minced yellow onion. When the onion and leeks are soft (about 8 minutes) add the chicken back in, golden-skin side up, along with about 3 carrots that you have peeled and sliced into matchstick pieces. Pour 1 cup white wine over all and allow the liquids to reduce over high heat for about 5 minutes. Cover the pot and stick it in your oven at 350 degrees for about half an hour, then pull it out and pour ½ cup heavy cream over everything. Serve the chicken pieces with the delicious cream-wine sauce ladled over the top.

Shredded brussels sprout sauté

In the past I have made a dish with purple cabbage, prosciutto and pine nuts that Melanie really likes, so I tried to do a variation on that theme with brussels sprouts the other day. It's sort of time consuming to shred the brussels sprouts by hand but if you have a glass of wine and someone to talk to it's not so bad. We had this along with a coq au vin made with white wine that I'll write about next.

I bought at least one pound of fresh brussels sprouts, washed them well and cut each one in half and then cut the halves cross-wise into thin slices. Because brussels sprouts are cabbagey and layered, the slices fall apart into a shredded heap which is perfect for sautéing and cooks much faster than whole sprouts. Melted 2 tablespoons butter in a large deep pan until hot and toasted ¼ cup pine nuts until they were golden. Removed pine nuts and set aside and wiped out the pan to remove any overly browned bits. Added in the shredded brussels sprouts and sautéed over medium-high heat for about 6 minutes, until they began to get soft and bright green, then added the pinenuts back in along with salt, pepper, and ¼ cup golden raisins. Continued to sauté all together for another 2 minutes, then removed from heat and mixed in a drizzle each of white balsamic vinegar and hazelnut oil.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Turkey roulade with chard filling

One of my new favorite things ever is roasting a turkey breast that has been rolled up around a delicious filling. I made a version of this a few weeks ago sort of by accident, but this time around it was quite intentional. I found the gorgeous chard at the Morningside farmer's market; it was the beautiful variety known as rainbow chard, with golden, red and white stems topped by perfect glossy green, early-spring leaves. I also found green garlic, which looks a lot like a bunch of scallions but retains the unmistakable pungency of garlic with a mellow, fresh flavor. These were both utilized in my roulade filling but you can substitute whatever dark leafy greens are available for the chard or minced onion and garlic if you do not have green garlic available.

First I prepared the filling for the roulade. I washed and chopped up a bunch of rainbow chard, making sure the stems were diced quite small, and then sliced the leaves into thin ribbons. Minced 1 bunch of green garlic (substitute ½ minced onion and 2 cloves minced garlic) and sautéed for 3 minutes in 3 tablespoons olive oil. If you are substituting regular onion, it may need more like 6-8 minutes to saute. Add ¼ cup pine nuts and continue to sauté until they have colored lightly, about 2 minutes. Add in the chopped chard and sauté until it is wilted, then add 2 tablespoons sherry and ¼ cup golden raisins. Sauté until the liquid has evaporated somewhat and the filling is not too wet, about 2 more minutes. Add salt and fresh black pepper to taste, then set aside. Take a boneless, whole turkey breast and pound the fat end a bit more flat. There is always a skinny pointy end and a fatter thicker end. I need a meat pounder because slapping around a turkey breast is rough on a girl's hands. Anyway, just try to get it a little bit more flattened out on the thick end. Lay your chard filling out down the center. If there is too much filling for the size of your turkey, don't overdo it, just keep the rest for another use (maybe tossed with pasta? delicious!). Wrap up your turkey breast around the filling, starting with the fatter end and use the skin if necessary to keep it all together. Cut 3 lengths of kitchen twine and use them to tie the roulade together to keep it rolled up. It should look pretty cute. Salt and pepper the top then pop it into the oven at about 400 degrees, flip it over after 20 minutes, flip it back over again after another 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350 and let it roast for about an hour. Check the temperature after 40 minutes--depending on the size of your turkey breast it may be done sooner or later than that. Mine actually got pretty toasty, so I had to tent it with aluminum foil about halfway through to prevent scorching. You want the temperature to hit 165 degrees but you can take it out when it is 160 as it will rise while it sits out of the oven and that will prevent the roast from becoming too dry. I guess it could take up to 2 hours to be done if it is a large roast, so plan accordingly and be sure to use your meat thermometer. Slice it up and admire the lovely spirals of the chard stuffing.

I made roasted fingerling potatoes with rosemary to accompany the turkey roulade--it is an easy side, especially as you have the oven going already. Fingerlings are very cute and tiny and look nice when they are sliced lengthwise, like tiny golden boats. Slice them and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper and 2 teaspoons dried rosemary. They can roast at any temperature and are done when they are golden and slightly crispy. Toss them often as they cook, which may take about 40 minutes.