Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lovely Creamy Risotto

I have never ordered risotto in a restaurant. I don't know if I've ever been to one that serves it. But having seen it so many times on tv cooking shows and online recipes and Chef Ramsey's obsession with only serving perfect risotto on Hell's Kitchen I figured I'd try it.

I did not plan to fall in love with the creamy flavor packed rice.

Here's how I make it, I have no idea really if this is how it's supposed to taste but I love it, and eat way too much of it.The basic ingredients: Aborio rice (sometimes called risotto rice like mine up there), butter, garlic, and onion.

You don't have to use anything but the rice, it's special. Aborio rice is a super starchy short grain, it's the starch on the rice that gives risotto it's creaminess, you never want to rinse this type of rice. The butter/margarine can be substituted with olive oil or really any kind of fat. The garlic and onion can be subbed or left out entirely, but I think they make great flavor.

For a single good sized serving I use 1/3 of a cup of rice.

About the liquid, I use chicken broth because I usually pair my risotto with roasted chicken, and I don't drink wine so I don't cook with it, but you can use some white wine and whatever broth tickles your fancy, or just go basic and use water. The amount really is up to the rice and how done you want it. If I had to guess I'd say I average about 1 and 1/2 cups of liquid per 1/3 cup rice.

I melt the butter on medium-low heat and cook the onions about 5 minutes, then scoop in the garlic and stir just until I can smell it, then dump in the rice and toss around to coat it in the butter.

Then I start adding liquid, about a 1/3 to a 1/2 cup at a time and make sure you always stir really well after you add the liquid. You want a simmer going pretty steady once you start adding liquid, lots of small bubbles, but not boiling and popping over, raise and lower your heat accordingly.

I use a good nonstick pan to make my risotto so I don't follow the rule of always stirring, but if your pan is on the sticky side I'd say you need to keep right by it because if it sticks it will burn.

After a couple of liquid additions it will get a creaminess going, but it's not done, if you taste the rice now, it will still be crunchy, bleh.

This may look like the same picture but notice the carmelized chicken stock around the pan? That's how I know it's getting close when I start seeing that. Also it tends to stay in mostly a mountain when you scoop it up. Always just check the rice, it's so much easier than guessing.

I never need to add salt to mine because the chicken stock while low sodium is still full of it, but I do add some fresh pepper.

If you want to add anything now is the time, asparagus is a popular choice and just about any kind of cheese or any fresh herb. I like mine plain mostly.

One of my favorite dinners. Just throw in some roasted chicken and have a salad and you're ready to go. In all it took me about 20 minutes for the risotto, the chicken that's another story.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

So about that Boston Cream Pie...

That looks really good... and tastes good too.

I'll put the ingredient list up here then break down the recipe into the steps taken.

Cake flour, sugar, corn starch, baking powder, salt, light corn syrup, vanilla extract, bittersweet chocolate(more on this later), unslated butter, heavy cream, milk and eggs.

The Cake:
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Creamed together in a mixer or with a hand mixer, man I love my KitchenAid.

2 large eggs

Beaten in one at a time.

2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Sifted together, then added to mixer until incorporated.

3/4 cup milk

Mixed in to make it really look like cake batter.

A 9 and a half inch spring form pan (I have no clue what size mine is I just used it), buttered and floured.

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes.

Cry for your momma.

And break out the 9 inch Wilton cake pans, that happen to belong to momma and are older than you.

Do the happy dance!!!! Of course after having made the cake batter a second time and the baked for 40 minutes in the two 9 inch pans, I was just cussing a blue streak at the spring form abomination.

The Custard (otherwise known as that creamy stuff in the middle):
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Put into a largeish sauce pan (you want high sides cause this stuff is like napalm, it sticks and burns), whisked like crazy until smooth and brought up to boiling.

3 large eggs, beaten silly

Tempered into the milk mixture, look that part up online cause a video is so much better than pics. Whisk like crazy and pray you don't end up with really sweet soupy scrambled eggs.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Whisked into the custard in pieces. Then keep whisking, no your arm will not really fall off until the mix has cooled enough you can touch it and not scream. Technical aren't I?

The Glaze:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt

So I would have really liked this part to be sweeter since the cake itself and the custard aren't.
I probably will go with a semi-sweet chocolate next time or up the corn syrup another half tablespoon.

Put all that into a double boiler and slowly stir and melt. Eventually (which is always good when heating chocolate) you'll get a lovely smooth chocolate sauce, ganache whatever.

Now we get to the fun part.

Lay the first cake layer onto your cake plate. Using a spatula, the plastic kind works just as good as the metal ones, spread the custard around to almost the edge of the cake. Then top with the last layer of cake.

Now for the chocolate, make sure it's still pretty warm so it pours easy, dump it onto the center of the cake. You can take a butter knife or metal spatula and force it to spread all even and pretty to the sides, or you can pick the plate up and tilt it around until it does the same thing.

That's it! Let the chocolate cool, or not and slice and serve.

Irish Stew and Boston Cream Pie

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

Being Irish, at least in part, somewhere along the way to get an Irish family name, I like trying to make Irish food for St. Patrick's Day. Honestly, corned beef hash is gross. I just could not eat it last year. So this year I did a little more research and found that Irish stew is basically what I've been making as stew for years. Then I just had to make a dessert, something I like but have never made before Boston Cream Pie.

So for the stew you need beef stew meat (if you're like me and just can't do lamb) potatoes, carrots, onions, parsley and thyme and parsnips.

Those white carrot looking things, those are parsnips and before my research into Irish food I had seriously never thought to try them. But you know what? They are white carrots, look like them and actually taste more carroty. Why has this been such a secret?

So roughly 3 hours later.... we get stew.

Too bad I didn't like it. Heh. I really should have stuck to my normal stew making method and just thrown in some of the parsnips. I followed an online recipe thinking "It's a well respected site, I've made their stuff before and it was good, I'll try it this way."

I should have known one and a half hours was not long enough to soften that stew meat and being in the pot all together the potatoes would be mush and guess what? I was right. Plus I really don't like that much thyme.

On to the Boston Cream Pie....

Monday, March 9, 2009

Crock Pot Stroganoff

So I found this recipe some time ago and have altered it a bit and now it's an easy dinner to keep everything on hand for.

What you need: bag of egg noodles ( I only use about half the bag per meal), one cup of sour cream, McCormick's Hearty Beef Stew Slow Cooker mix (yup they have a stroganoff version but it just don't taste right), and some stew meat.

For the stew meat I like to go with the larger chunks since in our store we have a choice between 1 inch or so size pieces and really little pieces that would probably be great for something that doesn't cook so long. They also have 2 different size packages one about a pound and a half and the other roughly 3 lbs, I go with the smaller, we just don't need 3 lbs of meat for 5 people.

The original recipe called for some diced onion (that I could never taste so I just started leaving out) and sliced mushroom which I just cannot eat cooked mushrooms, um no.

I usually start this about 1 in the afternoon while I'm fixing me some lunch before I go get in line to pick the kids up from school.

Just dump the stew meat into your trusty slow cooker/crock pot whatever, and make sure to break it up a little after being all squished together in the package.

Grab a measuring cup and fill with about 1 and a half cups water or beef broth, the broth doesn't add anything that I've noticed but hey it doesn't hurt, mix in your hearty beef stew mix and pour over the meat.

Now get about another half cup of water to get the rest of the mix out of the mesuring cup, no matter what I do I can never get it to all come out at once.

Stir everything around good and crank the cooker up to high, put the lid on and walk away.

Come back about 4 hours later and this is what you'll see. Carefully give it a stir, I say carefully because well the meat just falls to pieces.

Now you need to boil the water for the noodles, they may only take 5 minutes to cook but it seems to take 30 minutes to boil enough water for them.

We now add the sour cream, I only buy those little 1 cup containers when they're on sale for cheaper than the big ones and this just hasn't happened recently, so out comes the little 1/4 cup and I get to make a mess with the sour cream, drop a cup into the meat.

Which will then look like this. Give it a stir and....

Guess what... You're done. Yup that's all there is left to that, now for those noodles whose water finally decided to boil.

My package says 6-7 minutes til done, I say I get soggy noodles after that long then mixing with that really tasty sauce up there, so I go for about 5 minutes cooking time, then drain, duh.

Now here's where things can be debated, some people want the sauce poured over the noodles, not all mixed together. I say when you cook it you can serve it however you like.

I just find it easier to serve and to put away the leftovers when it's all mixed up. This seems to make about 6 good servings, we always have leftovers when it's just the 5 of us eating, but it would be easy enough to double the sauce recipe to use the whole bag of egg noodles to serve roughly 10 adults.