Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Baked Mushroom Risotto

In a cooking class I took with Helen Rennie, we made this dish and I have made it at least five times since, probably more. I have made risotto many times the traditional stove top way and much prefer the way it comes out in the oven. I like the texture better. I also love mushrooms and this with the mushroom broth is quite good. Here is the link to Helen's post since she includes many other variations. I am partial to the mushroom version and want to have it easily accessible.

Helen's post on baked risotto:

Baked Mushroom Risotto

2 oz of dried porcini mushrooms
3 cups boiling water

1/3 cup chopped shallots (about 2 medium)
2 tblsp olive oil
1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice (do not subsitute with another kind of rice)
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 tblspns butter sliced into 4 pieces
2 tblspns freshly grated parmesan or asiago cheese
1 lb of sliced and sauteed mushrooms (see recipe just prior to this one)
salt to taste

1. In a heat proof bowl, pour the boiling water onto the dried poricini mushrooms and let sit for at least 30 minutes. While that is sitting chop the shallots, measure the rice and start chopping mushrooms.
2. Preheat the oven to 400. Once the porcini mushrooms have sat for 30 minutes, drain them using a sieve and a paper towel lining the sieve. Put the liquid into a pan bringing it to a simmer.
3. Place a heavy bottom 3 qt pot with an oven safe lid on the stovetop and set it on medium low heat. Add the olive oil, shallots, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook the shallots, stirring occasionally until soft and translucent, but not browned. This should take 8-10 minutes. If they start to brown turn the heat lower.
4. Salt the stock to taste. I use at least a couple of teaspoons.
5. Raise the heat to medium and add the rice to the shallots. Cook, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes until the grains are shiny and translucent around the edges.
6.  Add the wine and stir constantly until it is absorbed, about 2-3 minutes.
7. Add 2 1/4 cups the hot stock and stir well. Once it comes to a simmer, cover it and immediately transfer it to the oven.  Cook for 18 minutes. Reserve any leftover stock in case you want to add more at the end.
8. While the risotto bakes, cook the mushrooms. You can use the recipe posted prior to this one or cook them any way you like. I've also added small pieces of the mushrooms used for the stock near the end of sauteeing them.
9. Remove the risotto uncover (USE AN OVEN MITT), and taste. Depending on your preference and how al dente or liquidy you like it, you can mess around with it here. If you want to cook it more on the stove top, add more stock (or water if you ran out) over medium heat stirring constantly until you like the consistency. I usually like it the way it is right out of the oven. Sometimes I add a little more stock, but don't cook it anymore. I just want a little more liquid.
10. Stir in mushrooms, butter and cheese. Adjust the salt and stir.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Perfect Mushrooms

I have arrived! I know I have really made it in this world. Do you know how I know? Because I just joined a gym that provides towel service.  You have no idea how happy this makes me. It doesn't even matter to me that the towels are glorified facecloths and that I need to use five of them during my typical morning swim routine.  Not having to schlep a towel around town just makes for an overall better gym experience. While I've long made it a point to try to stay active and fit, I have not always made it a point to belong to a gym. It's just not my thing. I like to run and ride because I like to be outside. So to do these things indoors is not motivating to me and just walking into a gym can sometimes instantly envelope me in a feeling of sadness. But, I do like swimming indoors and I have to get a weight routine going for all those things that you have to think about in middle aged life. So for the last 3 years I've contemplated joining the Boston Sports Club in Waltham. They have a very nice facility and pool, but that comes with a hefty price tag. I couldn't justify it. But, this Fall as the weather started to turn cold, I knew I needed something to shake up my routine for the winter, so I just went ahead and did it.
The couple of other times I belonged to a gym with a pool, they did not have towel service, or any other kind of service for that matter. Forgot your shampoo or soap? Sorry! You'll have to go without that day. This place even has an iron & ironing board and mouthwash and hair dryers.  I go in the morning on my way to work, so all these little things make it a whole lot easier to do. I haven't forgotten my underwear or shoes yet, and I don't believe they have remedies for that. I'm sure one of these days I'm going to be walking around work in skirt with running sneakers on. I just hope that's a day that I don't have to leave my desk much.
Another thing that makes me happy recently are these mushrooms. I found them on Helen Rennie's blog, Beyond Salmon, after a class I took with her. It appears she got this recipe from Julia Child. The original use for these was for a baked risotto recipe that I will blog next, but now I eat them often as a side dish because they are so delicious.
Helen talks a bit on her post about washing mushrooms. I've always been very careful to just wash them with a damp cloth which can be pretty tedious. She used to do the same to be sure the mushrooms didn't absorb too much water but now she has changed her ways. It's ok to wash them as long as you dry them a bit after. Here is the link to her post. I still want to have the recipe on my own blog because it's easier for me to find, but definitely take a look at her post.

Sauteed Mushrooms

3 tblsp olive oil or butter or a combination of both
1 lb sliced mushrooms (baby bellas, cremini or portabella work good. White is also fine, but I found them more watery and didn't like as much)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tspn fresh lemon juice
2 tblspns madeira, port or red/white wine. (I've always used dry white wine, but I bet red would be great0

1.  Heat a heavy bottomed large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil/ butter and wait for it to heat up. Add mushrooms, wine. lemon juice and salt. Stir and cover. Let cook for about 8 minutes, until the mushrooms release all their juices.
2. Uncover. Raise heat and boil until all the liquid is evaporated.
3. Turn down heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are browned. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Rice and Beans with Coconut Milk

Last year I went to Philadelphia for dinner. My train ride was about 10 hours round trip and my total time in Philly was slightly longer than that. I had a friend who was going to be there for a visit from Colorado, so I figured that I might as well meet up with him while he was "in the neighborhood". I recall it was a very busy time at work and I had no business going away, but taking the train allowed me to work on my laptop so I could be productive and also get to take this little getaway. I've learned a few things about managing work stress in my days and one of those things is that I can't let work completely take over my life. In times when it gets super busy I used to forego almost all things fun so I could get my job done. But doesn't make for a very happy me. Now I'm more conscious of the benefits that taking a day off can have in the middle of a hectic period. It recharges me so I can be more productive and overall have a better attitude. Also, when I reflect back on my life, I'm not going to remember how busy I was and how much work I got done, but I will remember the time I met Claude for dinner in Philly. What I recall most distinctly about that trip was the rice we had at the sushi restaurant we went to for dinner. It was coconut rice and it was melt in your mouth delicious. I intended on trying to make it, but somehow have still not gotten around to it all these months later.

When I was messing around on the internet the other day looking for recipes, I came across Jamaican
Rice and Peas. It looked promising and reminded me of the Philly coconut rice so I decided to make it as part of that night's dinner. It was tasty and it will become a regular for me. It's nice to have some different rice and bean dishes to mix things up a bit since that is a staple dinner for me. From the comments I was reading, I gather that this isn't the traditional Jamaican rice and peas recipe, but rather a twist on that, so I don't feel comfortable calling it that. I'm not sure what else to call it, so I'm differentiating it by the use of coconut milk. If you don't like coconut, however, please don't be scared off. It's not a strong coconut flavor. The milk just sweetens it up a bit and makes it creamy and the mix of spices is fragrant, but not overpowering. Using the whole pepper gives it a very subtle flavor. Somewhere I read it described as the equivalent of using a bay leaf. I halved this recipe and still used the whole pepper and that was fine.

Rice and Beans with Coconut Milk

2 tblsp vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 cups basmati rice
1 tspn salt
1 tspn grated ginger
1 cup of water
1 cup veggie broth
2 cups coconut milk
1 15 oz can pinto beans, kidney beans or pigeon peas
2 tspns dried thyme
1 habanero pepper whole (or a Scotch Bonnet Pepper if you can find it)

1. Heat oil on medium high heat in a medium pot. Saute for about 4-5 minutes until the edges begin to brown.
2. Add rice and garlic and stir almost continuously for 2-3 minutes so it doesn't stick to the pan.
3. Add coconut milk, broth, water, ginger and salt and stir. Add the beans and habanero pepper and then sprinkle the thyme all over the top. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat to low and cover.
4. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Then leave covered for about 10 minutes. Fluff rice, remove pepper and serve. You can squeeze some lime juice on the top too to brighten it up a bit.