Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Healthier Risotto that Doesn't Compromise on Flavor?

Recently, I began taking classes at the Institute of Culinary Education (recreational for now). It has been a wonderful experience and I’ve met many amazing people—from the instructors to the sous chefs (Shout out to Jesus!) and students.
One of my classes was on risotto. Now let me tell you something. I love risotto. I try to make it as much as possible because risotto is definitely a dish you get better at over time.  So, when I saw this class, I quickly signed up.  I also love mushrooms, so when I was tasked with preparing the Mushroom risotto (more on that below), I was on cloud nine!
Our instructor was the incredibly talented Peter Berley. Chef Berley was former executive chef at the world-renowned Angelica Kitchen, an organic, plant-based restaurant. He has also written numerous books, including the recent Flexitarian Table: Inspired, Flexible Meals for Vegetarians, Meat Lovers, and Everyone in Between, which is an amazing book that not only helps meat-lovers and vegetarians share meals together in a way that doesn’t require the vegetarian to eat side dishes or the host to cook a separate meal, it also helps you think seasonally(Remember, not only does choosing in-season fruits and vegetables give you more flavor, in-season produce  also contains more nutrients)
I’ve worked with Chef Berley before and I was excited, not only to try out different risotto dishes but to discover different grains (farro, barley, rye berries) to use to prepare “risotto style” dishes. To be a true risotto, a dish requires a short-grain rice such as the popular Arborio. However, you can prepare risotto-like dishes using the same or similar methods.
Here are a few steps to making a typical risotto:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Of mice and men....

The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry
That statement, from Robert Burns’s poem, “To a Mouse” and inspiration for George Steinbeck’s iconic Of Mice and Men, was never truer to me then it was this weekend when I finally began working on recipes from Hors D’Oeuvres.
I had an extensive day laid out for myself; I’d spent a decent amount of time writing out my shopping lists and an extensive prep list. I’ve made a significant amount of recipes from this book in the past with good to great results, so I wasn’t concerned at all as I set off to the store, visions of bouchees and galettes dancing in my head.
Well, none of this was meant to be it seems. It started out harmless enough. No crème fraiche? That’s okay, I’ll substitute sour cream. No lobster meat? I’ll use crab. No fresh tarragon? I guess I’ll just use dried. When I began passing off no wonton skins or puff pastry as simple fixes I should have known I was in trouble. Instead, I toiled away for hours trying to salvage a menu that was doomed from the start leaving me, ultimately, spent and depressed (Must give my man credit for taking the bad attitude and bland food like a champ!).
The next morning I decided to treat myself to a little comfort food to numb the pain. I decided to make a baked eggs recipe that Lara Ferroni had recently featured on her blog. Usually opting for tomato sauce with my baked eggs, I was looking for a change of pace.
This experiment went much smoother than the first. My step by step after the jump…

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Excuse me, could I get some full surface-contact with my halibut?

I recently stumbled upon this interesting article about “the recipe for the most astonishing cookbook of our time,”…or so says the Wall Street Journal.
“Take one multimillionaire computer genius, a team of 36 researchers, chefs and editors and a laboratory specially built for cooking experiments. After nearly four years of obsessive research, assemble 2,400 pages of results into a 47-pound, six-volume collection that costs $625 and requires four pounds of ink to print.”
Apparently this Nathan Myhrvold guy, a former chief technology officer for Microsoft who holds two master’s degrees and a doctorate in mathematical physics, decided that Microsoft was really getting in the way of his cooking, quit his job, and got to work on this book.
Whether this book really is a “game changer” as their touting it, is a mystery to me and is likely to remain that way. I certainly won’t be spending the $625 to find out (er…at least not now).
The Journal article did, however, select a few “counterintuitive nuggets of wisdom” for us poor folks and I picked out one that I thought was really interesting.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

V-Day Inspiration: Outside-In Lobster & Mashed Potatoes

Unfortunately life doesn’t like to halt for a better blogging environment and so the “Hors D'oeuvres” post I’ve been planning will be postponed until the end of the week. In the meantime, yesterday’s Valentine’s Day hustle and bustle inspired me to write something about one of my favorite quick and easy romantic recipes.
When I feel like spoiling my man (or myself for that matter) with a romantic dinner, I usually think lobster. But I, like many other people out there, can’t stand the idea of killing a lobster. It just breaks my little heart.
So I like to buy frozen lobster tails, you can order them online or get them at the supermarket. As long as you’re smart about it, they can be a great and (mostly) guilt-free alternative. Read this great tutorial on “How to Buy Lobster Tails & Not Get Ripped Off”.
One day, when pondering what to pair with my lobster tail, I came up with the idea for “Outside-In Lobster & Mashed Potatoes”—a quick & easy recipe that involves “butterflying the tail”, cooking the lobster using the method of pulling the tail meat out of its shell (but keeping it attached and resting it on top) and then stuffing the hollow shell with mashed potatoes, so the yummy lobster juices seep into potatoes imparting yummy lobster flavor.

Friday, February 11, 2011


I've never had a blog before so please bear with me while I attempt to dazzle you with wit, wisdom and...worcestershire sauce. Fail? That's okay, I'll get better.
This idea started when I fell in love with a book I received for Christmas, "Hors D'Oeuvres" by Eric Treuille & Victoria Blashford-Snell.
Have you looked at something and something inside you just clicked? That's how I felt when I began looking through this book; it was as if I had found the man of my dreams. Once I picked it up I couldn't put it down again until I thoroughly read through every recipe.
Why this book?
I cook a lot, so this wasn't my first experience with a cookbook. Nor is it my first encounter with the delectable subset of cuisine known as hors d'oeuvres, appetizers, tapas, amuse bouche...whatever you like to call them, for that is one of my favorite things to make. It's something else.
It's the way the book is done. Everything is laid out like a house. They give you solid foundations and many different options to build different rooms and different additions.
You'll see what I mean soon. I can't wait to get started...