Not that I haven’t always been an odd duck, but as a child, I didn’t eat any sort of seafood except for oysters. Fish was assumed to taste the way it smelled, crabs looked like spidery ocean monsters, and shrimp had to have been the grossest looking things I’d ever seen. But oysters! How I loved them so! My favorite preparation was fried with lots of lemon and ketchup, and I would adore the nights our family and extended family would pile into the car to go to the Chesapeake Bay Seafood House for their All-You-Can-Eat extravaganza. I’ve grown to become EEO about seafood (I’m sorry for judging you guys!) and adore just about every fresh catch I can get my hands on, but oysters hold a special place in my heart. Continue reading Oyster Rockefeller Dressing
Risotto is one of those dishes that when I see on chefy shows on tv, I perennially call shenanigans. I have made many a stunning risotto in my day, and every single stinking one of them became glorious from the sheer amount of love (read: time) that was poured into the dish. A good risotto required at least a half an hour of my attention and stirring, a goodly amount of time spent prepping the ingredients beforehand and guests ready to tuck in immediately while its piping hot. As such, I only ever made for risotto for folks I truly loved (meaning that if you HAVE had my risotto, you can bet your cutie bootie I adore having you in my life). So the thought that risotto could share a plate with any other dish, and as a side item at that, was preposterous to me.
Fast forward a bit to the day that Santa Claus decided to bring me a pressure cooker. I was giddy at first, then frustrated with getting my new baby to do my bidding, but shortly thereafter, head over heels in love. I mastered the darn thing with no true hiccups and questioned why I hadn’t used one sooner. It was a dream! As a means of learning more about it, I turned to the queen of pressure cooking, Lorna Sass. As I poured through her book, Cooking Under Pressure, I found the traditional bevy of stews and braises alongside surprises such as meatloaf and bread pudding. There in the mix, I also found a recipe for risotto that purported the cooking time at under 10 minutes! And, even crazier, no stirring! I felt as if the world had been turned on its head a la Alice in Wonderland – what was this whimsically nonsensical recipe? And how could I wield it in my cooking arsenal?
This recipe below is based on my pressure cooker risotto experiments, and the result is mind-blowingly good. Yes, it takes only 10 minutes to cook. Yes, it frees you from 45 minutes of straight elbow grease. And yes, it’s simple enough to serve as a side. The only problem I now have is finding a dish complicated enough to cook for the folks I love for them alone. I’m fine with going on a bit of a culinary hunt for a challenge. But in the meantime, I’ll be whipping up this risotto.
The Quickest Mushroom Risotto Ever
1 c. of dried mixed mushrooms (porcini, chanterelle, shitake, hen of the woods or morels)
5 c. of chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 c. of dry white wine
1/2 c. of chopped onions
2 tbs. of butter
2 tbs. of olive oil
1 1/2 c. of arborio rice
3/4 c. of grated locatelli
1/4 tsp. of white pepper
salt to taste
4 tbs. of chopped chives
Bring 2 c. of chicken stock to a boil. Add the dried mushrooms and cover. Let sit for about 20 minutes, allowing the mushrooms to rehydrate. Drain the liquid off of the mushrooms and reserve. Pour the liquid into a quart measuring cup and add enough additional stock to make 3 1/2 cups.
Melt the butter and olive oil in a pressure cooker and add the onions. Cook for about a minute or until softened and then add the rice. Cook rice until slightly translucent. Add the wine and cook until absorbed completely. Add 3 1/2 cups of stock and white pepper. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker and bring up to high pressure. Cook for 5 minutes and then use a quick release method to bring pressure back to normal. Open the lid and return pot to the burner. Taste the rice for doneness and stir to allow the last remaining stock to be absorbed by the rice. If the rice is chewy and the stock has all been absorbed, add a little extra stock and continue to cook until the rice is tender. Stir in the cheese and taste for salt. Sprinkle with the chives and serve immediately.
If you do not have a pressure cooker and would like to make this recipe, use the same ingredients, but follow the instructions for Rock Shrimp Risotto.
Sippin’ Once, Sippin’ Twice
When I think of chicken and rice soup, I always think of the Maurice Sendak books from my childhood, and the ever famous line, “Sippin’ once, sippin’ twice, sippin’ chicken soup with rice.” Carole King actually made an animated video of a bunch of Maurice Sendak stories called “Really Rosie” which included the “Chicken Soup with Rice” song. It included dance moves that certainly rival the recent jammie “Chicken Noodle Soup” (with a soda on the side) which is so bad it’s good. Well, not so much good as hilarious. I think I only reason that I like the Chicken Noodle Soup video because a) it takes place in my hood and b) features kids with sweet dance moves.
Back to Maurice Sendak, this soup makes me about as happy as the sweet lyrics to “Alligators All Around” – I could only find this sh!t copy with the lyrics over the video, but it’s still good. And for the record, my best friend Kate loves “P – Pushing People” the best. Makes me laugh every time, and yes, I know I’m a child for life.
So about this soup – there’s something about the tender rice and chicken, salty parmasean and delicate bits of egg that make this a go-to for me whenever I need a bit of comfort. Making the stock from scratch is important, but in a pinch, you could make this with broth – just make sure you don’t leave out the egg and cheese. They are essential to balancing out the flavor of this soup, and a little bit of really good cheese (I always use locatelli) just seals the deal. Continue reading Italian Chicken Soup