Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Leeky Abstraction Risotto

serves four as a main dish

1 cup uncooked Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1 1/2 cups minced white and light-green of leek
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
12 oz cooked chicken sausage*, sliced thick
1 bunch swiss chard
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 quart or more boiling water**
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
olive oil
2 Tb unsalted butter
not-too-hot vinegar-based hot sauce - e.g., Cholula
freshly ground black pepper

* See label photo for Whole Foods product I happened to use.
** I use an electric tea kettle for this.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees F. Put soup plates in the oven to warm.***

Separate the stems from the chard leaves. Chop the stems finely. Chop the leaves coarsely. Set both aside.

Heat a large dutch oven over a medium flame. When hot, add a couple Tb of olive oil, the leek, celery, sausage, and chard stems. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegegables are translucent and tender but still toothsome and not dull colored. Transfer everything to a large plate and set aside.

Clean the pan and return to medium heat. When hot, add a couple Tb of olive oil and the rice. Stir. Cook until a few grains of the rice begin to turn a little bit tan. (I.e., the usual risotto shtick.) Add the chicken stock. Reduce heat to low. Cook until the stock is nearly absorbed. Continue the risotto routine with the boiling water. See Marcella Hazan or other authority if you don't know the routine.

When the risotto is five minutes away from being done,**** raise heat to medium. Stir in the reserved sausage and sauteed vegetables, plus the chard leaves. Continue cooking.

When the rice is barely done, remove from heat. Stir in the butter and cheese. Taste. Season accordingly with salt and pepper. Add add additional hot water if needed. (Risotto is always better too wet than too dry; too dry makes it gluey.) Serve on the heated soup plates. Top with dots of hot sauce.

*** If you serve this dish on cold plates you deserve a stint in the gulag.

**** Yes, I know that if you are not a risotto geek you will not know when "five minutes before being done" is, but then if you are not a risotto geek you almost certainly have given up on this recipe before now. (This is the leeky abstraction part.)

Improbably Satisfying Beans with Kale

serves four as a side dish
N.B. #1 This is a vegan recipe, but don't let that put you off.
N.B. #2 This is a variation on a NY Times recipe that I've misplaced.

4 cups chopped fresh kale, no stems
1 13oz package cooked cannelini beans
2 Tb minced garlic
2 Tb minced shallot
1/2 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
1/4 cup dry white or rose wine
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Aleppo pepper*
freshly ground black pepper
coarse salt
1/2 lemon
6 Tb extra-virgin olive oil

* or substitute the more common "pizza house" hot pepper flakes

Preheat a large saute pan or dutch oven over a medium-low burner. When hot, add half the olive oil, the garlic, half the parsley, and the shallot. Toss. Cover and sweat for a couple of minutes. Remove cover and cook for a few more minutes until fragrant and no longer steaming. Do not allow to brown. Toss the beans into the mixture and cook slowly for 10 minutes or so, still without browning. Add Aleppo pepper to taste, and the paprika. Remove from heat and allow to sit at least 15 minutes for flavors to meld. The photo shows the dish at this point. Yum.

Return the pan to a medium-high burner. Add the water, wine, and kale. Allow the alcohol from the wine to evaporate - a minute or two. Cover and cook over medium heat until the kale wilts completely. Uncover and cook until kale is tender but has not acquired gray or other dull tones - keep tasting it. Remove from heat. Stir in the remaining parsley and remaining olive oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve immediately on heated plates.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Warm Scallop Salad with Rice Vinegar Guacamole and Beaujolais Blanc Pan Sauce

Serves 3 - 4

  • 20 oz fresh New England dry-pack sea scallops - about 16 scallops (the ones in the photo here were from New Bedford, Mass.)
  • 1 very ripe avocado
  • about 4 Tb best extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, pressed
  • dash hot sauce
  • about 2 Tb rice vinegar
  • 3 Tb unsalted butter
  • about 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 oz fresh kohlrabi bulb
  • very fresh mixed mild salad greens
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 fresh lemon

Shave the kohlrabi into very thin strips. (I used a mandoline.) Toss the strips with 1Tb of the rice vinegar and a little bit of salt. Set aside.

Approximately 20 minutes before you are going to cook them, pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Toss them with 2Tb of the olive oil and a small amount of salt and pepper. Set aside at room temperature.

Peel the avocado. Place in a small mixing bowl with the garlic, hot sauce, about 2Tb of the olive oil, and about 1Tb of the vinegar. Mash thoroughly with a fork. (Adjust the balance of oil and vinegar to taste. You want it slightly more tart than you might expect, to cut the richness of the scallops and the butter to come.) Season conservatively with salt and pepper.

Heat a large non-stick skillet to very hot over a high flame. Set the oiled scallops in the pan on the flat sides, with a little space between. When they start to brown on one side (see photo), turn each one using tongs. They are done when opaque all the way through. Taste one to make sure. This will probably take about 2 minutes per side. When done, set aside. Pour the wine into the pan and reduce by about a third. Remove pan from heat entirely. Whisk in in the butter. Add a few drops of lemon juice to taste.

Place the greens on plates. Decorate with the marinated kohlrabi. Place a large spoonful of the avocado mixture on each plate. Add scallops. Drizzle the pan sauce over the scallops and the salad.

Serve with French bread and a good white Burgundy. I used an awesome, affordable 2013 Beaujolais Blanc purchased at Rosemont Market in Yarmouth. It was $13.99 before any case discount.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Red Pepper Velouté

This sauce is great to have around when you want to add some color and deep flavor to an otherwise too-neutral dish. For example, I made a particularly successful risotto tonight, partly because I threw in maybe a half cup of this good stuff.

1 large red bell pepper, chopped fine
1 large shallot, chopped fine
1 Tb flour
roughly 3/4 cup dry white wine
2 Tb olive oil
1 Tb balsamic vinegar
roughly 1/2 cup homemade chicken stock (optional, but desirable)
roughly 1/2 cup mild tomato sauce or purée (optional, but desirable)
freshly ground black pepper

heavy-bottomed sauté pan or sauteuse, with cover
stick blender

Heat the saucepan over moderately high heat. Add the oil and the chopped pepper. Saute until slightly browned and giving off the characteristic "roasted red pepper" smell, about 5 min. Reduce heat to low. Stir in the shallot and cover. Sweat the shallot-pepper mixture until the shallots are soft and translucent, about more 5 min. Remove cover. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the wine, and the stock & tomato sauce, if using. Otherwise add some good water. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Adjust thickness with stock / water to taste, always starting with less and adding more if needed. You are aiming for a rather thin sauce. Simmer over lowest heat, covered, for another 5 min. Puree thoroughly with the stick blender. Again adjust thickness with stock / water if needed. Season with salt and pepper. If it needs more brightness, stir in a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice and/or Louisiana-style hot sauce. Will keep in fridge for up to a week.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

How to Cook Rice

How to Cook Rice

My mother was an unremarkable cook, for the most part. She did have an easy and foolproof way to cook rice, however - one that I have used effectively my whole life. It pains me when people complain that they have trouble with this staple. Here then, from Janet S. to you, is how to cook rice.

(NOTE: This method is for making plain non-sticky long-grain white or brown rice. If you want to make risotto or rice for sushi or rice to eat with chopsticks or any other dish that calls for rice which coheres, this blog post is not the one you want.)

makes four large portions
  • 1.5 cups plain long-grain white or brown* rice - not par-boiled or otherwise adulterated
  • large covered saucepan or small stockpot (4 quarts)
  • large strainer or small-holed colander (see photo)
  • 2.5 - 3 quarts (10 - 12 cups) water
  • timer
Bring the water to a boil over high heat in the covered pot. The exact quantity is not critical, but it has to be a lot. Basically you're cooking rice exactly like you would cook pasta. If you don't have enough water it will become too starchy, and the rice will be sticky.

When the water is at a full rolling boil, remove the cover. Stir in the rice, using a wooden scraper or spoon to make sure none sticks to the bottom of the pan. For plain, jasmine, or basmati white rice, Start a timer set exactly 8 minutes. (*For brown rice, set it for 20 minutes.) Do not wait for the water to come back to a boil before starting the timer. The water should come back to a boil within about 30 seconds. If it doesn't, you didn't use enough water. Again move a wooden spoon around the bottom of the pot to make sure there is no stuck rice.

Boil uncovered until the timer goes off. Then do not dally. Spring into action and drain the rice into the strainer or colander. Allow all water to drip out. I think this is the place where most people are unprepared for this method of cooking rice: You need a strainer or colander that's big enough to hold a bunch of cooked rice but which has REALLY SMALL HOLES. Otherwise, obviously, you will end up with rice in the sink. Serve the rice immediately. If you need to hold it for five minutes you can do that by adding a quarter inch of hot tap water to the still-hot cooking pot. Then set the strainer filled with rice over the water and cover with the lid. Do not turn the heat on or you will steam the rice, overcooking it. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Shrimp Kathy (Plus)

My cousin Kathy, who lives on the Florida panhandle, showed me how to poach shrimp very simply so that they come out tender and sweet every time. (Of course you have to start out with good raw material.) For this recipe, I've taken her basic approach and added a thin sauce that adds some complimentary flavors but doesn't overwhelm or cloy. After a couple of not-quite-there attempts, I'm pretty happy with it.


serves 3
  • 1 lb 16 - 20 count Gulf shrimp, shell on
  • 1 cup beer
  • 3 cups water
  • ice
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning (okay, purists, this is optional)
  • 3 Tb butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 or 3 fresh basil leaves, cut fine (roll them up tightly together the long way, then slice the rolls crosswise with a sharp knife)
  • 1 Tb sherry vinegar
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Cooking the Shrimp

If you want to devein the shrimp, do so without removing the shells. Cooking with the shell on is key to good flavor here.

Bring the beer, water, a big pinch of salt, and the Old Bay (if using) to a boil over high heat in a covered saucepan. While the water is heating, fill a large mixing bowl half full with ice water.

When the water is boiling, add the shrimp and cover, leaving flame on high. When the water has come back to a simmer, reduce heat to low. The shrimp are probably already done at this point. Remove one. If it already looks opaque, cut it in half and eat it to make sure it is cooked through. If so, drain the shrimp immediately, reserving the cooking water. Quickly plunge them into the ice water bath to stop all cooking. This is the key step that will keep them from turning rubbery and bland.

You may pause at this point. Once the shrimp are chilled, remove them from the ice water and refrigerate up to a couple of days if you are not continuing with the recipe.

Finishing the Dish

If you want to serve the shrimp without shells, peel them now. (I think they are better with the shells on, but they're definitely messier to eat that way.)

Put a saucepan - you can use the same one in which you poached the shrimp - over low heat. Melt 1 Tb of the butter in the pan. Cook the garlic slowly in the butter until it froths slightly but does not brown - about 5 min. Add a cup or so of the reserved cooking liquid and bring to a simmer.

Add the shrimp and the other 2 Tb butter. Cover and toss gently and freqently until just warmed through. All you are trying to do here is heat up the shrimp and baste them in the sauce; you do not want to be cooking them any more than they're already cooked. When they are warm, remove from heat and toss together with the basil, the vinegar, and some pepper. Add more vinegar and salt if needed. (Since the poaching liquor was seasoned, you may not need more salt.) Serve right away with rice. Accompany with a salad or plain steamed vegetable.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Carbonara Mia

I worked up this variant tonight after work. The artichoke hearts give the rich but subtle dairy and pork flavors a bit of a lift without being jarring. Also, their gentle color fits in well with the general mellow tenor of the dish. Tristan and I both tucked into it hungrily.

serves 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer
3 oz pancetta, chopped coarsely
1/2 medium onion, chopped - about 1/2 cup
1 Tb white flour
1 cup milk (I use 2%) in a Pyrex cup
2 Tb cream (optional)
1 tsp concentrated tomato paste (optional)
8 oz spaghetti
1 14oz can Cento water pack artichoke hearts "8 - 10 count" (i.e., small ones), drained and quartered
2 Tb chopped Italian parsley
dash Louisiana-style hot sauce
freshly ground black pepper
grated pecorino Romano cheese

Put the pancetta in a large skillet over med-low heat, stirring occasionally. When most of the fat has been tried out - ten or fifteen minutes - add the onion. Cook slowly, stirring often, reducing heat if necessary, until onion is soft and translucent - about another ten or fifteen minutes. Do not brown.

While the pancetta and onion are cooking, put water on the burner in anticipation of boiling the spaghetti. Heat the milk (and cream, if using) in the microwave on high for 1 minute. Set aside.

When the onion and pancetta are almost done, stir in the flour. Continue to cook without browning for another five minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the hot milk and the tomato paste. Return to stove over low flame. Sauce will begin to thicken slightly as it comes to a bare simmer.

Put the pasta into the boiling water. While it is cooking, stir the artichoke hearts into the sauce in the skillet to warm. Cook the pasta al dente. When you drain it, reserve 2 cups of the cooking water. Remove the sauce from heat. Stir in the cooked spaghetti, the hot sauce, pepper to taste, and enough pasta water to give the spaghetti a nice sheen. Add the water in small increments - 1/4 cup at a time. You will probably need to use more of the water than you think.

Serve the pasta on warm plates with a sprinkle of cheese and parsley. Accompany with a soft white wine, such as a Pinot Grigio.