Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom Risotto
Since I moved away, I no longer eat rice, mainly jasmine, on a daily basis. While the types of starches I had diversified, I found myself on many occasions craving rice. Last night was risotto. I happen to have about 10 crimini mushrooms, some leftover dry white wine (Sauvignon blanc), chicken stock and arborio rice. I also had some duck confit from a few weeks back so I used duck fat instead of butter and supplemented my stock with some duck gelatin (when you collect drippings from roasting a duck or chicken, there is a golden layer of concentrated flavor under the fat that solidifies as it chills - I freeze and use it for things like rice or veggies). The duck fat and gelatin were a bit salty since they were from the duck confit so I minimized the salt I added. After adding the Parmesan cheese, it was just salty enough for me. 

Ingredients (enough for 3 - 4 side portions or 2 full portions)
2 tbsp duck fat (or butter)
2 tspb olive oil
2 cups fresh crimini mushrooms, finely chopped 
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock (I prefer low sodium)
1/2 cup dry white wine (like, but not limited to, Sauvignon blanc)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove
1 tspb parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1) Heat the duck fat (or butter) in a skillet over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and cook for 3 - 5 minutes until soft. Season to taste, remove from heat and set aside. 
2) Bring stock to a simmer over medium heat then reduce to low heat. You'll be adding this to the rice over time so you'll want to keep it warm without reducing the volume much. When I purchase shiitake mushrooms, I freeze the stems for stock as they add a nice earthy flavor. This would be a great addition while the stock simmers - just don't add the stems to the risotto. I didn't add any this time and it tasted fine.
3) Add the olive oil to a stock pot (2 quart was sufficient for me) and heat to medium. Add onions and garlic and sautee until soft but not brown. 
4) Add the rice to the onion/garlic mix and stir to thoroughly mix (1 - 2 minutes).
5) Add the white wine and stir until it is absorbed.
6) Add the stock 1/2 cup at a time and stir frequently to prevent sticking. Wait until each addition is absorbed prior to adding the next. After 25 - 35 minutes, when the rice is tender but not soft, add the mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, parsley and season to taste. 

I couldn't help but sample a bit while reheating the duck confit
I served my risotto with a delicious (and somewhat salty duck leg) and some honey roasted baby carrots.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Pearl Meatballs

Pearl Meatballs

Last week I decided I wanted pearl meatballs, specifically the ones my mom makes. Unfortunately my mom lives 850 miles away so the only way to satisfy my craving was to prepare them myself. If you're unfamiliar with pearl meatballs, they are steamed pork meatballs which were rolled in glutinous (aka sweet aka sticky) rice. The rice becomes translucent after it's cooked so the meatball appears to be studded in pearls. I didn't have short grain glutinous rice on hand so my my meatballs lack the pearl studded look. My favorite part is the bottom of the meatball where the rice takes on the meaty juices from the pork. This recipe requires a bit of prep time as the glutinous rice must be soaked for at least 2 hours before use. If I make this on a week night, I'll soak the rice before I leave for work in the morning.

Pearl Meatballs (~40 meatballs at 1 - 1-1/2")
2 cups of glutinous rice (preferably short grain, sometimes labeled as "sushi rice") soaked in water for 2 hours
1-1/2 lb ground pork
3 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp rice wine
2 tsp sesame oil
2 sprigs of green onion, finely chopped
4 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped (I've used both fresh and dried)
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 medium eggs
1-2 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste
~ 1.5 cups water

1) Soak rice for 2 hours. If using dried shiitakes, rehydrate with water (at least 45 minutes). After mushrooms are rehydrated, remove stems (I save these for soups) and finely chop.
2) Mix cornstarch with ~1/4 cup of cold water, soy sauce, rice wine, and eggs. Add remaining ingredients and additional cup of water and mix well. Allow mixture to rest 30 minutes. The mixture should feel moist but firm enough to form balls. Note: After making my mixture, I always heat up a frying pan and cook 1/2 - 1 tsp of the meat mixture for a taste test. This way I can adjust the flavor to my liking before rolling out and steaming all my meatballs.
3) Drain excess liquid from rice and lay rice out onto a plate.
4) Roll meat mixture into 1 - 1-1/2 inch balls. Roll the meat balls on the rice plate to coat.
5) Bring water for steaming to a boil. Once the water is boiling, set the plated meatballs in the steamer rack and steam for 30 minutes. Alternatively if you have a small steaming rack or a steaming insert for your rice cooker, the meatballs can be cooked concurrently with the rice. Just cook some veggies and the meal is complete!

Pumpkin Crepes

Pumpkin Crepes

It's been a few months since I've posted. Life gets busy and sometimes it's hard to pick things up after you've put them down. A while back when we had less than 8 hours of daylight, I had a craving for pumpkin crepes. Having picked up a can of pumpkin the week before, I thought I'd try making them for Sunday brunch. It's difficult for my husband and I to eat any meal other than dinner together because of work and gym schedules so Sunday is brunch day. It's just nice to sit down and have breakfast together without having to run off to work, whether that breakfast is a simple dish of scrambled eggs at home or a rare venture out.

I initially wanted traditional crepes with a pumpkin cream cheese filling but seeing as I was out of cream cheese, I opted for pumpkin flavored crepes. I used the crepe recipe from two tarts and had great success. The recipe requires the batter to sit for 30 minutes, which was time spent making a pumpkin spiced whipped cream, sea salt caramel sauce, and of course cleaning up the mess I was making. 

Pumpkin Crepes (10 - 12 crepes)

1 cup of pumpkin puree
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup milk
lukewarm water (recipe calls for 1/2 cup - I add as needed after batter rested)
4 eggs
1 tbsp unsalted butter (recipe calls for 4 tbsp in batter plus more for coating the pan - I felt the first batch was a bit too oily for my tastes)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt

1) Two Tarts instructs you to put everything in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. I mixed all of my dry ingredients together, and then slowly added milk, then eggs and finally the pumpkin puree. Let the batter stand for 30 minutes.
2) Mix the batter and adjust its consistency, as needed with lukewarm water. If you've never made crepes, the batter consistency is thinner than pancakes
3) Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat (I use an electric crepe pan). Coat the pan with butter and our about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan. Immediately lift pan and rotate to coat the pan with a thin, even layer of batter. Cook until the top is set and carefully flip with a spatula. Cook until the underside is lightly browned.
4) Remove from heat and dress with toppings. I drizzled some sea salt caramel sauce with a dollop of fresh whipped cream with pumpkin spices.

Note on pumpkin spiced whipped cream:
This is one of those things I literally throw together on a whim. I start with 3/4 cup of heavy whipping cream which I whip until I get stiff peaks. I then fold in about 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground cloves and 1/2 tsp of ginger. I opted not to use sugar to balance out the sweetness from the pumpkin and the salted caramel sauce. This is definitely one of those taste and adjust to your liking toppings.