Thursday, April 8, 2010

Last Minute Risotto

I got a phone call a few hours before class was to begin -- the freezer had stopped functioning sometime over Spring break, and was at about 100 degrees when discovered. Our large pot of extra-concentrated chicken stock (and the lovely fat that rose to the surface) was now a bacteria cesspool, having easily been in the danger zone for what could be a week. I suggested to my supervisor that he go purchase a few gallons of sodium-free chicken broth and a pint of either chicken or duck fat.

The fat was a no-go, so I decided to simply eliminate the kasha varnishkes recipe this time around. However, when I checked in the groceries about 30 minutes before class, there was no farro, a grain kinda central to the Farro & Sausage dish...not an easy ingredient to source at the last minute. On top of that, with 90+ degree unseasonable Spring weather, was not expecting a big student turnout. I suggested to my supervisor that we cancel, but he politely declined and suggested subtly it was up to me to pull something out of my

Today is grains. We had the ingredients to do a simple pilaf using long grain rice, need at least one more recipe. Got all the other components of the farro & sausage.....sausage, fennel, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, the cupboard, found a couple of boxes of arborio rice: risotto! The risotto method is something that is very hands-on, and can repurpose the main farro ingredients....but I have no written recipe for the students to follow. I guess they're going to have to be real cooks, and wing it by vibe, under my tutelage....

Only three students presented themselves, making it much more possible to teach a hands-on method without a recipe. A brief lecture about what a grain is (the combination dried fruit/seed of a cereal grass) and what they are (wheat, corn, oat, rice etc), the parts of the grain (inedible husk on the outside, the bran that makes brown rice brown and has vitamins and fiber, then the starchy endosperm, then the core germ, where the rest of the vitamins and the fat is. An explanation of long grain versus short grain (light fluffy separate grains vs starch sticky grains) got us into the hands on of making a simple rice pilaf.

We made the rice pilaf with long grain Thai jasmine rice, sauteing onion in butter, sauteing the rice, covering with stock in equal amounts, adding a few herbs, then baking covered for 20 minutes. I thought it came out perfect - firm with nice chew, fragrant and flavorful, but all the students agreed that it was too tough and tasted too mild. Oh well.

To work without a recipe, I made the three students mise everything and have everything in front of them before starting -- they could not start, as they had no instructions in front of them to jump ahead. Chopped onion, chopped fennel, hot Italian sausage crumbled and browned, pound of Parmesan grated, 1 cup of arborio rice measured, sautiors and wooden spoons and stock at the ready.

We set up four pans, and basically had the three students do as I did. Olive oil in the hot pan, enough to just sloosh around to get the bottom wet. When it shimmered, throw in a fist of onion and a fist of fennel. Move around until translucent and smelly, a little salt to get it moving. Toss in one cup of white wine from a measuring cup, as pouring directly from the bottle is a fire hazard. Start stirring constantly as you toss in cup of rice, blast heat. When the wine has been evaporated/absorbed by the rice, add about a cup of stock and stir until rice is almost dry. Repeat adding stock by the cup and stirring until the grains of rice are tender enough, and a starchy sauce has formed from starch coming out of the rice and the stock. This took about 25 minutes. When we got it where we wanted, turned off heat, threw in about 1/4 pound of grated parm and about 4 oz of marscapone, and 1/2 pound of the browned sausage. Stir to completely combine, taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

No real measurements, just looking at how your food behaves and cooking until done. One student was impressed by how it looked like rice pudding and added a bit of powdered sugar to hers, another student burned her onions and fennel a little, and her risotto had a reddish-brown tinge. The cooked wine sent a fennel-onion perfume through out the building and we had a bunch of staff stop by to compliment the students on something smelling wonderful.

Surprisingly, all three students were gaga over the risotto, eating large portions and asking, "Can you order this in a restaurant?" among other things.

Next week, making pizza for about 50 staff and parents....

Monday, April 5, 2010

Norbert Monday (Strengths, Weaknesses)

I had some crazy idea that being it's Monday, I'd try for an all-green day, but the social meal of the day knocked me out with sweets and alcohol.

Did my first whole weight-work out this morning, felt a little feeble but it was fun with the music and the Edie observing from her crib. Improvised a potato salad with stuff laying around the kitchen, then attended a baby's birthday party. Edie was feeling awfully clingy, crying every time I put her down for the first hour, but she loosened up. Good thing I love holding her! Afterwards met up with B and walked home, rode out to Coney and back. Feel good.

AM SNACK: 9am, glass of iced mint green tea

10:30am, crispy brown rice cereal with organic dead milk, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

AFTERNOON TASTING: 12:30pm, bites of potato salad
Made a batch of potato salad for a kiddie party attending this afternoon, using stuff laying around the house. Bag of red bliss mini potatoes, egg yolks & olive oil with some mustard powder to make mayo, fresh rosemary, parsley, carrot and celery, salt, Worcestershire, some hot pepper, voila, potato salad...

PM SNACK: 1:30pm, large green salad, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5

LUNCH: 3pm, 2 wedges of eggplant and zucchini hero, bits of industrial potato salad, macaroni salad and some of my own potato salad, 1 brownie, 1 piece of carrot-cream cheese cake, 1 glass wine, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
At a 1 year-old's birthday party. They had a several feet of vegetarian hero and some bland sides, to which my potato salad sat with. Funny, the industrial potato salad was bone-white and was simply potato slices in loose white mayonaisy blandness. My potato salad was a rich yellow color (from the yolks in my mayo), studded with crunchy bits, herbs and the loose red skins coming off the quartered potatoes.

DINNER: 9pm, baked ocean perch, sofrito brown rice & beans, smoothie pop, water, 1.25 bowl, hunger 4/5
Got a frozen fillet of perch, sprinkled a bunch of old bay seasoning and wacked it in the oven -- before c-school, I'd be too intimidated to just cook a simple piece of fish without instructions, now it seems ridiculously easy.