Bacon and eggs, with a twist

Dinner:  October 23, 2007

It’s no secret that we are big fans of the pork products here at Chez Dietschyblossom, so when we saw Melissa’s absolutely mouthwatering photo of Derrick’s take on Craft’s bacon and egg risotto, there was no doubt in my mind I’d try my own spin soon.

I used pancetta instead of bacon because that was what we had on hand. I diced up six thick slices, rendered them down, set the crispy bits aside on a paper towel and used the fat (mixed with a bit of Parmigiano Reggiano butter) to saute my diced onion and to begin to cook the rice. I used 1/2 cup of white vermouth and some of our homemade chicken stock for the liquid components, and stirred in the cooked pancetta with the last addition of stock. I finished the risotto with a little bit of grated parm, a dollop of crème fraiche and a bit more butter, then spooned it into our bowls and topped each serving with a poached egg yolk and some chopped chives.

Though I over-poached the yolks just a bit, I will say that this was a pretty darned awesome dish – rich, creamy, and luxurious, with a nice bit of sweetness from the pancetta. Mike brought home a bottle of Schloss Koblenz Trittenheimer Altarchen Kabinett Riesling to drink with dinner, and while the it was a bit sweet for my taste on its own, it was a wonderful match with the risotto, the richness of the dish bringing out the bright citrusy notes in the wine.

Back to Basics

zucchini and lemons

When I first moved to the city, I landed in a pretty darn perfect situation. I spent my first six months here living with a friend in her gorgeous townhouse in Hunters Point, Long Island City. This place was equipped with the most amazing kitchen I have had the privilege of cooking in, and I put it to good use as I took advantage of all of the fresh, delicious foodstuffs the city has to offer.

As any of you who have moved to New York from elsewhere know, relocating here can take a big chunk out of your pocketbook, so my dinners then were often even simpler than they are now, and usually more veggie-centric. This zucchini and lemon risotto was a dish I made often, since my roommate and I always had a big bowl of lemons on hand, and a nice-sized zucchini would cost me a buck – if that – at the great little produce market just around the corner. Combined with fridge and pantry staples, it was a meal that was cheap, came together quickly, and was bursting with the bright, fresh flavors of summer.

Mike and I always have a big bowl of lemons on hand in our kitchen in Bushwick, and I still love to make zucchini and lemon risotto. The version I made last night was a little richer than the version from my Long Island City days thanks to a generous addition of soft, creamy Mettowee cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm, but the flavors took me right back to those first giddy months of living here, the newness of it all, and the excitement of the possibilities that lay ahead.

Dinner:  July 16, 2007

Zucchini and Lemon Risotto

2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 white onion, diced
2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1/2 cup white vermouth
Juice and zest of two lemons
2 cups diced zucchini
4-6 cups water
Kosher salt
3 oz. soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Melt 1 tablespoon butter into olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add onion and a generous pinch of salt and cook until the onion is softened. Add the rice and stir well to coat with the butter/olive oil mixture. Cook until the rice starts to become translucent, then add vermouth and stir. Continue cooking until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add lemon juice and zest along with one cup of water and again allow to cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally.

Add the zucchini and season with salt. Continue adding the remaining water a cup or so at a time, allowing the liquid to cook into the risotto as described above. You may need more or less liquid than I have listed above, but what you want is for the risotto to be creamy and the texture of the grains of rice to be al dente. Taste often as the rice cooks so you can monitor the texture of the rice, and also adjust for salt.

Once the risotto is al dente, turn off the heat and gently stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and the goat cheese until the risotto is creamy and the cheese is well-incorporated. Serve in shallow bowls with additional lemon zest on top.

Pea and Asparagus Risotto

in a pod

Some people find it tedious, but I think there’s something very relaxing about shelling peas. Sitting with a couple of bowls in front of me, paring knife in one hand to nip off the stems, pulling the strings down, then gently prying open the pod and working the little peas out – it’s meditative. We’ve generally got a bag or two of frozen peas in the freezer year-round, but in springtime, when sweet fresh peas hit the market, I can’t get enough of them and I look forward to the shelling.

DSC03712

I whipped up my basic risotto last night, stirring in about a cup and a half of fresh peas and an equal amount of chopped asparagus with the last addition of liquid. I also added the zest of a lemon, but the flavor didn’t pop like I wanted it to, so next time I do this dish (which should be soon – Mike has requested a do-over in a week or two), I will likely add some fresh lemon juice in addition to the zest. A generous grating of salty Pecorino Romano provided a nice counterpoint to the sweet peas and earthy asparagus.

Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Risotto

Dinner:  May 7, 2007

As you may have noticed, risotto is one of my go-to dishes for weeknight dinners. It is so easy to prepare, and provides such a wonderful backdrop for a wide variety of flavors, that you really can’t go wrong with it.

When planning our meals for the week, I decided that I wanted to do a vegetable risotto enriched with goat cheese. I thought about doing an asparagus risotto – a spin on the version Mark Bittman wrote up in the Times last week – but the asparagus we have had recently has been so fresh and tender, I am hesitant to do much more to it than lightly steam or sauté it, or toss it with a little salt and olive oil and roast it. I decided instead to go with red peppers, roasted until sweet and smoky. Ideally, I would have done them over a hardwood fire on the grill, but it was late by the time I got home, and it was a bit too breezy and cool outside, so I decided instead to just roast the peppers in the oven.

roasted

It’s an easy enough process – just section 4 peppers into two or three big pieces, removing the seeds and cores, place them on a foil-lined sheet pan, sprinkle with salt, drizzle with olive oil, and roast at 450 degrees for about 40 minutes. When the skins are blistered and charred, remove the peppers from the oven, place another sheet of foil on top of the sheet pan and seal up the edges. Allow them to sit in a cool place for 20 minutes or so, then peel off as much of the skin and charred bits as you wish (I like a bit of the skin left on mine; some people don’t, so really, it’s a matter of preference).

While the peppers cooled, I warmed up a quart of homemade chicken stock in a pan, and peeled and diced an onion. I melted two tablespoons of butter in two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and added the onions to the pan. I seasoned them with a bit of kosher salt and allowed the onions to soften.

I placed my roasted red peppers in a blender, added about a cup of the warm chicken stock, and pureed until smooth. I then poured the rest of the stock in, gave it another whir, and then poured the red pepper/stock mixture back into the pan so it would stay warm. I put about a cup of water in the blender carafe, swirled it around to get any red pepper puree that was clinging to the sides and added that to the red pepper/stock mixture as well.

carnaroli

I cooked the risotto as I usually do (using 1 1/2 cups of Carnaroli rice, 1/2 cup white vermouth, a splash of sherry vinegar, and the red pepper/stock mixture). With the last addition of liquid, I stirred in 4 oz. of soft fresh goat cheese in two batches, stirring well so the first batch melted and was incorporated before adding the second. I stirred through another tablespoon of butter off the heat, spooned the risotto into bowls, and topped each with a few shavings of aged goat cheese. I rounded out the meal with a salad of tender young spinach leaves Mike had picked up from Yuno’s at the Greenmarket.

tender leaves

This may have been one of the best risottos I have made – the flavors were extremely well balanced, with the sweet and smoky flavors of the red peppers and the tart and creamy flavors of the goat cheese all present. It’s definitely a keeper.

Ameztoi Txakolina 2006

Wine Pairing: After a (too) long absence, I returned to Vine Wine on my way home from work yesterday to pick up a bottle to go with our meal. I was happy to see wine guru Troy there when I walked in, and after chatting for a few minutes, I asked him for his recommendations. He chose two Spanish wines, one of which we had had before, and another one we hadn’t, which I ended up going with.

The 2006 Ameztoi Txakolina is a really unusual wine from the Basque region, very bright and citrusy, and lightly fizzy. It had a nice sort of mineraly quality that would likely make it delicious with any sort of shellfish, but it was absolutely killer with this risotto. It’s one to remember for future meals.

Tomato Risotto with Basil and Fresh Mozzarella

tomato basil mozz risotto

Risotto is probably one of my favorite fallback dishes. It’s easy to prepare, comes together quickly and can be dressed up or down in a multitude of ways. I love playing with flavorings and add-ins for it as the seasons change – I’m anxious for Spring’s first peas and favas to show up at the Greenmarket so I can make one favorite version.

mozzarella di bufala

I had a package of fresh Mozzarella di Bufala that I had purchased for a dish we didn’t end up making, and as I tried to think of a way to use it (other than just eating the whole thing straight, which is quite easy to do), I remembered an episode of Lidia’s Family Table I saw recently where Lidia focused on risotto. The version she made in that episode was enriched with a basic tomato-basil sauce, and little chunks of fresh mozzarella were stirred in at the end so that you’d get little gooey pockets of cheese with each bite. I had, unfortunately, deleted the episode from the DVR already, so I had to go from memory, but what I ended up with was pretty darn tasty.

Tomato Risotto with Basil and Fresh Mozzarella

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, diced
2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1 cup white wine
1 cup tomato-basil pasta sauce (I had some homemade sauce on hand, but you can always use a good-quality jarred sauce)
1 pint chicken stock
3-4 cups water
12 large basil leaves, cut into chiffonade, plus additional whole leaves for garnish
Fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes (about 1 cup)
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly grated Parmagiano Reggiano

Melt butter into olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add shallot and a pinch of salt and cook a few minutes until softened. Add the rice and stir well to coat with the butter/olive oil mixture. Allow to cook a few minutes more until the rice begins to become translucent. Add wine and stir, allowing to cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in tomato-basil sauce and half of the chicken stock and again allow to cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Continue adding the remaining liquid (stock and water) a cup or so at a time, stirring often, and allowing the liquid to cook into the risotto as described above. You may need more or less liquid than I have listed above, but what you want is for the risotto to be creamy and the texture of the grains of rice to be al dente. Taste often as the rice cooks so you can monitor the texture of the rice, and also adjust for salt.

Once the risotto is creamy and al dente, turn off the heat and gently fold in the basil chiffonade. Add a bit of freshly grated Parmagiano Reggiano and stir that in, then fold in the mozzarella cubes a little bit at a time immediately before serving. Spoon into shallow bowls and garnish with whole basil leaves.

Butter-poached lobster, Meyer lemon risotto

butter poached lobster meyer lemon risotto

I wasn’t originally going to post this recipe because it seems butter poached lobster is a thing that people feel passionately about, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to subject myself to scorn and/or mockery. If you Google “butter poached lobster” you will come up with all sorts of references to Thomas Keller‘s preparation. I’m sure it’s positively transcendent, but I have yet to attempt his method. I tend not to do fussy, and since I haven’t ever tasted the master’s version, I have no point of reference, and we like my version just fine thankyouverymuch. That being said, I’ll honor Cheryl’s request and post what I did here.

I use purchased lobster tail and claw meat (steamed just enough so that it could be removed from the shells, but not cooked through) from the fishmonger. I bring a tablespoon or so of water to a boil in a saucepan, then whisk in a half pound of butter, cut into cubes, a little at a time until I have a nice amalgamated sauce. Then I put the lobster into its buttery bath to poach away gently for about half an hour over very low heat. Easy peasy.

The risotto comes together in the time the lobster is cooking. I melt a tablespoon or two of butter into an equal amount of olive oil, then add one diced shallot and one chopped and seeded Meyer lemon, with its juice. Season with salt and and saute the shallot and lemon until softened. To that I add a cup and a half of carnaroli rice and cook it until it is just beginning to turn translucent. Then it’s time for the liquids: I add a cup of white wine (except that this time, we were drinking Cava, so I used Cava), then two cups of chicken stock, then as much water as the rice needs to become creamy and al dente – add each liquid a cup at a time, stir well and often, and let each almost cook away before adding more. I know this is imprecise, but you just have to watch and taste, and you’ll know when it’s the right texture.

Since I was going to serve this risotto with the lobster, I added about 1/4 cup of heavy cream at the end (off the heat), rather than the traditional butter and cheese.

We were out of fresh herbs (the horror), so I wasn’t able to put anything fresh and green and pretty on the finished plate, but I would have liked to garnish this with chopped chives or tarragon or parsley.