Tag Archives: risotto

Valentine’s Dinner Ideas

We asked, “What would you like your Valentine to make you for dinner?” and you answered risotto, crepes, something french, a dinner that begins with Champagne and more than a few said reservations. Personally, I’d take the latter as dinner prepared by my beloved family means heaps of dishes and too many questions on where to find things. Jason had a great gig going for the kitchen-impared guy on Valentine’s Day. Those who wanted to impress their significant other with a “home cooked meal” signed up for an afternoon with my brother, who opened the hotel kitchens for a Valentines inspired cooking lesson. Not only would the eager to please men learn how to prepare a three course meal, but they took the entire meal (prepared) home with them to re-heat! Genius.

We’ve included a couple of our greatest hits. If you don’t have time to pull these off tonight, get it together for Friday or Saturday! Add a bouquet of pretty flowers and a bottle of this Cremant de Bourgogne.

Crêpes with Poached Chicken, Herbs and Gruyere Cheese
For the actual crêpes, use the recipe listed below; OMIT the sugar and add 1 tbsp of fresh chopped herbs.
3-4 boneless chicken breasts
milk, enough to cover
italian flat leaf parsley
fresh thyme
fresh tarragon
fennel, sliced thinly (about 1/2 cup)
salt & pepper
deep saute pan with lid

Butterfly the chicken breasts and season with salt and pepper. Pour in enough milk to cover the bottom of the pan and put in half of your herbs (no need to chop the herbs up, just the fennel into slices). Place your chicken breasts into the pan and lay the remaining herbs over them. Add enough milk to almost cover the chicken. Cover and simmer at a very low heat; about 15 minutes. Do not boil. Flip once during the cooking time and cook for another 15 mintues. Once the chicken is cooked and tender, remove from the pan and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing it into thin strips.

In a bowl, add enough of the cheese sauce to coat the chicken. Place desired amount of chicken into each crêpe, roll it up and spoon the cheese sauce over the rolled up crêpe. Garnish with chopped fresh chives. Serve with asparagus.

Gruyere Cheese Sauce
5 tbsp butter
5 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1/4 cup chicken stock
salt & pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to form a very thick sauce. This is called a roux! Add the milk 1 cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add the stock, whisk well (the stock will thin out the sauce and add flavor). Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the cheese in three stages, whisking well. You can make this ahead and re-heat just before serving.

Crêpes
1 cup all purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup water
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp melted butter
small pinch of salt
1/4 cup peanut oil

Combine flour, sugar, salt in a mixing bowl and form a small well. Combine eggs and buttermilk and mix well. Combine Egg mixture to flour mix well. Add the water a little at a time, you are looking for consistency of slightly thickened whole milk (you may not need all the water). Finish batter with melted butter. Warm a small amount of oil on medium heat, making sure the oil is spread throughout the pan. Pour about 1/8 of a cup batter in the center of the pan and tilt the pan in all directions, moving the batter around until it is a very thin layer. You will need to work quickly. The crepe will take about 90 seconds to cook. Flip over and cook for about 30 more seconds. Place on baking paper and let cool.
The crepes can be cooked ahead of time, wrapped and stored in plastic. Cook your crepes in a 8 inch non stick pan (if you are confident you can use a well seasoned stainless steel pan).

Risotto
350 grams Acquerello rice
300 ml chicken stock (or vegetable stock), needs to be hot
75 ml white wine
1 shallot, finely diced
2 large fennel bulbs, small dice
1 tbsp oil
1 L chicken or vegetable stock, needs to be hot, for use in the second stage of cooking
1/2 c parmesan, freshly grated
acid butter (recipe below)

In a sauce pot, add oil and fennel, cooking on medium heat for about 5 minutes; until fennel is brown. Add shallots and cook for 1 minute, be careful not to burn shallots. Add the rice and toss well with fennel and shallots, cooking for about 1 minute. Season with a pinch of salt and a couple turns of white pepper. Add wine and reduce until dry. Add all of the 300 ml of stock at once and cook until all the stock is reduced. Stir constantly. Once the liquid is reduced dry, remove from heat and spread on a baking sheet and cover tight with plastic wrap. Let is sit on counter until cool. Once the rice is completely cooled, you can store in an airtight container for 1 day.

The key to the best risotto, is to ensure that the stock is boiling when it is added to the rice. You do not want to shock the rice with cold liquid as this will damage the rice grains and start to break them down.

Finishing the Rice
Bring 1 litre of stock to a boil. Place the cooled rice in a sauce pot and turn on the element onto medium-high heat. Add a 1/4 of the liquid and stir. Add more liquid to the rice a little at a time until the kernels are soft but still have a slight bite to them. This should take about 8-10 minutes. To finish the rice, add about 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan and a 1/2 cup acid butter; this needs to be added at the very last second, just before serving. Season to taste.

Acid Butter
1 small onion, sliced thin
250 g salted butter, very cold and cut into small cubes
150 ml white wine vinegar
200 ml white wine

In a sauce pot add onion, vinegar and white wine all at once and reduce until completely dry; this is very important – there needs to be no liquid left in the pot, but do not brown the onions. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter a little at a time; this will create an emulsion. Keep whisking until you will have a creamy emulsion. Strain through a very fine sieve. Place in the refrigerator with a thin layer of plastic wrap, but do not cover air tight as you need to leave room for steam to escape. Once this is cool, the butter will solidify. Now cover it with airtight lid. This can be done the day before.

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Saturday Night Supper

Just a few weeks into our blog and we get product sent to our door to cook and sample. What a dream! Thank you Kiki Luthringshausen and Viola Imports – the gorgeous tin of Acquerello rice arrived all the way to my doorstep in Canada! Rice from Piemonte, Italy – I can tie this challenge into a few different stories; the first being that my family simply loves risotto. We’ve been in many a restaurant where the only appealing choice for my kids is risotto. My husband always orders risotto in Italian restaurants, in every part of the world; I think it brings him a sense of familiarity and comfort with its warm creaminess. Piemonte, the region of origin of Acquerello rice, will forever live in our happy family memories as we took an extended holiday to this region one summer. We stayed in a converted farm house that boasted an infinity pool overlooking the vineyards all over the valley. It was paradise of its own kind. The only other guests at the farmhouse had a connection to my brother! What are the chances? This guy was completing his sommelier training with Jason’s sommelier at the time. One night, we travelled to a traditional restaurant, on a hilltop, near the town of Bra (home to the Slow Food movement). We drank wine with the vineyard proprietors and savored the early evening sun.

Risotto also reminds me of the time, many years ago, I happened upon a Canadian morning television show during its cooking segment. Hey! That’s my brother! He’s cooking risotto! Cool! There was a young Jason, explaining to the host the wonders of shallots to make almost anything special. I couldn’t have been more proud. Do you remember this Jay? He was cooking risotto, still a novelty to most of us, all dressed in his whites.

I thought of recreating the risotto wheel this weekend, however, I decided to use Jason’s recipe to see just how it worked leaving the rice to cool and adding the acid butter. Yes, I made the acid butter (vinegar reducing certainly clears the sinuses) and is was worth it. My only change was 1 bulb of fennel versus 2; I wasn’t entirely sure how my kids would react to its flavor. I made crab cakes to serve with the risotto and added fresh pea shoots upon serving. My son’s reaction was, “this meal is phenomenal”. Our drop by visitors cleared the plate of remaining crab cakes and made me promise I would post the recipe first thing today. The Acquerello rice made the meal extraordinary; the risotto was perfect.

Crab Cakes & Risotto served with a well chilled Sauvignon Blanc.
Lamb & Risotto served with Domaines Ott, Chateau de Selle (Rose Coeur de Grain).

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Really Good Risotto

Risotto! I owe this next challenge to Kiki Luthringshausen from Beauty and Her Feast along with Alessandro Bellini from Viola Imports; who conspired to send A Michelin and A Mom a beautiful tin of Acquerello Carnaroli rice. I love to cook risotto and was pumped to tackle this challenge. There are many theories on how to make a risotto; to stir or not, to make the rice to order, to use carnaroli, arborio, or vialone nano. Depending on what region of Italy you come from will determine how you cook the rice as well. There’s no dispute, however, that when executed correctly, there are few things better than risotto. I had never cooked with the Acquerello rice before, so I did a little reading before cooking and discovered the unique story of how the rice is harvested and treated. 
   
The Rondolini Family has been harvesting rice on their estate, “Tenuta Colombara”, in the province of Vercelli in Piemonte since 1935. In 1998, the entire production became organic. After the harvest, the un-hulled grains of Acquerello Carnaroli are aged in temperature controlled silos from one to three years. The aging makes the starch, proteins and vitamins less water soluble. It improves the consistency of the grains and enables them to absorb more cooking liquid. In short, the cooked grains are bigger, firmer, do not stick together and taste great. After aging, the rice has to be refined and “whitened”.  A machine called the “screw” invented in 1875 is still regarded as the gold standard. It gently rubs grains against each other to produce a perfectly polished, honey colored rice. The family uses a piece of equipment called the Helix during the stone husking process; the Helix was invented in 1875 and is exclusive to them.

It’s absolutely true that the grains absorb the liquid well and are bigger and firmer. I was completely blown away by the size of the grains just before serving. The grains held up extremely well and created an amazing texture and mouth feel when eating the risotto, and to me this is one of the most important parts of risotto. If the rice is over cooked or starts to break down – game over. It does not matter if it is seasoned perfectly or not, just start again. One of the most unique characteristics I noticed was, as the rice cooled down it did not start to stick together like most risottos I have seen; you could really see the beautiful grains of rice standing free. 

For my risotto I stuck to a simple recipe that I have had in my book for about 16 years. It has never failed me to date and again it worked perfectly with this amazing rice. I really wanted to showcase the rice as much as possible so I stuck to simple flavors that would only enhance the dish, and yes I finished the rice with a special ingredient, called acid butter. If my memory serves me correct, this recipe came from Gualtiero Marchesi, arguably Italy’s most famous chef who won 3 Michelin Stars at the age of 78. I learned to make both risotto and acid butter working for Marco Pierre White at Les Saveurs in London. A bonus to this risotto recipe is the ability to prepare the first stage of it the day before and on the day of serving the rice, you will have a good idea of how long it will take to finish cooking. Hope you enjoy making these recipes as much as I did and hopefully they will create ever lasting memories as they have for me. Risotto with Acid Butter and Duck with Apricot Marmalade – on our RECIPES page.

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A Beauty and Her Feast

I’m going out on a limb here to state the bold…I’m a chefs dream. I live, EAT, and breathe whatever these culinary masters dish out. I thrive on discovering their inner kitchen secrets. Some might consider me a food groupie but really, I’m Kiki Luthringshausen, a food writer. I attempt to showcase a chef as an artist creating with a dimension of flavors and textures. Everything about what they do gets me fired up.

Over a year ago, I decided to throw caution to the wind and go for my dream job full time as a food writer in Chicago. Luckily, I had the right connections and two feet in the kitchen door. I started my food blog, Beauty and Her Feast (www.beautyandherfeast.com) which features recipes, chef profiles, restaurant reviews and now, a series of cooking videos with the chefs I have met through the job. I learn to cook their signature dishes in their professional kitchens while filming the process. I am also the “eats” writer known as Cheeky Kiki for Cheeky Chicago, an online magazine devoted to everything Cheeky in and around town (www.cheekychicago.com). Both are a good gig and perfect fit.

Last year when I was just getting my start, I received a press release that intrigued me. Chef Jason McLeod was hosting a dinner with famed Chicago artist, Francine Turk. A fan of her work as well as his, I interviewed both to feature a story. As a thank you, Francine invited me to attend the pricey prix fixe dinner as one of her guests. Lucky me, I met Chef Jason personally and hoped to work with him for a video on Beauty and Her Feast. He was kind enough to agree…but then left me. Imagine my disappointment to hear that Jason had moved west to forge a new career path. Bummed. Completely bummed that I didn’t get a chance to corner him in the kitchen for a little one on one cooking time.

When he and Karlin first posted their blog, I was over the moon excited to follow and eager to see who their first guest blogger would be. How would they tackle the first challenge? Then, ding-dong, a light went on. I wanted to challenge A Michelin and A Mom. A food writer from a big city…it makes sense. I decided the foundation needed to be Italian since that is what I grew up cooking. I want to inspire them to create a savory combination of texture and flavor. I was able to send Jason and Karlin Acquerello Risotto, the finest Carnaroli rice from Piedmont, Italy. The rice is grown, harvested and packed on the Rondolini Family Estate. It’s aged for 1 year under close temperature and humidity supervision which allows for the perfect cooked risotto. It’s “gold” in the risotto world and perfect for my challenge. Now, it’s up to A Michelin and A Mom to balance the essence of spring for the perfect Risotto!

A special thanks to Viola Imports for providing the Acquerello Risotto to A Michelin and A Mom. http://www.violaimports.com

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