Excuse me if I seem a little distracted lately. It’s just that there’s been quite a bit going on. The weather has been nice, therefore inspiring serious bouts of lounging and laziness. I’ve been busy thinking about what I’m going to make for a Superbowl party this weekend (I think its going to be deviled eggs…let me know if you have any good recipes). And I guess the main reason for the distraction is the fact that I‘m here at school but wish more than anything that I was at home playing with this little guy all day.
Meet Ozzie, the newest addition to the household. And no, he is not named after Ozzy Osborne but more so after Ozzy from Survivor. See the similarities? He is a dark brown miniature poodle from Dimarnique's Poodles in Delaware but part of me thinks he is part brown bear. He is composed almost entirely out of fluff and looks like this waddling little feather duster scooting around the floor. But he does have these huge feet that our even bigger that our 5-year old poodle’s that look just like baby bear paws and a sweet, fat tummy. He spends either half of his time going nuts and running around like a maniac or knocked out asleep. He likes to be around people at all times so he has fallen into slumber wherever we happen to be; under the coffee table while we watched TV, right next to the stove as we were cooking… Man I miss this little guy.
But I will not see him for at least two weeks longer. I’ll be hanging around school this weekend for a Superbowl party on Sunday and boy am I excited. Not necessarily because I actually like football but I cannot wait to gorge on some chicken wings. And as I said, I’ve been looking up a snack to make for the game and after spending some time browsing amongst “game-day” food lists of all things meaty, greasy, and tasty, I got an urge for something along those lines…imagine that. So I took classic football flavors and turned it into a filling and moderately healthy dinner. Now for the second big introduction in this post…meet Welsh rarebit risotto.
The best way I can describe this is that classic risotto met a hardcore football fan, one that paints his face with team colors, bears foam fingers, and may or may not have a bit of a beer belly, and birthed something entirely new...and brilliant. It’s a cacophony of all things masculine with a deep sweet bitterness of porter beer and all balanced out with tangy Dijon mustard and extra sharp cheddar cheese and a dash of Worcestershire. Made with a mixture of barley for even more malty flavor and risotto rice, it has heft and integrity from the chewy barley but the rice lends a silky creaminess. And if that is not game day enough for you, I topped it with a smoked bratwurst, cooked until tight and charred and bursting with sweet meaty flavor. And finally, to retain the elegancy or risotto, I scattered diced tomatoes and fresh green broccoli overtop to cut through the richness of the salty and tangy flavors. Like I said before, total dude food. I mean, beer, cheese, mustard, meat…it speaks for itself.
Though I won’t be making this to bring to my game-day potluck, I imagine it would be a winner if you served this at a small get-together this Sunday. Just set it up DIY style. Keep the risotto warm on the stove and set the brats, tomatoes, and broccoli to the side so everyone can heft up one whichever add-ons they please. If you thought risotto was a feminine, fancy dish, just wait until you see the manic football guy (the one who hoots and hollers and runs around the room at every touchdown, only leaving his recliner to get another beer) missing part of the game to chow down on this. I can almost guarantee it will happen.
Now how did I go from talking about our puppy to Superbowl food? See, I told you I was distracted.
Welsh Rarebit Risotto
If you have leftover risotto, like I did, you can use it to make a quick lunch. Just heat it up and top it with some brussels en papillote and a sprinkling of parmesan (pictured below). It's very filling and warming and a great way to mix things up with the remaining risotto (which is much needed after I've been eating with twith the brats for four days straight).
1 quart vegetable or chicken broth
1 Tbs. olive oil
½ onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 cup pearled barley
½ cup Arborio rice
12 oz dark beer (I used a porter and to be honest, only about 10 oz made it into the risotto. The rest was snack)
2 tsp. Worcestershire
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1.5 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
3 cups broccoli florets, steamed
1 tomato, diced
4 fully cooked smoked bratwursts (I used these)
salt and pepper
In a small saucepan, heat the stock until boiling. Turn the heat to low and allow to simmer lightly until you are ready to use it. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook about 3 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and continue to cook 1 more minute. Add the barley and the rice and a little salt and pepper and stir to coat. Cook for a minute while stirring to lightly toast the grains.
Add the beer and the Worcestershire and stir until the liquid had completely absorbed. Then, add in the hot stock, one cup at a time, stirring occasionally. As the risotto absorbs the liquid and starts to look dry, continue adding one for cup of stock until it is gone.
While the risotto is cooking, prepare the tomato, steam the broccoli, and start crisping up the sausage in a pan with a little olive oil over a medium heat.
Once you have added all of the stock and the risotto has absorbed most of it, add the Dijon and the cheese and stir until completely incorporated. Add a little more liquid if it looks too thick and if it seems to thin, continue to cook. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, dollop a mound of risotto on a plate and top with a sliced brat, some steamed broccoli, and a scattering of the tomatoes.
Things are getting cold out there. It’s only mid-November but I woke up this morning feeling as if it could have been the dead of winter. Five blankets deep within my bed, I huddled in a little ball, burrowing myself under. Only my nose poked out to the world beyond, numb and pink like a little mouse. I left my house, plump with multiple coats yet despite the layers, the cold settled deep. I was in a cold mood, had cold thoughts. It’s been a cold sort of day.
A cold day calls for foods of comfort. Rich starches, warm flavors, long and slow cooking so that the heat of the stove permeates the house. I made a simple bowl of white rice for dinner, that wholesome grain that I relied on so much for comfort as a child. The only thing I could stomach when sick and the cure-all for a bad day. Rice, butter, salt, pepper.
At the end of this long week, on the first day in a long time where I simply had nothing to do, on a Friday night when everyone else was busy and my thoughts a little bleak, I bundled up at home and made and basic yet elegant spiced Indian rice. It started with toasting an array of spices; cinnamon, cardamom, black peppercorns, whole cloves, a bay leaf, cumin seeds. The spices were tossed with white basmati rice and left to cook for several minutes in which time the air became perfumed with exotic aromas. Rich and sweet cardamom mingled with the bright and spicy cumin. All the while cinnamon filled my lungs with festive warmth and the toasting rice released deep floral nuttiness. Its smell almost visibly swirled seductively through the air, a belly-dancing courtesan of a smell. The rice, once finished, was topped with a sprinkling of pistachios, crispy fried shallots, and a fresh poached egg, The egg yolk coated the granules of rice for a rich and creamy sauce and each bite brought back a little warmth to the my body as the aromas first passed under my nose and into the mouth.
I know, I know, a little non-traditional for Friday night. Shouldn’t I be out having beer and greasiness and other college Friday night things? Well besides my general lack of “traditional”, I just know that it was alone-time sort of night. A night where I needed to sit down with a bowl of rice. The bowl now sits empty and all is good.
Spiced Indian Rice
Adapted from Journey Kitchen
serves 2-3 as a main dish
1½ cups white basmati rice
2¼ cups water
1½ Tbs. vegetable oil
1½ tsp. cumin seeds
2 whole cloves
2 black peppercorns
½ cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
2 cardamom pods
1 shallot, cut into rings plus oil for frying
a handful of shelled pistachios
1 egg per person
salt and pepper
Wash the rice until the water runs clear and soak in water for an hour. After an hour, drain the excess water. In a deep and thick-bottomed saucepan with a lid or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cinnamon, bay leaf, cloves, peppercorns, and cardamom. Stir to coat with oil. Add the cumin seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the rice. Stir to coat and toast for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the rice has toasted, add the water and some salt, stir, turn the heat to high, and cook uncovered for 7-8 minutes until the water is almost absorbed. Cover with the lid, turn the heat to medium-low, and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes or until the water is absorbed completely. Fluff the rice with a fork.
Meanwhile, put a pot on water or the stove and bring to a simmer. This will be for poaching the egg. Also, heat enough vegetable oil in a small frying pan to cover the bottom. Once hot, add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently until crisp and deep golden colored. Transfer to a paper towel to drain. When the water in the pot is simmering, crack the egg/s into the water and cook for about 4 minutes each. Remove from the water and let drain on a paper towel.
To assemble, place a good portion of the rice in a bowl. Top with salt and pepper and a little butter if you’d like. Scatter on the pistachios, onions, and the egg. Season with salt and pepper.
P.S. Be careful that you don’t confuse any of the cardamom pods with the pistachios. They look quite alike and that could lead to an interesting little surprise.
Yes, today is the first day of fall. And if I the weather of both today and the last three weeks were to have a theme song, the royalties would have to go to our very own Katy Perry because yes, this weather is PMS-ing like a bitch, I would know! It rains…a lot…and drops down to 45 degrees…and then rains again…and then goes up to 85 degrees, turning the universe into a giant sauna. And this is all in the matter of a day! I’ve been waiting and waiting but those typical crisp cool days where the sky is blue and the air fresh and dry, yeah, they haven’t made a single appearance.
So you know what I did. I decided that maybe the only fix is to be a little mocking. Maybe, I thought, if I brought a little Hot 'n' Cold, a little contrast, I might just get this weather to whip itself back into shape. So of course I used food to implement my plan.
The Hot: Beef Meatball Curry.
Oh man. This stuff is pretty insane. I loooove curry but don’t get to eat it a lot because my dad isn’t too crazy about spicy stuff and there are no Indian restaurants in my hometown. So now, living on my own, I took full advantage of the fact that I can make a big pot of curry and eat it for four days straight. I just ate the last bit of it a few hours ago and it was still as delicious as it was on day one.
Organic grass fed beef is mixed with hot red chili and ginger and shaped into little meatballs. And then they are slowly simmered in a vat of tomato and coconut sauce flavored with shallots, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, and cayenne. The aromas in my kitchen wafted around me in en exotic dance. My tastebuds did the same with each spoonful of sauce and beef-soaked brown basmati rice and naan. The recipe came from Aarti Sequeira. You can find it here. I made it almost verbatim but excluded the cilantro (yuck), used only half of a milder red chili, only 3 cloves of garlic, used a can of diced tomatoes instead of fresh, and reduced the added water to ¼ cup. I really like her by the way and her approach at making Indian food accessible to everyone. I hope she comes out with a cookbook soon.
The Cold: Mint Ice Cream
I actually made this a while ago but one can only go through so much ice cream. The dessert plays up the coldness in two ways. First, obviously, it’s physically cold in the mouth with microscopic ice crystals melting into creaminess on the tongue. But second, a refreshing coolness comes from the fresh peppermint that I got at the farmer’s market. When making it, the mint hangs out with the milk for about 2 hours, permeating it with its tingling qualities. I got the recipe from David Lebovitz and just left out the chocolate because I wanted the pure mint flavor to shine. I loved it although if I try mint ice cream again I may go for a Philadelphia style because the custardiness of the eggs overpowered the mint somewhat.
So will my culinary weather mocking work…I guess we’ll see. If not, I got an amazing meal out of the situation. I guess that’s one way to brighten up the day.