Like Scrooge when he woke up from his "dream", I am keeping Christmas in my heart (my blog) all year long... Or at least it is starting to feel like it. For the last 5 posts, I have been sharing my Christmas Eve dinner. Jackie and I decided to use the opportunity to recreate some memorable dining experiences of our past. Rather than one huge gut busting meal, every hour, we would work on a single dish, share our memories of the motivating experience and enjoy that dish.
Today is a bit of a cheat from my rules. So far, the plan was working very well. Like clockwork, if you will. But today's dish was actually a two parter, and stretched over two hours. Part of the reason I made it a "twofer" has to do with the story behind the dish (which I will get to in a minute, and makes me look like a rube, so you all will enjoy that). Another part was that we took the opportunity to watch a movie instead of cook. "Love Actually", a little bit Christmas movie and a little bit romantic movie. So it still fit into the spirit of the day.
The dish (both parts only takes about 30 minutes to prepare, and can be made at the same time easily, and you betcha is it worth it) was THOUGHT about during the 2 PM hour, but was made to serve with the 3 PM hour dish (which we will cover tomorrow).
I modified a recipe I read on Joanne's site, EATS WELL WITH OTHERS, which you can read her original recipe by clicking HERE. Do take a minute and hang out at her site... Medical school student, cook, VERY active blogger (would be easier to mention the groups she does noy belong to instead of the ones she does)... And also a very entertaining writer... Read my post, comment, then head over to hers. It's worth the look.
OK, let's get started...
As always, first thing to do is to assemble the ingredients.
2 cups red wine (white wine is fine)
6 cups chicken broth
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
30 spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
6 med. size mushroom caps, coarsely chopped
3 cups Arborio rice
2 TBS Olive oil
First - Saute the Mushrooms, onions and spinach together in the olive oil for a few minutes, until cooked, but not OVER cooked. Set this aside while you prepare the "fancy" rice.
Next - In a large heavy pan, add the rice and the wine together. Heat the goop to simmer and stir constantly. It will take about 5 minutes for the rice to absorb most of the liquid. Keep stirring.
Next - Add the broth one cup at a time. Continue to stir until the liquid is absorbed, and repeat adding the next cup of broth til all is absorbed. The Arborio rice will absorb it all eventually. It takes about 5 minutes per cup. Keep stirring.
Finally - along with the last cup of broth, add the set aside Spinach and vegetables and... You guessed it, CONTINUE STIRRING til all the liquid is absorbed. If you like, salt and pepper to taste, but honestly, this dish is so full of flavors, adding salt is not needed. Especially they are not needed if you used salt in making your broth (or didn't specifically buy the low salt broth). When you serve the dish, add some freshly grated Parmesan Cheese!
I have made this dish in the past, using white wine instead of red. Personally, I like the earthier color of the red wine risotto, but there is very little difference in the taste.
BTW, I have a question for you "real" chefs and cooks out there... I know how beer is made, and I know how wine is made. Since during cooking with beer (grains and spices) and wine (vegetables (grapes) and spices), the alcohol in them cooks out, aren't you really just using a different type of vegetable stock? Is it conceivable that any recipe that calls for vegetable stock could be made with beer or wine? sure it would taste different, but what would the reasoning be to not change the ingredients? It is part of a project I am going to be working on, so any opinions you might have, let me know.
And now, as promised, a story that makes me look like the country bumpkin that I am...
This is a true story...
You have all seen the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center, The foreground image in most views you have seen of the famous Christmas tree. It is one of the classic, quintessential images that says New York City during the holidays.
While I now live in and love Kansas, when I first moved to Kansas, I was coming from a year of living in Manhattan. It was a bit of a culture shock, and I needed an occasional trip back just to keep my subway skills honed. I used major holidays as an excuse to vacation with Jackie. We happened to be in NYC on an Easter Sunday. So, I used the excuse to buy a new hat, and parade my wife up the Avenue... 5th Avenue (old folks are humming along right now, and you kids have no idea... but I digress). We walked from our hotel to attend mass at St. Patricks Cathedral. I was showing off a bit to Jackie, and had another "tourist" event planned for brunch...
There is a restaurant eye level with the skaters. I thought this would be a terrific place for us to have lunch. The skaters were still out, and the view was perfect. This was one of our first trips together, so I was trying extra hard to impress Jackie. She loved it...
And then we ordered. Now, I have been to plenty of restaurants, and ordered many interesting items. But, there is still a great deal of that little farm area boy from Pekin, Illinois inside me. Until I read the menu that day, I had never heard of risotto. But, the menu made it sound wonderful... Rich, thick, full of flavors, and complete with spinach, mushrooms and onion. It was offered as a vegetarian main course, but had an option for a LAMB RISOTTO. I figured in the spirit of Easter, I would be happy to have a baby sheep slaughtered for my pleasure. The meal came. I was expecting a leg of lamb, or a couple racks of lamb... heckfire, when I saw what I got, I would have been happy with some gyros meat. Instead, I got almost exactly what I described above, but with maybe a couple tablespoons of diced lamb. It was almost impossible to find the meat. In my innocence, I pointed this out to the wait staff, and I was informed that this was, in fact, the perfect way to serve lamb risotto. Sigh... Nothing wrong with the dish, it was exactly as advertised, it was just not what I expected. I think that was the first time I really and truly knew that I was more Kansas-an than Manhattan-ite, and always would be.
The punch line to the story, we enjoyed our meal together, enjoyed the skaters, I did very much like the taste of the risotto, but after spending $35 a plate (For rice... $35 - I sure wasn't in Kansas anymore), when I left, I was still hungry. So, we walked up the Avenue again (yes, still 5th Avenue if you are still humming along), to Central park, where I promptly enjoyed a Hot Dog from a vendor. And that's the story of our $35 (Hot Dogs were $2.25 back then, so actually $37.25) hot dog and rice brunch.
Oh how we laughed...
Just in case you aren't paying close attention, I am posting my Christmas Eve dinner with my wife. We decided to recreate our culinary journey through restaurant quality meals. So far, you have missed...
Come back tomorrow to see what we did at 3 PM and see how we topped the risotto!