January 21, 2011

Fearless Friday: How to Make Risotto

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that you should do one thing every day that scares you. I find the kitchen to be the easiest place to try new things that have previously left you shaking in your booties. There are so many times we go to a restaurant, or are watching The Food Network and see a dish that looks and tastes AMAZING, I don't think I could ever possibly re-create it. Whether it's based in fear, lack of confidence, worry that I'll waste money on an expensive ingredient and not cook it correctly, the reasons go on and on.

But here's the thing - if I let this fear, lack of confidence, and worry control me, we will be missing out on some seriously incredible meals.

Thou shalt not deprive thyself of good, quality, yummy foods.

So I thought it would be a good idea to challenge myself weekly to try something new in the kitchen that scares me. I have a short list to get me started; some of these I'd like to tackle right away, and some I'll save for a later date. But here's a glimpse at what I want to conquer:

  • Cooking a lobster
  • Bake something GF completely from scratch (this is a big one)
  • Learn to make trickier sauces and marinades
  • Cook more with ingredients I'm afraid of, such as saffron and truffle oil

In chatting with a friend this week, we were discussing what we were making for dinner, and I mentioned we were making risotto. We love risotto, and we'll probably try to make it once a week using different mix-ins and flavorings. She replied that risotto scared her, and she doesn't think her husband would ever try it. I will admit, it was a daunting dish to take on the first time we tried it, but it's not hard, it requires some TLC.

We were first introduced to risotto when Sean was diagnosed with Celiac and we were going into NYC for dinner with friends. We chose Risotteria for their completely gluten free menu, and it was love at first bite. Risotto is creamy, filling, and depending on what you choose to mix into it, can take on any number of flavors. Think about it...Risotto is a blank canvas. You can mix and match any of the following to customize you're very own dish:

Base: Veggie, Chicken, Beef, Seafood, Water
Herbs: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme,
Seasoning: Salt, Pepper
Veggies: Take your pick! Butternut squash, onions, corn, asparagus, peas, pumpkin, carrots,
Meat: Shrimp, Scallops, Lobster, Chicken, Pork, Beef, Sausage, Clams
Strong Flavors: Garlic, Cayenne Pepper, Jalapeno Pepper, Truffle Oil, Ginger, White Wine

That's just a sampling. There are so many options. Vegetarian? Mix in some sauteed tofu or avocado. Serve over a bed of peppery arugula. Or make it plain and serve as a side dish to a broiled haddock or glazed salmon.

Is your mouth watering?

Making risotto is pretty basic when you strip it down. It's a grain like rice, so it absorbs liquid and expands and softens. Think of it as "slow cooked rice".

How to Make Risotto

Makes 4 servings

1 1/2c aborio rice
4-5 cups of liquid [all stock for strong flavor, or 3 parts stock/1 part water, 2 parts stock/2 parts white wine, 2 parts stock/1 part water/1 part white wine (you get the idea!)]
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp butter or Smart Balance
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
"Strong flavor" mix in


Heat your liquid in a saucepan over medium until it begins to simmer. Reduce heat slightly.

Heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat in a deep skillet until foam dies down. Add your "strong flavor" ingredient, be it minced garlic, scallions, ginger, pepper, etc. Add in aborio rice and cook for 1-2 minutes until slightly browned. If you are using white wine in your recipe, add to the skillet at this time, along with 1 cup of your liquid from the saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and stir slowly.

Every 15 minutes or so, when liquid has mostly absorbed, add 1 more cup of liquid. Repeat until you are out of liquid. When you are adding the final cup of liquid, this is the time to mix in any spices, meat or veggies (which you would have pre-cooked) to finish the dish and blend flavors. Serve hot.

Sound easy? Now be fearless and go try it. 

January 7, 2011

Gluten Free Boeuf Bourguignon in 25 Minutes

Gotcha, didn't I? You were probably wondering how in the world you could make boeuf bourguignon in 25 minutes. Well, if I figure that out, I'll let you know, but I condensed 6 hours of food prep and cooking into a 25 minute video blog! Holy smokes, was this fun! I felt like the Next Food Network Star. Watch out world, you don't know what's coming at you!

...Heh. Ok, so realistically, I don't expect anyone to watch me for 25 minutes making boeuf bourguignon. I had the time and was inspired to attempt my first video blog, so this is what I spent the better half of my Sunday working on. Let me just say, even if you do not watch this, you MUST try making this recipe. It. Is. Heaven. Your mouth and anyone you invite to enjoy it with will thank you profusely. As I was snapping the picture of the finished dish, I heard moans and yelps of joy coming from the other room as the first bites were being consumed.

A couple notes:
  • I did this on a whim, no hair or makeup or dressing up - this is me on a Sunday afternoon at home. Don't judge. I pulled my bangs back in the second half because I had no idea how badly they were in my face to begin with.
  • I am still learning the video end of my camera, so hopefully the white balance and quality will improve as I do more of these. My kitchen is pretty dim once it gets dark out, so I apologize for the cast of yellow in Part 2.
  • I will not be doing anything this extensive again. 6 hours of cooking was a LOT and the editing took a while to get it down to 25 minutes without cutting out anything major. If you watch this entire thing, bless you.
  • You must, must, must make this dish. Unless you're a college student with a hot plate.

So, in 2 parts, I give you Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Stew with Bacon, Onions and Mushrooms):

A couple more specifics:
  • I used Mark West Pinot Noir, California.
  • The flour I used is Bob's Red Mill White Rice Flour
  • The red "cooking vessel"/casserole/dutch oven I used is available at Target and it is heavy duty.
And here is a link to PDFs of the recipes for Boeuf Bourguignon, Braised Onions, and Sauteed Mushrooms, straight from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Bon appetit!

January 1, 2011

Gluten Free Chicken Pot Pie

Happy 1/1/11! I'm so excited for this coming year, and right here in this first post of the year, I'm testing the "Print this recipe" option. I think I got it to work...Let me know if you are able to print it successfully!

Something we love to do when we're not in the mood for extravagant cooking is to pick up a whole roasted chicken from Costco on the way home. They're gluten free, delicious, and a whopping $5! We did this on Wednesday and since it's just two of us, we had plenty of leftovers so I could make...

Gluten Free Chicken Pot Pie
(adapted from recipe by Gluten Free Easily for Pot Pie)
Click here to print this recipe.


The Filling
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into small pieces
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 red potatoes, cut into small pieces
1 c peas
1 1/2 c fully cooked chicken, cut into small pieces
3-4 tbsp butter
2 1/2 cups of chicken broth (no salt added)
sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
1/2 tsp thyme
3/4 tsp sage
1/2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 cups of gluten free flour blend
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup skim milk

The Crust
2 cups gluten free flour blend
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 c skim milk


Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare all vegetables and set aside in large bowl or plate.

Flour blend: Combine 3 parts white rice flour and 2 parts corn starch in a mixing bowl. Whisk with a fork to mix, or use sifter. For this recipe, combine 2 1/4 cups of white rice flour and 1.5 cups of cornstarch. There will be a little bit leftover.

Cooking Instructions

In a pan or Dutch oven on the stovetop, melt butter over medium heat, adding onions, carrots, and potatoes. Coat veggies in melted butter and add thyme, sage, salt and pepper. Lower heat to med-low for a few minutes. While veggies are cooking, combine 1 1/2 cups of flour blend with 2 tbsp of olive oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk with fork, slowly adding 1 cup skim milk. Keep on low heat, stirring to avoid lumps.

Add chicken broth to veggie mixture, simmer on medium heat for 2 minutes, and stir in chicken and peas. Remove "white" mixture from heat and whisk into center of veggie mixture. It has the tendency to clump, so really work at the lumps with the fork until white mixture is blended with the veggies and chicken mixture. Return heat to low.

For crust, combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, whisk with a fork. Pour heaping spoonfuls of veggie/chicken mixture into large, deep casserole dish or smaller ramekins for individual portions. Leave at least 1.5in of space between top of mixture and top of baking vessel. Pour crust mixture over the top, spreading out enough to lightly cover. Leave space at edges for the pie to boil and breath in the oven.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, serve hot.

If you wish to freeze this, I recommend baking in individual portion sized ramekins (like Corningware), covering with tight seal once cooled, and stick in the freezer. Allow 2 hours of bake-time to reheat thoroughly.