Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chèvre and Wild Mushroom Risotto, Braised Lamb Shanks & Sour Cream Ice Cream for Dessert

This is the plan for day off dinner:
(And I am having a day off in the most glorious sense of the word: slept late, did zero in the way of chores, drank boozy coffee with Mike whilst listening to the CBC, had a lazy trip to the Italian grocery, the LCBO and the regular grocery store, all of which took way too long due to silliness and careful examination of food products beyond our ken. Like Ackee. Packed in brine. In a can. Careful research reveals that Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica, but the picture on the label looked threatening...)

Anyhow, dinner!

Braised lamb shanks, following my all-purpose braising method, swapping rosemary for thyme, served with chèvre and wild mushroom risotto. And sour cream ice cream for dessert.

Risotto for 2 people (date night!)

I'm using the Carnaroli variety of rice, rather than Arborio (which is easier to find), because it has a higher starch content (=creamier risotto), and it keeps its shape beautifully.

1. Heat 2 tbsp butter or olive oil in a heavy pot or pan. Over low heat, sweat 1/2 cup finely diced, salted onion. Seriously, the onion should be about the size of the grains of rice you're using. You want the onions translucent, but not browning.

2. If you want, add some *not rehydrated* dried mushrooms. I got a little (30 g) package of mixed mushrooms: dried shiitake, oyster, button and porcini. I'll probably use about half of the packet. Break them up into manageable pieces and stir them in once the onion is done.

3. Add 1 cup rice and sautée briefly, long enough to coat each grain with fat.

4. Add enough white wine to barely cover the rice. I'm currently loving the Stoneleigh Chardonnay from New Zealand for drinking, but it may well be too fruity (not sweet, more of a green apple-citrus thing) for the rice. I think I have some open Citra Pinot Grigio, which is a bit more of a wallflower, as far as I can tell. Cook, over medium/low heat until the wine is absorbed into the rice.

5. Start ladling in hot chicken or vegetable stock. Add enough to just cover, and stir constantly until it is mostly absorbed. Repeat. The liquid between the grains of rice should look creamy and silky.
*If you're making this ahead of time, stop when the rice looks creamy, but is actually unpleasantly crunchy on the inside. The rice should stick inside your molars. Remove from heat, spread as thinly as possible on a flat baking sheet to cool it quickly and prevent it from overcooking. To serve, over medium/low heat, rejoin the rest of the recipe, beginning with the gradual addition of more hot stock.

Apparently, risotto takes about 17 minutes to cook from the time the wine evaporates. A better way of knowing when it is done is by tasting the rice and eyeballing it. Know that the rice will continue to absorb liquid and cook for a while even once it is off the heat, there are fine lines between underdone, perfect and overdone risotto. Perfect risotto is tender and toothsome, but neither crunchy nor slimy. The grains of rice are visible as individual grains, and are suspended in a creamy sauce that is neither watery nor too stiff. A spoonful of risotto on a plate should spread, but the sauce should not dribble out beyond the rice.

6. Once all this is happening, finish the risotto with cold, diced, salted butter (about 1/4 cup) and, in this case, room temperature chèvre. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is way more traditional, but the soft tang of the chèvre will nicely complement (I think) the gentle zip of the lamb.

Easy as pie!

Now I'm going to take a stab at making sour cream ice cream without a recipe (ballsy, and probably a mistake, given the mixed results I've had producing decent ice cream while obsessively following a recipe).

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