Tag Archives: onion goggles

Asparagus Shiitake Risotto

9 Jun

Recently I made some exceptionally delicious asparagus risotto after reading about E making it. It was creamy and unctuous, but the perky hit of the lemon kept it from being too rich. The asparagus was perfect and gave the whole dish the herbal hit that made me want to eat whole bowlfuls of it at a sitting. It wasn’t side dish risotto. It was main dish risotto.

I’ve been looking for more dishes that feature asparagus since its still in season, and while at the store I noticed some reasonably-priced sliced shiitake mushrooms. Now, shiitake mushrooms might be one of my favorite foods ever, but I usually only buy them dried. It’s much more economical that way (until I grow them myself), but since they were on sale I splurged and brought a container home. I’d seen mention of asparagus shiitake risotto before, so I pulled up a recipe and got to work. I made some changes as I always do.

I also decided the one photo of me wearing my onion goggles wasn’t enough, so here’s another. I’m making duckface because that’s the only way these goggles can get any sexier.

Again, I had me some medicinal wine.

And here’s a tip for amateur food photographers: don’t have access to even a cheap, DIY lightbox? (Let’s face it, if I left mine up the kid or the cats would destroy it.) A brightly lit clean white sink works well, especially if you can edit out any scratches or water droplets in post.

I had extremely high hopes for this risotto. Back when Anthony and I lived in a one bedroom apartment with a kitchen the size of a coach airline seat and a counter barely deep enough to rest a blender on, I used to cook constantly. Before I developed crohn’s I spent whole days cooking. One of the best things I ever made was a wild mushroom risotto, and the memory of that meal is indelibly burned into my palette. I’ve been aching to recreate the amazing flavor of that meal, and since this dish used shiitake I felt sure I’d taste the echos of it in the bowl.

I hate to say this recipe disappoints, but it does.  Asparagus and shiitake are two of my favorite things, and they taste wonderfully together, but, I couldn’t help but compare it to the asparagus risotto and the wild mushroom risotto of the past. The asparagus in this dish just wasn’t as good as the asparagus in the other, and same for the mushrooms.

It looked beautiful, and I don’t deny it was absolutely delicious. It just didn’t compete with the memory of the other two dishes. I kept expecting to taste that bright hit of the lemon, or that deep flavor of the dried shiitake.

Anthony and Isobel loved it, however, and although I made a ton it only lasted into the next day. It made me realize, however, that I’m going to have to try a bit harder to recreate the wild mushroom risotto I made a few years ago.

Anthony has been making this salad a lot lately, inspired by one we get at our favorite Greek place, and fortunately, it was even better than I remembered it.

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Bloject 25: Steak

10 Feb

It’s about time I quit worrying and love the bomb procrastinating and get down to it: I joined former guest-poster Cookbook in her Bloject 25, a project designed to inspire people to cook 25 things they’d always wanted to cook but, for whatever reason, just haven’t yet. One of the items I wanted to conquer was steak. My list can be found here. If this is something you are interested in, join us! We’d love to have you.

Steak is expensive, so I’ve passed it up many times in favor of flank steak, or carne asada, or stew meat. It was something we only ate if we ordered it in restaurants. But all too often I experience the sting a disappointment when my requested medium-rare steak comes back grey and tough and well-done. At ten bucks a pop, though, I could never afford to experiment at home.

Hooray for steady employment and blojects, though, because last weekend I felt justified in buying two giant steaks. I decided to use a Pioneer Woman recipe because I figure, if anyone knows how to cook a steak, it’s someone from a family who raises cows for slaughter! The day of, however, I read the recipe I chose more carefully: the sauce is explained in full PW detail, with pictures accompanying each step. The method of cooking for the steak, however, was summed up cheerfully as, “Cook till done!” Not helpful for your average n00b. But she does make a killer blue cheese sauce, so I kept her recipe and went looking for another one.

After googling my problem  (“zomg why won’t PW tell me how to cook a steak!!!1!!!”) I discovered a recipe by Alton Brown that looked promising. Good old Alton. I still trust you, dude. All that weirdness from Next Iron Chef aside. I was especially excited because the recipe described the steak as “pan seared.” YES. This was what I wanted.

First off, when you cook steak, you’re probably going to want your sous chef to help. She might need to be pulled away from other, very important, cooking projects, though.

The meat needs to be at room temperature before it’s cooked, which, as Sunday recently mentioned in her post about salmon, all meat should be at room temperature first. I set my steaks face-down on the stove as it preheated. The reason for this was twofold: to absorb some of the heat, but also, to keep Jupiter’s thieving paws away from our dinner. I’d never leave the kitchen with them unattended, because one stray second away and he’s got himself some very expensive cat food, but it worked well enough when I was near.

Your sous chef, by this time, will be joining you.

I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but since I’ve been pregnant, I cannot just casually chop onions anymore. I used to chop bucketfuls without a second thought, but since the pregnancy, onions make my eyes fill with the sulfuric tears of Satan. It’s not the crying I mind, hell–I’d gladly take it–it’s the complete inability to open my eyes and the horrible, horrible pain. I can barely stand near a sautéing pan of them without the fumes getting to me at least a little. I have no idea if this change in me is really due to pregnancy or my advanced age or what, but my relationship with onions has changed. I tried all the tips and tricks and nothing worked. I avoided onions as much as possible.

And then, my friends Zack and Heidi got me a lovely Amazon giftcard for my birthday last year. And I broke down and bought these.

They work perfectly! I can now mince onions with the best of them, pain-free. The husband makes fun of me, of course, but whatever. I can slice onions again!

(Note on the make and model: they work, are not cute, and aren’t particularly sturdy. They are like very inexpensive sunglasses with foam attached. But the foam is well attached and sturdy and they work beautifully. They do everything they say they do and store easily in this little pouch.)

(Thanks again, Zack and Heidi!)

Here I am, chop-chopping.

Okay, not really. I’m actually pretending to chop while I take a picture. It’s technically a reenactment.

  Beautiful onions! I’ve missed you so.

The onions got to work caramelizing, like so, while I pulled the very hot pan out of the oven and plopped in the room-temperature meat. Just like Alton said, I waited the full 2 minutes before turning, and…

Dissapointment! No sear, or at least, barely any sear. This made me very sad as I do enjoy the burned bits. When I put them in the oven to finish them I realized: I had done nothing wrong. My oven didn’t get as hot as it was supposed to because after cooking for the recommended time for medium-rare, they were completely and totally raw in the middle. I put them in for a few minutes more, testing and thought about what I would do next time.

My not-so-hot oven explains the lack of sear, as well.

So, sauce is bubbling, meat is cooking, let’s have some veg, shall we? I steamed broccoli, because it’s one of Isobel’s favorite foods right now, and sliced up some grape tomatoes because I needed to eat them before they spoiled. They didn’t need the careful slicing I gave them—they would have been fine sliced in half or simply left whole. But I am so paranoid of Isobel choking I wanted to make sure they were easily ingested.

Sauce, you are looking wonderful. How’s our sous chef doing?

 Manning the kitchen towel station, I see.

OMG. Heart attack imminent.

If you don’t have an adorable sous chef, no need to panic: you can easily throw a towel over your own head and shout, “Peekaboo!” a few times as you whisk it off and you’re all set.

And now, the blue cheese.

I loved blue cheese as a child and then didn’t encounter it again for years. Anthony thought the effect was a little strong, and he’s not the hugest proponent of blue cheese with steak. Something I didn’t realize as he likes it otherwise. Well, crap. Fortunately, though, he loved the steak and dipped in the sauce more conservatively than I did.

Mmm! Here’s my plate. (Anthony’s plate is the photo at the top of the page.) First off, notice how lovely and pink it came out. Perfect. You’ll notice that Anthony’s portion is huge: for some reason I thought they’d shrink up a lot more than they did. We each ate about half of our steak and saved the rest for lunch the next day.

Isobel only had a couple bites of meat, as her ear infection messed with her appetite. She eagerly reached for the broccoli, though.

Those carefully sliced cherry tomatoes went totally untouched. Of course.

She sings constantly, and dinner is no exception. I love her broccoli crumbs.

Isobel always manages to sneak at least some of her meal on the floor for Jupiter. She’s a crazy cat lady already.

I normally make a sauce for the vegetables, or at least sprinkle over a little tamari or olive oil. In this case I knew there’d be sauce for miles, so I didn’t bother. I used the leftover sauce, onions, and meat and made THE BEST sandwich with a crusty French roll the next day. (I’m sure the snugness of my waistband is just a coincidence.)

And before I leave you, I wanted to tell you I saved all the jus from the meat, labeled it, and tossed it in the fridge to add to stew or gravy next time I make some. You all totally have a bag in your freezer labeled “meat juice” too, right? Right.