Wednesday, April 18, 2012

So much cooking, so little time to post!

I told you I wouldn't be good about posting regularly!  It's not because I don't like to write or I want to neglect my blog, it's because I am usually on the go and don't have internet at home.  So when I finally settle in for the night (which usually happens around 12 midnight), my first order of business is not to sit and write a blog.  And even if I wanted to I couldn't.
Anyway, last week I made the best dinner I've made in quite a long time.  Matt and I made mushroom risotto and chicken piccata with green beans, which don't really matter because they added nothing to the meal except color.  I did all the prepping of the ingredients so that Matt and I could cook, cooking show-style.  Despite my best efforts, I couldn't follow a recipe for either to save my life and just kept adding ingredients until it tasted and looked how I wanted.  And I got so excited to eat that I forgot to take a picture.  Oops!
I've heard terrible things about cooking risotto because it's so time-consuming and requires so much attention.  But I actually really enjoyed the whole process and it took about 35-40 minutes to cook.

Here's the recipe:
2 pints of mushrooms diced (I bought the sliced ones so I had to do less dicing)
2 cups of risotto
6-8 cups of broth-maybe more (I used both veggie and chicken)
1/2 cup of white wine
1/4 white onion diced
2 T butter
black pepper to taste
Instructions: Melt butter in large frying pan at about medium.  Sautee mushrooms and onions in the butter.  When cooked, add white wine and reduce liquid by half.  I'm sure my impatience got the better of me and I only reduced it by maybe 1/4, but it still came out delicious!  Add 2 cups of the broth then all the risotto.  As the risotto starts to cook, it'll look creamy (or phlegmy, depending who you ask), that's a good sign.  The broth will be absorbed or cooked out as you go.  Once the initial 2 cups is absorbed, you'll do the same thing, adding one cup at a time and stirring while the broth gets absorbed.  You'll keep repeating this step until the risotto is fully cooked.  This is where the tricky part comes in because I used what seemed like a TON of broth and it took maybe 4-6 times of adding broth and cooking it down before the risotto was completely cooked.  It's a rice-like pasta thing so it should have the same finished texture as rice but it'll be more like sticky rice.  One of the most important things is that you MUST stir the risotto constantly otherwise it'll burn or stick to the bottom of the pan.  But it is delicious and worth the concerted effort, I promise!

The piccata... oh, the picatta.  There were a couple summers in my childhood when my Italian grandfather came to visit my family and both watch over my brother and I and cook like crazy.  His version of babysitting us consisted of us helping him cook all these labor-intensive meals.  I think I know where I get it from.  :)  I remember making homemade pretzels, gravy (tomato sauce for you non-Italians), homemade pasta, and the most memorable, piccata.  I think he made it with pork but every time I eat it I think of him.
Now, what's funny about piccata and my taste for it is that there are no other circumstances in which I like fruit and meat to be combined.  But somehow piccata defies all reason, logic and consistency and deserves the exception it gets from me.
Here's how we did it:
8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half laterally to make cutlets
3 eggs, whisked and a splash of milk added
bread crumbs
3/4 c of butter
1 cup olive or vegetable oil
2/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup capers (I got big ones because they were cheaper and chopped them up)
1 cup chicken broth
Instructions: Bread the chicken breasts by dipping them in the egg solution then plopping them, one by one, in the bread crumbs.  Be sure to completely coat the whole chicken breast.  Then melt 1/4 cup of butter in a large frying pan with 1/2 cup vegetable oil at about medium heat.  When the fatty mixture is heated, deep fry the chicken breasts.  3-4 minutes per side should suffice, but check the chicken to make sure it's completely done before removing it from the mixture.  You will probably need to add more butter and oil as the first round of chicken most likely soaked up a lot of it and you want to be sure there is plenty of greasy stuff to fry the chicken.  So, as needed, add more butter and oil, using the same-ish ratio as the initial fry.  Repeat until all your breasts (haha) are fried.  I usually put them in the oven on a very low temperature to keep warm while I finish the rest of the meal.  Once they're all done, you'll use the juices and fats from the chicken frying to make the sauce, unless you burn the butter because your fry-man gets distracted and walks away.  If that's the case, make him clean the pan and start over with new juices.  In any event, the way it's supposed to work is that you add the broth and the lemon juice to the existing juices in the pan.  You then add the capers and reduce the sauce until it resembles more of a sauce than a lemonade juice mixture.  We started to get impatient so we just added about 1/2 a tablespoon of flour to speed up the process.  We whisked the hell out of it and voila!  Then you take the warm, fried chicken breast cutlets out of the oven and put them on a nice serving platter then drizzle the sauce over them, making sure to cover them evenly, otherwise the cutlets get jealous.

I know they both seem pretty labor-intensive.  To be honest, the whole thing took about two hours, but that was with prepping and chopping on my own and it was made for 10 people.  I wholeheartedly believe that if you cut it back and cooked for less people, the risotto would still take 30 minutes but the rest of the meal would happen a lot quicker.  And, believe me, it was worth it.
So as much as I attribute my love for cooking to my mom, I think if we trace it back a little further, we both have Grampy to thank, at least in part.

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