Tuesday, 30 May 2006 in USA: Austin, Texas everyday living (2005-2006, 2007-2011, 2013-) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
Have you ever gotten a dish stuck in your head? One that just pesters you; that stays in the back of your mind and demands to be made.
What if doesn’t even make sense? What if everyone, including you, just thinks it sounds weird? Should you cook it?
Hell yeah you should. You should press blindly ahead, confident in the knowledge that eventually it’s going to be tasty. And if it’s not, well, at least it’ll leave you alone.
That is the beginning to the story of the Baked Potato Risotto. For weeks I couldn’t stop thinking about a crazy fusion between these two canons of supreme starchiness. I don’t know why. To be honest, I really don’t even like baked potatoes that much. And while I love risottos (as you can see by looking here and here) it really isn’t high on my list to cram potatoes into one.
Reservations be damned. I figured if this thing wanted to be made, I’d facilitate the craziness.
To start with, I rendered down a few slices of pancetta. When they were crisp and I had a nice little puddle of fat going, I tossed in five fingerling potatoes that I’d sliced to a medium thickness.
As these softened away, I started to sweat some shallots for the beginning of the risotto. From here it was pretty much business as usual. When the shallots were ready I toasted a few cups of carnaroli, deglazed with white wine and then began the slow process of adding stock a little at a time.
When the risotto was about halfway done, I added in the potato slices and the crumbled pancetta. I wanted to give these flavors plenty of time to come together and work out the kinks.
At the last minute, when all of the elements had reached their ideal textures, I stirred in some chives. Then, off the heat, I finished it with some fresh goat cheese and Lurpak – God’s gift to butter.
And there you have it. Potato(not quite baked) loaded with onions, butter, bacon, chives, and cheese – all in risotto form. As an added bonus, it was actually quite delicious.
I'm always shocked by the cost of living in Florida, at least the part I'm familiar with around Fort Lauderdale. Deals, deals everywhere, and me saving money for Italy! Breakfast: waffles and coffee for $3.50. Early Bird specials: three course meals for $6.99. And, not to be left out, flea markets the size of a suburban mall.
While I was in Florida last weekend, my grandparents escorted me to the Festival Flea Market, a yooge indoor market stuffed with booths overflowing with merchandise from watches to shoes to canned goods to really expensive dresses to used VHS tapes.
We took a brief detour through the flea market's 99 cent store, where Papa insisted on laying out $1.07 to get me a pair of sunglasses. These aren't just any sunglasses, either; the sticker on the left lens proudly states "400% UV Protection". Unfortunately, the sticker neglects to inform me how it's possible for the sunglasses to protect my eyes from 4 times the UV radiation going through their tinted plastic. They're cute, though, and I did need some sunglasses.
After a little browsing in the flea market, we repaired to the food court for some lunch. Now, with few exceptions, all of the mall food courts here around Austin contain a McDonalds or two, a Chick-Fil-A (Closed on Sundays!), a non-chain burger place, a Mexican place or two, a Chinese steam table, a "Japanese" teriyaki stand, and perhaps a place with "Cajun" food.
This food court, being in the heart of Jewish/Cuban South Florida, was a little different...
There was a Cuban place, not shocking... and a McDonalds...
No less than four separate places to buy a knish.
I decided to try out Pita Nosh, the Knish Place. (Don't ask me why it wasn't called Knish Nosh; maybe the name was already taken?)
My mind was completely boggled by the array of knish choices before me. Also, just what, pray tell, is a Grape Leaves Knish? Or a Corn Cutlet Knish, for that matter?
The bakery case was most inviting.
The Knish Nosh (I've renamed them in my mind) even had a salad bar; I don't believe I've ever seen one of these in a food court!
I decided to stick to the traditional, and purchased a potato knish, a beef knish, and a cup of split pea soup, figuring I could always pawn bits of my food off on my unsuspecting grandparents. My plot worked, by the way, helped along by the fact that Papa chose poorly when he bought a bacon and cheese topped baked potato. I've never seen cheese congeal like that.
My knishes, on the other hand, were stick-to-your-ribs tasty.
And then they were gone. What? I had help!
I would say that my first knish experience was a positive one. Plus, I got to see the flea market!
That night - Cuban. And sangria. Yum yum.
A few weeks ago Iron Chef America put me seriously in the mood for some goat cheese. Bobby Flay took on Laurent Tourondel in a pretty amazing throw down of fromage manipulation. The Frenchman ultimately prevailed over local boy Bobby, but both guys churned out some exciting food.
I’m a total sucker for goat cheese. The tangy, piquant, savoriness of it really gets my salivary glands going. From the super fresh, bright-white young stuff to the oozy, grey-blue, aged specimens, they all have a certain barnyard quality that really does it for me.
The one dish that really stood out on Flay’s side was an haute panzanella. I think it appealed to me so much because it had a perfect little trifecta of nifty ingredients: ripe tomatoes, cute little microgreens, and toasted cross sections of a lightly aged goat cheese crottin. What!?
I know. Why would anyone want to eat that? Self loathing I suppose.
Being a masochist, I decided that it had to be made. Señor Flay’s version was all fancy pants and he went a little wild with three types of cheese and multiple kinds of roasted peppers. While I certainly respect his vision, I decided to tone mine down a bit and clean up the frills. Simple is good, right? And certainly cheaper.
I started by toasting a few olive oil drizzled slices of bread; I’d say one good sized piece for each salad. Then I cut up three small heirloom tomatoes into tiny little wedges. After the bread cooled a bit, I cubed it into ¼ inch sections. I tossed the bread and tomatoes with a few snipped chives I had laying around and dressed the lot of it with a touch more olive oil and sea salt.
I dismembered the crottin into six slices (two for each person for the mathletes among you) and went at them with my handy-dandy kitchen torch. A broiler would work too, but it lacks that certain psychotic flair.
Next, I spooned some of the bread and tomato mixture on top of the melty, bubbly cheese. The microgreens got shown the business end of some good aged balsamic vinegar and then they too joined the pile. A final trickle of oil and balsamic around the edges finished off this sublime little salad.
Now normally, salads are considered a side dish, but in this case it was pretty hard to top. We came close though with a dish called Crespelle di Scampi or as the hilarious English translation goes – shrimp in a pancake. Basically, it’s a real simple crepe and shrimp casserole.
First you make some crepes and some béchamel sauce. Then sauté off some shrimp in olive oil and garlic for a minute and add some tomato puree and prosecco. Let that simmer away for a couple more minutes. Finish it off with a pat of butter off the heat,to give it that lip smackin' sheen.
Layer it all up. You can grate some ricotta salata inside and on top if you want an extra fun dose of the tasty. Bake it for about 20 minutes at 375˚F.
Let it sit for about five or ten minutes and then stuff it in your face. See, easy. Or if you’d like, Mario has a more involved and slightly bossier recipe here.
Since this all worked out so well, keep your eyes open for some more goat cheese treats in the near future. I have a feeling I haven’t worked the hankering out of my system.
So, I've ditched my hubs and the kitties and taken off for a long weekend to hang with my grandparents in Florida. Not happenin' Miami, but quieter Fort Lauderdale - much more chill now that all the Spring Breakers have been booted. I'm a little bit behind, as I've only eaten 3 bagels and 2 knishes since my arrival late late Thursday night, but I do plan to rectify that oversight.
Earlier this month was my grandfather's (hereafter and always known as Papa) 85th birthday.
I'd say he's still holding on to that sense of humor!
Anyhoo, we're all Chicagoans around here. My grandfather did grow up in Philly - but got to Chicago as soon as he could. For this reason, my aunt and I got together to send Papa an Italian Beef kit from Portillo's. If you don't know from Italian Beef - well... it's like a Chicago Philly cheesesteak, sorta, in that they both have thinly sliced beef, and they're on rolls - but from there, take away the cheese and add sweet or hot peppers and douse it in au jus - "wet".
So - this Italian beef kit apparently contained enough fixins to make 8 sandwiches, of which 4 had been eaten by the time I got into town. This meant 4 were left and I GOT ONE AND YOU DIDN'T NA NA NA HA WOO!
This kit is a pretty straightforward heat and toast and eat.
First, Papa made salads, for a bit o' greenery.
While these are toasting, heat the gravy/jus in a pan and add the beef...
Then, ladle the beef into your tasty bread, get you a bowl of jus, and eat.
This was really quite nice - a good taste of home.
We even had bright pink Cherry Passion for dessert! Not that I think this is a particularly Chicago thang - but it did go well, and it did mean we had Papa's favorite dessert after his favorite meal.
To complete this circuit of Papa's favorite things, we then retired to the drawing room and watched a screening of Cat Ballou... which the New Yorker apparently described as "A lark from beginning to end."
A good time was had by all! (Of course, all the pictures I took of the copious laughter came out extra-blurry, so you'll have to take my word for it.)
(My Aunt Thelma - one of my grandparents' oldest and best friends... checking out some literature.)
(Granny, visiting while keeping an eye on Lee Marvin.)
Today, we went to a giant flea market - their food court had no less than 4 separate places where you could buy a knish. Yum.
And - it's almost time for us to go head out for Cuban food. I think I'm still full of knish, but since when has that stopped me?