Basic No Fail Risotto

Whoa… breaking news… after this go check out Susan’s zucchini pancake w/salmon & goat cheese.  Yeah!

I thought I had the risotto recipe already out there – to go with the Old Bay Shrimp dish but realized it never made it this far.

I know there are tons of risotto recipes available & I notice a few comments & questions about getting the right consistency of the rice.  Having experimented a little lot,I think the trick is getting the temperature just right.  If the temp is too low, then the rice sits in the broth for too long & gets mooshy, too high a temp & everyone’s discreetly spitting little rice b-b’s into their palm.  So I’m just saying Niki, maybe next time cook it just a twitch above medium.  It should look about like this:


1          Can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
3          TBL butter
1          Cup chopped white onion
3          Cloves minced garlic
3/4       Cup Arborio rice
½         Cup vermouth or dry white wine
½         Cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½         Teas salt
¼         Teas freshly ground black pepper

–  In medium saucepan, bring broth to a simmer.  Cover broth & keep warm over low heat.

–  In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat (actually just a twitch above medium).  Add the onion and sauté until soft & translucent, but not brown.  Add garlic for just a minute; be sure that it doesn’t burn.  Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter.  Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated.  Add 1 ½ ladle of  broth and stir until it’s almost completely absorbed.  Continue cooking rice, adding the broth 1 ladle at a time, stirring, allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20-30 minutes total.  Stir in the Parmesan cheese

–  You can add anything to basic risotto, vegetables such as peas, seafood, herbs & other seasonings or mushrooms.  But you usually don’t want these ingredients to cook for 30 minutes with the rice, or they become overcooked.  Instead add these ingredients with the final addition of broth.

The Potato Pancakes Incident

After blasting back in time looking for June Cleaver pictures, I happened upon a website that runs full episodes of Leave it to Beaver.  What a hoot!  Does anybody remember that boat that Ward drove and what was it?

57 ford – ward cleaver

Anyway, the 50’s reminded me of my mother who, like June without the pearls,  was a stay at home Mom until I was in high school.  Most of her cooking was basic without recipes although I do remember her referring to her Betty Crocker and Fanny Farmer cookbooks from time to time especially when the natives got restless and complained about eating “the same old thing”.  Not my father though, he was smart enough to keep his head down and eat whatever was served as long as it didn’t have pineapple.  Having been stationed in Hawaii during the war, I guess he had his lifetime limit of pineapple.  There was a routine to my mother’s menu planning – chicken dinner on Sunday, spaghetti & meatballs on Wednesday although I don’t think that was the official Prince Spaghetti “Anthony” day, and of course fish on Friday.  I guess we complained enough so that she started to go through her Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal magazines for new ideas.

One inspiration was potato pancakes.  My mother was a good cook so I don’t think the problem was that she didn’t follow the recipe, just that we perhaps hadn’t developed a taste for potato pancakes or maybe it was the recipe.  Even my father had a hard time choking down those pancakes although he was smart enough to shut up about it.  My 2 sisters and I however were obnoxiously vocal about them to the point where my mother grabbed everyone’s plates & tossed the food into the garbage and went storming out of the kitchen.  Not given to histrionics, this gave us the big eyeballs.

Later that night we heard the garbage can rattling.  Taking a peak out there we saw that a couple of raccoons had pried off the lid and pulled out the potato pancakes.

Harry's masked moochers

ok, I tried to add a Frisbee - it's not really his

They were so cute so we were all crowded around watching through the window when one of them sat up with a pancake in his little humanoid hands and took a bite.  One bite.  Then he took that potato pancake and sent it about 20′ down the driveway like a frisbee.  Well of course that just cracked all of up saying “see – even the raccoon won’t eat those things!”  Funny that is until my mother went storming back to the bedroom slamming the door.

I obviously don’t have pictures of the potato pancake/frisbee incident but my good friend Harry was able to provide me with photos of his regular masked moochers.  The first photo is a family photo enjoying cat food and since he hasn’t put out any potato pancakes for them, they come back year after year with their new babies.

Since I’ve matured a lot in the food trying department, I would really like to hear from any of you who have a good potato pancake recipe (or link to one they know is the real deal) to try out.  Anyone?  Potato pancake recipes?  And what do you use for garnishes – maybe that was the problem, we didn’t have anything to put on them.

Sliced-Baked, Garlic Potatoes

Rather than just bake a potato when you’re cooking a roast – or the Bourbon Pork Chops – this is a fun variation of your basic baked spud.

I love Yukon Gold potatoes, but any baking potato will do.  Peel, the top & sides, leaving the skin on the bottom.  With a very sharp knife, carefully make slices about an 1/8″ wide, along the top to about 3/4’s of the way down toward the bottom of the potato.  If you slice all the way through, no problem, just smoosh it together when you’re done.  Coat the skin on the bottom with olive oil & place in foil inside a baking pan.

Mince 2 large cloves of garlic & melt with 3-4 tablespoons of butter in the microwave.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil & let sit for a few minutes to infuse the garlic flavor then brush the garlic butter along the top of the potato and down into the slices with a pastry brush.  It’s hard to give a time for baking a potato since size & oven temp varies so much, but you can just wrap the foil up around the potato and bake alongside whatever else you have in the oven.  To speed up the cooking time, you can partially pre-cook a bit in the microwave for about 3 minutes,  but place it in the oven to finish so that it gets a golden brown.  I haven’t had much luck just microwaving these since they end up pale & greasy.

Now, here’s the great thing about these.  Let’s say you’re on the computer, writing a new blog & you smell something burning.  Then you realize that you have dinner cooking…  If you can grab these out of the oven before they turned to charcoal, you can still serve them with the meal and tell everyone that you made garlic potato chips – just snap them off slice by slice!  I think my husband believed me.

Sweet Potato Casserole – A Thanksgiving Tradition

Hard to believe that Thanksgiving is this Thursday.  I’m very lucky that my sister-in-law has volunteered to handle the dinner for many years now with contributions from the hungry moochers.  She handles the turkey with many side dishes, another sister-in-law is the pie maker extraordinaire, and I bring the sweet potato casserole which must go over well since I’ve been asked to repeat this one for years now.  I think the reason is that we can call it a vegetable and put it on the table with the main course but with the brown sugar topping, it gives us a chance to start on dessert early.  This can be made up a day ahead of time & just reheated with the turkey and it serves plenty of hungry people.

3        Cups mashed sweet potatoes (4-5 med)
½       Cup milk
¾      Cup granulated sugar
½       Stick melted butter
2        Eggs
½       teas salt
1        TBL vanilla extract

Boil sweet potatoes until tender.  Quantity is hard to tell with sweet potatoes since they can vary so much in size.  Don’t worry if you have too many because you can always add a little extra milk if it seems too dry.  Use a mixer to beat the sweet potatoes smooth.  This calls for a 1/2 cup of milk but add it slowly so you can strive for a smooth texture similar to mashed potatoes, definitely not runny.  Ease up on the milk or if you over-do that, just put 1 egg in rather than 2.

Combine the rest of the ingredient with mixer until smooth.  Remove any obvious strings (usually stuck to beaters) & hard lumps.   Pour into 13×9” (approx) glass oven proof dish.

1        Cup light brown sugar                ½       Cup flour
½       Stick softened butter                  1        Cup chopped pecans

Mix by hand or w/pastry blender.  Sprinkle over potato mixture.  Bake at 350F approximately 30 minutes.  Serves 10.  Can be prepared the night before and reheated, covered for about 30-45 minutes.