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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ramp and Sausage Risotto

A couple weeks ago I found wild ramps at Central Market.  If you watch some of the cooking shows like Top Chef you've heard chefs praise these tasty little oniony garlicky lovelies.  It was only the second time I'd even seen them, and I'd never tasted them before.  Through the magic of the iPhone Epicurious app, I found this recipe while I was still in the store, and purchased the ramps and other ingredients.  This was my first taste of wild ramps, totally yummy, and my first time to make risotto, also totally yummy!

Ramp and Sausage Risotto

Bon Appétit
April 2009

by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen

Yield:  Makes 4 servings


2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1/2 pound hot Italian sausages, casings removed
12 ramps, trimmed; bulbs and slender stems sliced, green tops thinly sliced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry vermouth
3 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for passing


Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add sausage. Cook until no longer pink, breaking up with spoon, about 5 minutes. Add sliced ramp bulbs and stems. Saute´ until almost tender, about 2 minutes. Add rice and stir 1 minute. Add vermouth. Simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 3 cups chicken broth, 1 cup at a time, simmering until almost absorbed before next addition and stirring often. Continue cooking until rice is just tender and risotto is creamy, adding more broth if dry and stirring often, about 18 minutes. Mix in green tops and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Season risotto to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, passing additional grated cheese separately.

Kearby's Notes:  I added the chicken broth more slowly than the recipe instructs and took longer simmering it into the rice.  I used store-bought low-sodium chicken broth, but would definitely use homemade chicken broth if I had it.  Risotto necessarily takes a long time to prepare, all of it hands-on, but it's really easy, just slowly adding broth and stirring frequently.  Next time I make risotto I want to try a meatless recipe so the delicate, creamy flavor of the rice can shine through more.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Brining Chicken

Poultry when brined before cooking is transcendent.  Regardless of the cooking method you plan to use for your chicken or other poultry, soak it in a brine before cooking for amazing results.  You'll get a tender, flavorful, and juicy bird. 

The simplest brine is nothing more than water, salt, and sugar.  There are plenty of recipes that call for brining your chicken in a stockpot or other large container placed in your refrigerator.  I have very limited space, so here's my space-saving brine:

Simmer the following just until the solids dissolve:

1 quart water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar

Also needed:

Ice cubes

When the salt and sugar dissolve, remove from the heat and let the brine cool to room temp.  Rinse your chicken and put it in a heavy-duty gallon ziplock bag.  Add the room temp brine and enough ice cubes to fill the bag (and chill everything), press out the air, and seal the bag.  I always put the whole thing in a second bag and seal it also (trust issues).

Put the ziplocked brined chicken on a platter or storage container and place it in your fridge or in an ice-filled ice chest for 2 to 24 hours before cooking, less time for boneless skinless chicken parts and more time for a whole chicken with skin.

This brine works beautifully with whole chicken or chicken parts.  Trust me, if you've never tried brining your chicken before preparing it, you'll thank me.  Brining turns budget food into gourmet!!!

Sesame-Soy Meatballs

Pictures don't do justice to these succulent meatballs.

Gordon prepared these yummy meatballs based on a recipe in the budget cooking section of Cooking Light Magazine.  They were absolutely delicious, and if you have a reasonably well stocked pantry they are indeed very budget conscious.

Note:  To keep recipes budget friendly, make substitutions when necessary.  We didn't have any chile paste (sambal oelek) on hand, so Gordon substituted sriracha chile sauce (you know, the Rooster sauce with the green plastic top).

Sesame-Soy Meatballs

1/2 cup minced green onions
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon chile paste (such as sambal oelek)
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 pound ground sirloin or other ground beef
Cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine green onions, brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, chile paste, salt, and garlic in a large bowl.  Add beef and mix gently to combine.

With moist hands, shape beef mixture into 20 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add half of the meatballs to the pan.  Cook 4 minutes, turning to brown meatballs on all sides.

Arrange browned meatballs in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray, or if using a higher-fat ground beef arrange browned meatballs on a baking rack set over a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray (so that more of the fat can drain off during the baking).

Bake meatballs at 400 degrees for 7 minutes or until done.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

When Life Gives You (Meyer) Lemons ...

I have the good fortune to have several Central Markets and Whole Foods Markets nearby, so springtime is Meyer lemon time!  Try these recipes for preserving lemons.  On the left, Moroccan Preserved Lemons from David Lebovitz's blog.   On the right, Lemon Confit, from Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie.  I haven't used the Moroccan lemons in a recipe yet, but they smell fabulous.  I have used the confit'ed lemons in several recipes and they're a yummy addition to chicken marinades and pork loin stuffings.  They add a really unique, bright flavor.