The King of Rice Dishes... and the Most Time Consuming.
If you really want to appreciate a fine risotto, I believe you need to be a vanilla ice-cream kinda person. I’m thinking the kind of person who can just enjoy the pure flavor and texture of well made ice cream. Now, we’re not talking about flavorless, bland, generic ice cream. That stuff is only good for… I don’t really know... feeding pigs?
Anyway, you might wonder what, exactly, ice cream has to do with risotto. It’s simple - risotto is a dish that shines best without a lot of stuff to it. The focus of the dish is the rice; that creamy, delicious Arborio that cooks down and falls apart, making its own sauce. You’ve got to season it, sure, and you can always add extra stuff, but if you put too much in, you overwhelm the flavor.
Just like vanilla ice cream.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with adding extra stuff to your ice cream (or risotto, for that matter). I mean, how could you pass up some bits of brownie, or a touch of caramel sauce on your vanilla ice cream? Well, you can’t, really. The same is true for a perfectly cooked risotto: add a bit of vegetable, or a few herbs, maybe some sautéed chicken, and you’ve got a beautiful thing!
The focus of the dish is the rice, and if you keep that in mind while cooking, you can’t help but make a fantastic meal. Treat the rice well, don’t cook it too hard, use a good, flavorful stock, and let the risotto be itself. Whatever you do, don’t treat it as a blank canvas on which to slap a hundred colors – the risotto is the masterpiece.
- Chef Savage
2 C ARBORIO RICE
12 C STOCK OR WATER (HOT)
1 C ONION, DICED
1 C WHITE WINE
¼ C OLIVE OIL OR BUTTER
Salt & Pepper to taste
In a large non-stick sauté pan heat ¼ c olive oil and sauté onions.
Add rice and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until rice begins to toast (do not brown).
Add white wine and allow wine to be absorbed by the rice over medium heat.
Add 1/3 rd of the volume of stock or water and stir with a wooden spoon.
Reduce heat to low.
As rice absorbs liquid add more until rice is al dente (20-25) min.
Season to taste.
Cool on sheet tray.
An incredibly versatile paste or stuffing (think: Beef Wellington)!
How does that saying go? "Good things come to those who wait"?
That could be applied to most everything in cooking. Sure, there’s plenty of stuff that’s really easy to do in no time at all, and you don’t really need to wait for them – fresh salads, a quick fired steak, seared scallops - all sorts of delectable items.
But a good stew or a hearty sauce, a slow baked meringue or a balsamic reduction – these are things that need time and patience to perfect.
Mushroom duxelle is one of those items that should be filed in the ‘Worth the Wait’ category of your recipe book. I’ve always liked it for the sheer depth of utility – concentrated mushroom flavor, ready to go, without having to take up a ton of space in a recipe.
Some things don’t reduce down well, their flavors don’t hold up to the prolonged heat: berries, herbs, fruits – those are things designed for low prep, their flavors immediate and fresh. Mushrooms, on the other hand, do great. The flavor mellows a bit, smoothes out and becomes uniform.
Here, at The Cliff House, we make these mushroom en croutes on the dining room menu, with marinated portabella mushrooms, feta cheese mixed with duxelle, all wrapped in a puff pastry crust. The duxelle lets me add super-intense mushroom flavor into the filling, without having to make it watery or taking up too much space for the feta. You can do the same thing with salmon or beef tenderloin, wrapping it in puff pastry, with a thin layer of that duxelle inside giving a new angle of flavor.
Of course, you have to wait for that – you can’t rush a duxelle. It takes time, a watchful eye, low heat, and ... did I mention time? If you cook it on too high a heat, you’ll scorch it and make it bitter. Too low and… nothing will happen, not very surprising there. Pull it off too soon and you won’t have cooked it enough, and it will be too wet; anything you add it to will be soggy. So, in true Goldilocks fashion, you’ve got to wait and make it… just right.
- Chef Savage
3 pounds Crimini, Portobello or Button mushrooms
2 ounces butter or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
salt and pepper, to taste
Finely chop mushrooms with a knife. Heat butter in large skillet, add shallots and garlic, sauté till translucent. Add chopped mushrooms. Stirring regularly cook over low heat until all moister cooks out of mushrooms and mixture becomes dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
You may also add fresh herbs and white truffle oil to the finished product.
Sometimes, I think, the best things in life are surprises. Wait, scratch that... they can be the best, if they don’t give you a heart attack in the process!
When I was a teenager, back in New York, I’d go hunting for deer. I started young (in middle school) and continued to do it until my late teens. I’d be out in the field, creeping around, and stumble across a bunch of grouse or pheasant hiding in the bush. Sometimes I’d even bust into these groups of quail, tiny buggers that’d shoot out in front of me, ducking down and then swooping up and away. A faster person might have been able to gun a few of the cheeky birds down before they got out of range, but I never seemed to be as lucky. The only thing I "shot" was my nerves!
In cooking, surprises can also be good and bad. There’s the surprise of ordering a favorite dish and seeing it presented in a new way you can’t help but think: This is pretty good!
Or maybe your "significant-other" convinces you to order (against your will, of course) the fried calamari. You’ve never had it, you have no interest in squid, but when you pick up that first piece and savor the flavor, you’re surprised: Why haven’t I ordered this before!
Of course, there are always the bad surprises. You bite into a sandwich from some deli and find one of those little plastic bread ties inside and wonder how in the world somebody missed that. Or you order the chicken cordon bleu at some other place, and when the server slides the steaming dish in front of you, you gape at how oddly small the dish is and begin to think they’re serving quail breasts instead of chicken.
Those aren’t fun.
But as for good surprises, sometimes you find something in the dish you didn’t expect, some odd combination that just works, and the dish can interest you in multiple ways. Take this quail dish – inside the juicy bird is tender pear, blue cheese and walnuts. You cut through the quail and you find the fruit and cheese inside and you think that’s odd, but then you try it and you’re a believer.
Give this dish a shot – you’ll be pleasantly surprised, in more than one way.
P.S. I'm really looking forward to feedback from viewers who have tried these dishes at home!
- Chef Savage
Pear Stuffed Quail
4ea Semi boneless Quail
4ea Pears, Red
8oz Roquefort Cheese
8oz Walnut pieces
Peel and core pears. Cut off the top elongated portion of the pear so as to make a ball.
Mix cheese and walnuts together and place in a piping bag. Pipe the mixture into the cored out pears.
Slide the stuffed pear it into the quail.
Take the legs of the quail and cross them over each other. Position the legs so that they cover the quail’s exposed cavity. Push a toothpick through the legs, and then through the stuffed quail so as to hold the legs in their position.
Place the stuffed quails in a small greased roasting pan, cover with foil, and then bake in a 300-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
Maybe the saying shouldn’t be that we make it complicated, but that we think it is. Gourmet food is in the eye of the beholder, whether from the premium ingredients within or the intricate processes required to make it. But just because gourmet food looks more complicated doesn’t mean it’s unapproachable for the average cook at home.
As a chef, the main task in my hands is the pairing of flavors, plain and simple: What goes well with what? That’s the question I ask myself, every day. Take a few simple, strong flavors, blend them together, you’ve got a dish. Use natural, fresh ingredients, you have a better dish.
The physical process, the manipulation of proteins and vegetables – that can look complicated. But transforming them from their rough, raw states into things of beauty is easier than you think, and it’ll take your better dish to a fantastic one.
Whenever I sit down to create a new recipe, the focus is flavor. When I created this Colorado Lamb dish last summer, the key idea in my mind was building the other flavors around the lamb. The execution of the dish might be complicated, but the flavors? Not by a long shot. The dish is dominated by simple, core flavor concepts: fruit (from the fresh apple and dried apricot), herbal (from the crushed mint in the filling) and the raw, natural gaminess of the lamb (the best part). These three simple flavors drive the entire affair.
Once you knock out the flavors of your dish, what’s left? The physical preparation? …and that’s the easy part. Don’t let the look of a rack of lamb scare you off: anyone can do it. Not only that, you can do it in no time at all; half an hour, tops. You’ll have an amazing meal to impress friends and family, and you’ll see how simple gourmet cooking really is.
And remember, in addition to trying this for yourself in your own kitchen, I will be offering this dish in The Cliff House dining room this weekend only! Utter the “secret phrase” at the end of this episode for an exculsive 15% discount only for viewers of “The Savage Kitchen”.
And if you love the dish, or if you have any questions, don’t forget to comment and most importantly: please, share it! Also, you can subscribe to our RSS feed for our latest videos, posts, and recipes.
Stuffed with Apricots, Fuji Apple and Fresh Mint
Rissolée potatoes, Sautéed Spinach
2 8 Bone Frenched racks of lamb
1lb Dried apricots
2ea Fuji apples
10 Mint leaves
2ea Russet potatoes
2lb Fresh spinach
4c Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Clean silver skin from lamb and cut into 4 bone racks. Season the lamb with salt & pepper. Sear in skillet and let cool.
In a food processor blend apricot, peeled and cored apple with mint. Place in a piping bag.
Take cooled lamb and cut a slit through the center of the loin. Take piping bag and place the tip into the slit in the lamb and fill with stuffing. Don’t over stuff because when you finish cooking the lamb the meat will shrink and squeeze out the stuffing.
Wrap bones with aluminum foil to keep from burning.
Cook lamb in a 350 degree over for 10 to 12 minutes.
Peel potatoes. Use a Parisienne scoop to shape the potatoes into small balls.
Simmer the potatoes in salted water until the potatoes are tender but not fully cooked.
Drain the potatoes.
Place the potatoes in a sauté pan and sauté with butter over high heat till potatoes turn golden brown.
Season the potatoes with salt and pepper.
In a large sauté pan cook spinach in butter till wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
Place Vinegar and sugar in a small sauce pan and cook over low heat till small bubbles appear about 15 to 20 minutes.
Pull from heat and place in small soup cup till needed.
Place spinach in center of plate. Cut lamb in half and place over spinach, locking bones together. Place potatoes around the outside of plate. Drizzle Reduction over the lamb.