Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cottage Kitchen - Making Risotto and Gnocchi

Hi everyone! It's been a while since I've posted on Cavalcade, but it's been a long, cold winter here in Michigan and so other than some routine baking for my crew at work, I've been in hibernation! Now that spring has FINALLY arrived (only within the last couple of weeks has the weather even been warm), this bear has emerged from his cave and is ready to go!

The first weekend of May I opened my cottage for the season. This is always a ritual that brings great excitement and comfort. The shutters are off, the water is on, the cobwebs have been dusted away and now the place is ready for another season of life. There is no place on the earth that I love more, and I often threaten that one day I'll leave for the cottage and not return. My dream is to make good on that some day.

My dad gave me a video camera as a gift, thinking this would be something I'd like. I guess he knows me well, because I've been having a lot of fun with it. Ralph and I were talking about all the great meals that are served at the cottage during the season. In addition to enjoying the beautiful Lake Huron and Michigan's Thumb, me and my guests do a lot of cooking at the cottage, and wouldn't it be great to get it on video?

As the summer approaches, the bounty of Michigan's farmland will begin to avail itself to us, and with it comes endless possibilities for good cooking and eating. Not to mention all the bread, cakes, pies and canning projects that are routine throughout the summer and autumn. And, of course, there's lots of Polish food - city chicken, kapusta, pierogi and homemade kielbasa.

So, with Ralph serving as cameraman, we embark on videologue called, "Cottage Kitchen" that will serve to share some of these moments of cooking, sharing and celebrating life with family and friends.

Here are the first two installments from this past weekend. I guess we were in an Italian mood, as two of our dinners were centered on great Italian fare: risotto and gnocchi. I'm happy to report that both dishes came out beautifully, which made the efforts worthwhile. These were both dishes that my mom used to occasionally make - she made them look so easy, as she did with most things - and I felt her guidance as I stumbled through some of the mechanics of creating these dishes. Thanks, mom - I think of you every day!

Cottage Kitchen - "Risotto"

2 TBSP olive oil
8 oz sliced mushrooms (your choice - we used baby bellas)
2 TBSP olive oil + 2 TBSP butter
1 small onion - diced fine
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
4 1/2 cups hot chicken stock
Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
4 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Saute mushrooms in olive oil until tender (about 4-5 minutes). Remove from pan and set aside.Add olive oil and butter to pan and saute diced onion until translucent (about 3 minutes). Add rice and stir to coat all grains with oil/butter. Let rice toast in pan for about 2 minutes. Add first ladle of hot chicken broth (about a cup) and stir until broth is absorbed and rice begins to release some of its starch. Repeat this process one ladle at a time until all the broth has been added and absorbed. Rice should be creamy and slightly al dente. Add mushrooms back in, pepper as needed and then add the Parmesan cheese. Stir and enjoy!

Cottage Kitchen - "Gnocchi" 

8-10 medium russet potatoes

1 egg yolk
2-2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 TBSP salt
A big pot of boiling water
3 TBSP vegetable oil
1 TBSP salt

Pierce potatoes with fork a couple of times and bake in 350 degree oven for an hour, or until soft. Remove potatoes from oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Slice hot potatoes lengthwise and scoop out flesh with a spoon. Once all the potatoes have been removed from their skins, put potatoes through a ricer or food mill. Let potatoes cool some more - about five minutes. To potatoes add egg yolk, 2 cups of flour and the salt. Stir with a spoon. As dough comes together work with your hands until all the flour has been combined into the potatoes. Remove from bowl. Flour a board and kneed dough for a couple of minutes by hand. Add additional flour if dough is too sticky. When dough is smooth, break off a piece about the size of an egg and roll on board into a tube that is about as big around as your thumb. It will probably be about 12 inches long or so. Cut into 1-1 1/2 inch pieces with knife. Roll small dumplings on the backside of a fork to make small indentations. Set finished dumpling on a floured dish. Continue process until all the dough is used. Have a big pot of water at boiling point - add vegetable oil and salt. Add gnocchi ONE AT A TIME into the water (about 20 at a time) - turn the heat down if boiling too rapidly. When gnocchi are cooked they will float to the top. Remove cooked gnocchi and continue process until they are all cooked. Cover with your favorite sauce and dig in! 

The sauce we made:
1 large can San Marzano tomatoes
1 medium onion - cut in half leaving the root ends intact
5 TBSP butter
pinch of salt (to taste)
pinch of pepper (to taste)
pinch of sugar (to taste)

Combine all ingredients in sauce pan and cover. Simmer over low heat 45 minutes to an hour. Stir occasionally and press whole tomatoes against pan wall with spoon to help break them down. This is a light sauce with big tomato and onion flavor and a silky buttery finish. 

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