Creamy Asparagus Risotto

Risotto is one of those dishes that sounds super fancy–and it definitely tastes luxurious!–but is actually far easier to make at home than most people think. In fact, it doesn’t even need cream or milk to make it creamy. You just need to buy the right kind of rice and give it a little love and attention and you’ll be whipping up some restaurant worthy risotto in no time. Flavor it with your favorite mix-ins like roasted asparagus, caramelized onions, roasted butternut squash or more. Bon appetito!

Ingredients

  • Arborio rice, 2 cups — you must use arborio rice for this dish. Arborio rice has a super high starch content and this is what makes your risotto creamy and delicious!
  • Garlic, 5-6 cloves chopped
  • White wine, 1 cup
  • Chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you want to keep it vegetarian/dairy), 4 cups — if you wanted to do a super rich and earthy mushroom risotto, you could make some mushroom broth by rehydrating dried porcini mushrooms for a truly luxurious risotto dish!
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan (or nondairy substitute such as nutritional yeast), optional but always worth it
  • 1 cup of Herb Roasted Asparagus (or your favorite mix-in)

Directions

  1. Heat the stock in a saucepan and add any flavorings you’d like to it such as herbs, lemon juice, spices etc.
  2. Sauté garlic in olive oil until fragrant and slightly brown. Season with salt and pepper
  3. Add rice and toss to coat. Sauté the rice so it gets nice and toasty. This will give it a wonderful and deep flavor later on
  4. Add about a cup of white wine of your choice — you can also use champagne, sparkling wine etc. Just make sure it’s something you like. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it! The flavor will just concentrate as it’s cooking
  5. Stir the rice, and once it’s absorbed the wine, start adding about a cup of broth to the rice and stir it around
  6. Every time the rice absorbs the liquid, it needs to be stirred. As it cooks and gets stirred, it will start to release its starches which creates the creaminess that is characteristic of risotto
  7. After about 18 minutes, you will have added several cups of liquid and the ride should be creamy and have expanded. Give it a quick taste for seasoning and to make sure the rice is al dente (should have a little bit of chew left)
  8. Now would be the time to add anything to the risotto like some roasted asparagus, maple roasted butternut squash if you wanted to go sweet, or anything you like
  9. Turn off the heat and add some nutritional yeast (if meat meal) to give it some umami or a cup of grated Parmesan cheese if a dairy meal and stir.
  10. Serve while still warm. To reheat, heat risotto into a saucepan with a 1/4 cup of water and stir until steamy and ready to inhale

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Gastropub Night at Home

French Onion Burger with “German” Potato Salad

I was inspired to make this burger after a recent trip to Shake Shack (see next post) and thought I should make myself a great burger at home. The idea of the French Onion burger is actually a play on this amazing burger they have at a gastropub chain in the Los Angeles area called Father’s Office. The burger reminded me of French Onion soup, and gave off a very bistro vibe. They paired their burger with shoestring fries, and allowed no substitutions, but I’m pairing mine with potato salad. Mine is a twist on a traditional German potato salad, but incorporates many of the same flavors. Perfect for a picnic since there’s no mayo, but also great to make a whole bowl for yourself. I even use leftover potato salad to mimic a hash and top it with some chunks of avocado, a squirt of sriracha sauce, and a couple of fried eggs for brunch the next day.

Burger Ingredients

2/3 pound of ground beef—I used 75/25, which means the meat blend is 75% beef and 25% fat. I wouldn’t go with anything less than 80/20 because your burger may then dry out. If you do decide to use lean or extra lean ground beef, or something a naturally lean meat like turkey, then I would suggest cutting the meat with some ground bacon, just ask the butcher to do it for you, or pulse in the food processor.

Granulated garlic

Caramelized onions

1 small avocado, ripe

Arugula

2 packets of Laughing Cow Swiss Cheese (French Onion flavor)FullSizeRender-12

Gruyere cheese

1/3 of a French baguette or 1 mini baguette—this would also be good with a seeded Italian roll or Ciabatta. I liked the baguette because the who burger seemed very French to me. If making multiple burgers, feel free to use a whole baguette

Potato Salad Ingredients:

5-6 small red potatoes, halved

5 medium Golden potatoes, cut into chunks—this recipe uses what I had in my pantry, but you can use about 2-3 pounds of any kind of waxy potato (my favorite is Yukon Gold)

1 cup of salt pork or pancetta, cut into cubes

2 medium shallots, chopped fine

3 cloves of garlic, minced

½ cup of apple cider vinegar—traditional recipes usually call for white vinegar, but I feel that the apple cider vinegar is a little sweeter and has a little bit more of sour taste

2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon of sugar

1 heaping tablespoon of whole grain dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped

3 tablespoons of olive oil

To Make the Potato Salad:

  1. In a large pot, place the potatoes and enough water to cover them with a good amount of salt.
  2. Heat the potato pot on high heat until they start boiling, then reduce heat to medium to medium-high heat and continue on a low boil for at 15 minutes
  3. Test the potatoes with a knife. If the knife slides in easily then they are done. Don’t worry, you can always just taste one if you’re unsure
  4. Drain the potatoes and set aside
  5. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil on medium heat until hot, but not smokingFullSizeRender-9
  6. Add salt pork to the pan and use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to spread the cubes in a single layer—this will help them brown evenly and prevent burning. Stir every couple of minutesFullSizeRender-11
  7. When all of the pieces are browned all over, remove from the pan, but leave the fat from the pork in the pan—flavor! Drain the pork on a piece of paper towel. While you prepare the rest of the ingredients the pork will crisp up
  8. In the same pan, add the shallots and garlicFullSizeRender-14
  9. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and black pepper each, and 1 teaspoon of sugar
  10. Cook the shallots and garlic until browned and fragrant—your nose will let you know 😉
  11. Once they’re browned, deglaze the pan with the vinegar
  12. Reduce for 1-2 minutes on medium-low heat, then add the mustard and parsley. Stir to incorporate along with another pinch of salt and pepperFullSizeRender-15
  13. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and stir the sauce/vinaigrette
  14. Turn off the heat
  15. Add the potatoes and the pork back to the pan, and toss with the vinaigrette to coat all of the potatoes while they’re still warmFullSizeRender-16
  16. Let the potato salad sit while making the burger—this potato salad could be made a day in advance. Traditionally German potato salad is served warm, but it’s great at room temperature or even cold

To Make Caramelized Onions: 

  1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees
  2. In an oven-proof pot with a lid, or a dutch oven, coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and add 2 pats (1/8 tablespoon) of butter
  3. Add the onions and cook, uncovered, on medium heat for a few minutes until they start to sweat
  4. Once the onions start to turn golden, cover and put the pot in the oven
  5. After 20 minutes, stir the onions and add 1 teaspoon each of black pepper and salt
  6. Cover and put onions back in the oven for an additional 20 minutes
  7. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and stir the onions
  8. Cook for an additional 30 minutes
  9. Uncover, stir, and cook for an additional 10 minutes
  10. Take the onions out of the oven, they should be brown and caramelized—leave the oven on for the burger afterwards though
  11. Place the onions in a bowl and set aside to top your burger, or use them in an omelet, in pasta, or in one of my personal favorites—pizzaFullSizeRender-10

To Make the Burger:

  1. Remove the meat from the refrigerator at least 20 minutes before you plan to cook—this will help with even cooking
  2. Shape your burger patty—I went with a long burger in order to fit the bread, but a traditional round patty is always good
  3. Season both sides with a good pinch of salt, black pepper and granulated garlic
  4. Heat your pan on medium heat for a couple of minutes and add the remaining olive oil to the panFullSizeRender-2
  5. Add the meat to the pan—you should hear a nice sizzle when the meat hits the hot pan. Resist the urge to move the burger or squish it down. This way it will form a nice crust and stay juicyFullSizeRender-3
  6. After 2-3 minutes, flip the burger over and cook on the second side for an additional 2 minutesAdd a pat of butter to the pan and place the pan in the preheated oven
  7. In the meantime, take your sliced baguette and spread the Laughing Cow cheese packets on the bread and put into the oven at the same time
  8. Cook for about 5-7 minutes for medium donenessFullSizeRender-7
  9. Remove the bread and burger pan from the oven and let the burger rest for a few minutes
  10. Increase oven to broiler setting
  11. (Optional) I like to add the pan drippings from the burger pan to the potato salad along with another pinch of salt—it makes the potato salad even creamier, and ties the flavors together well. Trust me, it sounds decadent, but you’ll love it!FullSizeRender-1
  12. Add a handful of arugula to the bottom half of the sandwich
  13. To the top half, add the sliced avocado to the top half and a layer of caramelized onionsFullSizeRender-5
  14. Top the bottom half with the burger, then top that with a few slices of Gruyere cheese
  15. Put under the broiler for an another minute just to melt the cheeseFullSizeRender-4
  16. Remove the bottom half of the sandwich from the ovenFullSizeRender-8
  17. Combine the two halves, take a minute to admire the delicious picture, and cut on a bias

Enjoy your amazing gastropub style burger at home with some potato salad on the side – don’t mind the mess. In fact, if your burger isn’t messy, then you’re doing something wrong!

Recipe: Asian Fusion Chicken Curry

This recipe was inspired by the delicious Chicken Rendang dish I had at Malaysia Grill recently. One of the cooking methods that made that dish so unique was the use of ground onions in the gravy. The onions gave an amazingly aromatic and deep flavor to the dish. In my spin on a chicken curry, shallots are roasted and pureed into a paste in order to impart a similar flavor profile. This curry also incorporates flavors from Thai and Indian cuisines. I chose to make it with chicken, but it would be delicious with beef, shrimp or even vegetarian. Some crispy tofu or eggplant would be nice options. It might seem like a lot of steps, but once you’ve prepped, it really cooks quickly. You’ll love to eat this curry on a chilly day, or on any day of the year.

IMG_1553Ingredients:

1 package of boneless, skinless chicken tenders, chopped into medium sized chunks

3 stalks of lemongrass

2 tablespoons of fish sauce

2 heaping spoonfuls of hot chili oil

2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons of dried shrimp – this might seem like a weird ingredient, but it’s very prevalent in Asian dishes. It also gives a great umami flavor

3 small or 2 large limes

2 tablespoons of palm sugar (if you don’t have any palm sugar, then brown sugar or even white sugar is fine as a substitute)

2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon of peanut oil

2 tablespoons of olive oil

4 medium shallots

2 medium (or 1 extra large) russet potatoes (you want a good starchy potato to help thicken the curry and stand up to the cooking process)

2 teaspoons of Garam Masala

2 teaspoons of curry powder

1 teaspoon of ground ginger

1/2 cup of water

1.5 teaspoons of freeze-dried cilantro

1/2 of a 4oz jar of green curry paste (Thai kitchen is a good brand)

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1 can of coconut milk

2-3 Thai green chilies, minced (jalapeños are a good substitute) — this is an optional ingredient, but really helps being a nice beat to the dish

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To make the marinade:

  1. Chop the lemongrass into 1-2 inch long pieces and place into a plastic Ziploc bag (about gallon size)–Make sure the lemongrass isn’t cut too small since you’ll have to take it out before cooking.
  2. Add the rice wine vinegar, hot chili oil, the juice of 1 large or 2 small limes, fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of palm sugar, 1 tablespoon of peanut oil, 1 shallot roughly chopped, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and the dried shrimp.
  3. Place the chicken, cut into chunks, along with the rest of the marinade ingredients into a Ziploc bag with a strong zipper. Trust me, you’ll need the good kind, unless you want marinade all over your counter or the inside of your refrigerator. FullSizeRender-4
  4. Toss the cut lime into the bag as well since the zest will help flavor the chicken. You can also add some fresh ginger to this marinade if you want to turn this into a chicken stir-fry style dish. After marinating the chicken, sauté it with some broccoli or peppers or snow peas in a hot wok and serve over rice. Yum!
  5. Marinade for 30 minutes minimum, and up to 1 day in the fridge.
This is what the chicken looked like after a day in the marinade
This is what the chicken looked like after a day in the marinade

To Make the Roasted Potatoes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Chop the potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut those pieces lengthwise again. Cut the long quarters into medium-large chunks. Don’t worry if all of the pieces aren’t the same size, your dish will look rustic and let people know that it’s homemade.
  3. Place the potatoes onto a baking sheet.
  4. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, and dried cilantro. If you don’t have dried cilantro, then cumin would be tasty and would give the potatoes a smoky taste.FullSizeRender-8
  5. Toss to coat all of the potatoes with the oil and spices.
  6. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes. You want them be crisp and light brown on the outside, but be careful to not let them get too dark. These don’t require a lot of babysitting.
Potatoes out of the oven
Potatoes out of the oven

To Make the Shallot Paste:

  1. Peel the shallots (there will be 2 bulbs in each skin).
  2. If the shallot is large then cut the bulbs in half, if not then place it whole onto a baking sheet.
  3. Season the shallots with salt, pepper and remaining olive oil
  4. Put the shallots into the oven about 10 minutes after the potatoes.
  5. Once you’ve taken the shallots out of the oven, allow them to cool a bit.
  6. Put the shallots into a blender with the curry powder, garam masala, ground ginger, and remaining teaspoon of oil.
  7. Pulse while adding water until it comes together into a loose paste.FullSizeRender-12
  8. The potatoes and shallot paste could both be made ahead of time, just make sure to refrigerate.

To Make the Curry:

  1. Add remaining peanut oil to a wokIMG_1563
  2. Heat your wok on medium to medium high heat until the oil is shimmering, but not smoking
  3. Add curry paste to the wok along with the zest of 1/2 a lime and minced Thai chilies, and heat through (1-2 minutes)FullSizeRender-5
  4. Add the shallot paste to the wok. You’ll be able to smell the aromas of Garam Masala and curry powder after cooking for a few minutes.FullSizeRender-9
  5. Add the coconut milk to the wok as well as the remaining sugar.FullSizeRender-13
  6. Let the sauce come up to a simmer and taste. You can add more fish sauce to taste.
  7. Once the sauce is simmering steadily, it’s time to add the chicken. Remember to pick the lemongrass and limes out of the marinade bag. The lemongrass is inedible in this form and has done its job in flavoring the dish. Also, drain most all of the marinade out of the bag.FullSizeRender-3
  8. Cook the chicken for a couple of minutes, then add the roasted potatoes.FullSizeRender-1
  9. Now is the fun part. Stir the wok around and let it go on the stove for at least 10-15 minutes on medium low – medium in order to give the chicken time to cook in the sauce and the potatoes do lost their crispy exterior and absorb some sauce. Use this time to get a drink, or wash the chili off of your hands.FullSizeRender-6
  10. After it starts simmering again, squeeze half of a lime into the wok and keep simmering. Save the remaining lime half.
  11. When the curry has reduced and has thickened up, so that sticks heavily to your spoon, then it’s done.

    FullSizeRender-11
    Doesn’t that look delicious?
  12. Garnish with a wedge of lime and serve! A dollop of Greek yogurt or raita would be delicious to help cool down the palate as well.
A Taste for the Chef
A Taste for the Chef

There’s a deep Indian-spiced, curry flavor to the dish, with an escalating heat from the Thai chilies—no bite though, rather it’s a kind of heat that rests on the back of your tongue. You also taste the warming flavors of curry, garam masala and ginger, as well as an earthiness from the roasted shallots.

The chicken almost braises in the curry sauce, and doesn’t get chewy while cooking in the sauce. The potatoes also have a great mouth feel; they absorb some of the sauce, and the starchiness of the potatoes helps thicken up the gravy. The lemongrass complements the lime throughout the dish, and gives it a subtle citrus flavor, which helps cut across the heaviness of the dish itself. The dried shrimp rehydrates in the marinade as well as the curry, and much of it melts. The leftover pieces become chewy and add a nice fishiness to round out the flavor profile. Rice or naan is a great vehicle to scoop up the thick curry sauce, although the dish is filling enough to eat on its own. It’s so good you may lick your plate clean!