Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Soul Food"

"Soul Food"... "Southern Cooking" ... "Comfort Food"...

For my money, if it brings you mentally back to a calmer, safer, easier place, it's one of these categories.

The above meal, from Tom's Home Cooking in Five Points, Denver Colorado, is a perfect example of all those categories. Fresh, Cornmeal-Crusted Fried Catfish that somehow escapes that 'greasy' catfish flavor and texture and is just crisp, clean, and amazing. Macaroni and Cheese, that classic Comfort Food, so velvety and rich. And the Collard Greens. Collards that, somehow, without the addition of smoked ham or bacon, are some of the best I've ever eaten. Accented with my favorite Tobasco Vinegar... This meal took me back to childhood (When, it should be noted, I'd never heard of most of these foods) and just a simple time when food was about love (hence the "Soul Food" moniker) and the preparation that went into it. The community and the safety of easier times.

All that with Collard Greens. Maybe there's hope for the world, after all. Until then, there's Macaroni and Cheese.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Capellini "Risotto" with Wild Mushrooms and Marsala

Capellini "Risotto"

Quite possibly one of the easiest, yummiest, Comfort Foods ever.

You know Risotto? That stuff in my last post that you stir for 45 minutes or more, over a steaming stove?

It's delicious. But forget that. This is the Working (wo)Man's Comfort Food.


Capellini (Angel Hair) Pasta
Mushrooms (This time I used Button, Crimini, and Porcini.)
Chicken Stock (Low Sodium, Organic, or Homemade.)
Marsala Wine.
Fresh Parmesan Cheese.

You'll notice that there are no quantities. I told you this is low-maintenance. Do whatcha want!


Slice and saute the mushrooms. Deglaze with some Marsala wine and set aside.

Melt some butter in a medium-heated pan. (How much depends on how much pasta you are making. I made half a box with 2 tablespoons of butter.)
Break the Capellini in half (I know, I know, Blasphemy.) and toss in the pan to coat with the butter. "Saute" the pasta in the butter until it begins to turn toasty and brown. Now comes the "Risotto" part:
Add in 1/2 cup of Marsala Wine, and stir until it's absorbed by the pasta. Then add in the same amount of Chicken Stock, and Stir again until Pasta is nearly dry. (You will notice that famous "Risotto" creaminess start to form.)
Repeat, adding (For half a pound of pasta) a total of 1.5 Cups of Chicken Stock and 1 Cup of Marsala. Ish. It's all "Add, Stir, Repeat."

When the Pasta is nearly cooked through to your liking (Taste it. It should be Al Dente, and this should take 7 Minutes-ish.) In the last "Add, Stir" session, add the sauteed Mushrooms, stir, and season with Salt and Pepper to taste.

Remove the Pasta from heat, and add in Parmesan Cheese (I used about 1/4 cup Freshly Shaved) and stir until it's completely melted and incorporated.

Voila. "Capellini Risotto"

Nobody will ever guess it only took you 10 minutes!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Wild Mushroom Risotto

The 40 minutes of constant stirring over the stove are always well worth it when you taste the resulting risotto. Wild Mushrooms are one of my favorite foods, being so earthy, with their depth of flavor, and power to infuse other foods.

Risotto is best stirred with a wooden, paddle style spoon.


1/2 Onion, diced
Dried Porcini Mushrooms, reconstituted in a hot sherry/water mixture (Drain and Chop Porcini and Reserve liquid for risotto)
Shiitake Mushrooms, diced. (I used about 8 ounces.)
Olive Oil
2 Cups Rice (Short-Grain Arborio works best. I use whatever i have on hand. It always comes out good.)
1 Quart Good-Quality Chicken Stock.

In large saucepan, melt 1 teaspoon each of butter and olive oil. Add onions and saute on medium until translucent. Add diced Shiitake and add more olive oil if necessary to saute until par-cooked. Add 2 cups of rice, drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat. Saute over medium heat 3-4 minutes, toasting the rice lightly, until mixture dries out. Add Porcini and stir.
Add reserved porcini liquid, stirring quickly with a wooden spoon or paddle. (Be cautions: Liquid will bubble, boil, and steam.) Continue stirring until most liquid is absorbed. In small batches, add Chicken Stock (1/2 Cup at a time. Ish.) Keep stirring the entire time, adding more Stock as the liquid is absorbed. You will do this for at least 25 minutes. At that point, taste the rice for done-ness and add salt and pepper to season to taste. (The rice will probably still be too al-dente.)
If the rice is still al-dente, add more of the stock, stirring, stirring, stirring *It's a great workout* until the rice is the consistency you'd like.

I prefer mine still a LIIIIITLE firm, but not crunchy. The liquid starts to "creamify" as time goes on, making a "sticky" texture that is the key of Risotto.

When the Risotto is the texture you'd like, remove from heat source.

You can finish with fresh, chopped parsley, if you like. It compliments the risotto quite nicely.