Saturday, 23 August 2008

Where The Wild Rice Are

I do enjoy dinner parties. Even though they can be expensive, stressful and physically taxing, the pay-off is very rewarding. As humble as I am, I do enjoy the attention from hosting dinner parties and the boost to my fragile ego.

Last night I cooked (with the help of friends and family) for seven adults a modest meal and so I was slightly pushed to include some of the recipes from last night. The salad was a last minute thought but the dressing turned out really well. The soup however was a hit and so I think I will include here even though I have so many soup recipes on the blog as it is.

As for wild rice, if you've never cooked it or used it before, rest assured it is very simple. I have only used Canadian Wild Rice (in fact, I didn't even know a Texan Wild Rice existed until I read the Wikipedia page on wild rice a few weeks ago, which I hear is in danger of becoming extinct) which is very straightforward. The trick is to soak the rice overnight is slightly salted water and this will not only reduce the cooking time, but it also helps in even cooking.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

1 Portobello Mushroom, stem removed, top thinly jullienne
12 Small Cremini or Button Mushrooms, sliced
5 Shitake Mushrooms, stems removed, top thinly sliced
1 Spanish Onion, half finely diced and other half roughly cut
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 Bay Leaf
1 Sprig Fresh Thyme, leaves and stem separated
1 Sprig of Rosemary, leaves and stem separated, leaves chopped
250 g Wild Rice, soaked overnight
1 Green Onion, sliced
10 ml Almond Butter or Chestnut Paste (optional)
Dab of Butter
Drizzle of Hazelnut Oil (optional)
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a stock pot, bring 4L of water to boil with mushroom stems, herb stems, bay leaf and roughly cut onion. Let boil for 8 - 10 minutes and set aside to cool slightly. Strain and reserve mushroom stock.

In a soup pot, heat a dab of butter and hazelnut oil until frothy. Sauté onion until slightly brown. Add garlic. After 1 minute, add medley of mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. If your pan is too dry from the mushrooms soaking up the fat, compensate by adding more olive oil. Add reserved stock and wild rice. Bring to a slight boil and reduce heat. Add herbs, almond butter and seasonings.

Serves 8 - 10

A Humble Chef`s tip: don`t make this soup too far ahead of serving or eating. The wild rice can become too mushy if you try to keep it for too long.

Variation: if you are the type of person who likes to add pasta to soups, orzo pasta is a good choice for this. Just be sure to cook the pasta separately, discard the cooking water and to add last minute.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Just For Pilafs

I just completed my third What's For Dinner moments ago. I gave my blog to the attendees and so here I am writing a recipe for those who didn't have time to write it down.

Rice is so easy to cook and yet so many people find ways to get it wrong. There are some tricks to the trade but keeping it simple works well for rice. Rice Pilaf refers to the cooking method where vegetables are cut up, sautéed with the rice and cooked in the oven with the broth. Obviously, there are several ways to cook rice but the pilaf method is straightforward and usually turns out well.

The class today was a demo of a Chicken Curry dish with sweet potatoes and carrots which was provided for me. Pretty easy dish actually. But I`m not sure if it`s kosher for me to provide the chicken recipe (truth is, all chefs take dishes, change it up then claim as their own) so I`ll stick to the starch only.

When cooking rice, check the packaging for the quantities. I used Basmati which is typically 2 parts liquid to 1 part rice.

Basic Rice Pilaf

200 g Basmati Rice, rinse if necessary
400 ml Chicken Stock
1 Carrot, small dice
1 Celery, small dice
1 Red Onion, small dice
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 Small Chunk Of Ginger, peeled and grated
Drizzle of Sesame Oil
Dab of Butter
Sal and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven at 350 degrees.

In a small sauce pan, heat up chicken stock. If you have any trimmings, add to stock. Bring to boil and strain.

In a medium sauce pan, heat oil for 1 minute. Add veg, ginger, garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add rice and sauté until translucent. Add stock and bring to boil. Add butter and seasonings. Cover with oven proof lid and cook in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and fluff with a fork.

Serves 6 sides.

A Humble Chef`s Tip: Once the rice has come to a boil, stop stirring the pot and cover quickly. If stirred too often, the starch can bleed out making it gummy.

Variation: Use half tomato juice, half stock, add some chili powder and cayenne and you have Mexican Rice.