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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Gluten Free Scallop "Taco" Mushroom Risotto

I enjoy food shopping.

No, really…most of the time, I actually enjoy food shopping.

Sure, there are times when it can be unbearable.  Holidays are the worst.

But, I mean…c’mon.  The people watching can be great.  And you never know what ingredients you can find.  Like, fruits you’ve never seen before.  I love finding a fruit I haven’t seen before, and putting it close to my nose so I can smell it.

Recently, the Stop and Shop where I go re-configured their aisles.  I have a feeling they did it because a new Market Basket is opening up fairly close by.  For those of you who don’t live in Massachusetts, Market Basket is recognized as the best of the Mega-Marts here.  Good prices, good service, good size gluten free selection.

Here are a couple of pictures from my latest shopping adventure at Stop and Shop.  I took this picture to show they now have an aisle where they actually note they have gluten free food.

Look right up there...see?  Not lying!

And look here:  the section is a fairly decent size for a Mega-Mart.

That's not me just in case you're wondering...My legs are much sexier...

 It was here at my local Stop and Shop that I decided what to make for dinner.  Well, let me back up a step.

I knew I wanted to make some sort of risotto.  I’ve mentioned in a previous post how much I enjoyed making it.  But, I didn’t want to just “follow a recipe.”  So I began to think about what flavors I would like.

I knew I wanted something classic, but with something…well…not classic.  My first thought was Mexican or chili type flavors.  Much to my surprise, there were a lot of recipes for such things.  I turned off my iPad so I would not be tempted to copy a recipe.  I just decided to let something come to me while I was shopping.

Off I went. And then it hit me as I walked into the store.  Fish Tacos.

When I went gluten free, this was a meal I missed when I went to Mexican restaurants.  (Luckily, we have a pretty good Mexican Restaurant in my town called La Siesta, where they make gluten free fish tacos.)    What if I could combine a classic mushroom risotto with shrimp…no…I did shrimp before…scallops that I seasoned and marinated as if I was marinating fish for fish tacos?  Why not?  How bad could it be?  So, I bought the ingredients, ready to try to make dinner.

The first thing I did was use the technique I learned from Think Like A Chef by Tom Colicchio to make pan roasted mushrooms.  I decided to go with straight button mushrooms.  A small amount of extra-virgin olive oil went in the pan, and then I put some mushrooms in, making sure not to crowd the pan so they wouldn’t steam.  Then I seasoned them simply with salt and pepper, and after a couple of minutes, turned them over and put in a very small amount of butter product, cooked for another two minutes, then out of the pan.  It took 4 batches for ½ a pound of sliced mushrooms. The only change I made to the technique was not to use shallots.  Whether or not that was a mistake, I’m not sure, but the risotto would have chopped onion in it, so I wasn’t overly worried about it.

For the risotto, I diced an onion and two cloves of garlic, and began to heat some chicken stock.  Once I started the risotto, I knew it would take about ½ an hour to cook, plus a few minutes to heat the pan.  I know you don’t have to marinate fish very long, so this seemed like the perfect time to marinate the scallops.

I’ve made fish tacos in the past.  After experimenting with a few different recipes, I like the Bobby Flay marinade best, but I left out a couple of things.

The Scallops were marinated very simply in lime juice, ancho chili powder, and some chopped cilantro leaves.  I did not use any oil in the marinade, as I wanted to keep the fat down so I used more lime juice.  I also decided to leave the jalapeno out.  I made this decision because I felt the heat from the chili powder would be sufficient, and I didn’t want to overpower the risotto.  I wanted the flavor to blend together, not have one flavor overpower the dish.  (Maybe I’m wrong, but I think of risotto as delicate.)

Now, while that was marinating, time to make the risotto.  This recipe is pretty basic.  I cooked the onion and the garlic, which I seasoned with salt and pepper, until the onion was translucent, Then I added the previously cooked mushrooms to the pot, then added one cup of Arborio rice and stirred everything together for a minute or two.  To meld the flavors, I added a small amount of ancho chili powder and a few cilantro leaves to the pot as well.  Then I added the now warmed chicken stock to the pot and stirred, and stirred.  And stirred.  When the rice looked dry, I added more chicken stock.  And stirred.

About twenty minutes in, it appeared (and of course tasted) to me that one more ladle of chicken stock was going to finish the dish, so I added the stock and then I began to cook the scallops.  Because I didn’t add oil to the marinade, I was able to use grape seed oil, which has a high smoking point and essentially, no flavor.  I did 2 minutes on the first side, and about 1 ½ minutes on the second side.  I also used – as suggested by one of my readers – a non stick pan.  Thank you whoever you are!  It worked great.  Between the two, it was the first time my scallops didn’t stick to the pan.  I did ten scallops in two batches of five.

Now time to plate.  Mushroom risotto with five scallops on top.  Before I served it, I squeezed a little bit of lime juice over the top, and garnished it with a bit of cilantro.

The risotto was perfect.  I mean, listen.  I’m no chef.  Every professional chef, and I bet many home cooks, have forgotten more about food than I’ll ever learn.  But on these cooking competitions, I don’t see how chefs get voted off for bad risotto.  It seems pretty easy to me.  My risotto was ever so slightly al dente, but at the same time creamy.  The scallops were perfectly seared (for the first time!!) and a touch translucent in the middle.  The scallops had a nice light but bright zesty favor, which played well against the classic mushroom risotto, but the overall dish was brought together by the addition of the ancho chili powder and cilantro to the risotto.

As for nutrition, this dish had more calories than I like, but I was able to keep the fat down.  I didn’t use any cheese.  The majority of the fat came from the oils.  So figuring the amount of oil used and the approximate absorption, this meal was approximately 755 calories, with 11 grams of fat.  That’s only 14%!

As we say in our house, “This one’s a keeper!”

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Think Like A Chef - The Best Laid Plans...

There is a phrase that goes, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  That should be amended to include wanna-be home cooks.

So let me start at the beginning.  I decided in the Think Like A Chef book to skip the chapter on artichokes.  If I’m being honest, I don’t like them…not even on pizza.  So I decided to move to the next section which is entitled “Trilogies.”  The basic idea is to use three ingredients and create different dishes using all three.  Sounds good to me.

The first entrĂ©e is “free-form” cheese ravioli, with a ragout of asparagus, morels, and ramps.  The idea behind the ravioli is to create pasta sheets, and then free-form them into a little package.  I don’t have a pasta maker, and I don’t want to buy one.  My kitchen isn’t really big enough to roll out enough dough if I wanted to just roll it out by hand.  So, I needed to figure out how I was going to do this dish.
I thought, “I could use gluten-free lasagna noodles, boil them, put the filling at the end, and then roll them up once.  One noodle should give me two ravioli.”  Made sense to me.  I did a “test” ravioli based on the cooking instructions, and it wasn’t bad. 

Next step is to go buy the ingredients.  I went to Whole Foods and bought some nice looking asparagus.  I could not buy ramps as they are out of season.  From the research I did, they taste like a combination of leek and garlic.  I bought both.  As for the morels, I found them in a container.  Three quarters of an ounce, and I need four ounces.  The cost of one jar?  $19.99!!!!!  So I bought shitakes instead.

Okay, time to cook.

The first thing I did was boil the noodles.  The box said to boil them 13-14 minutes, but a minute or two less if you were going to bake them.  So I boiled them about 10 minutes.  While I was doing that, I was heating over a very low heat some skim milk ricotta cheese, and some parmesan.  Right at the end, I mixed in some fresh Kale that a coworker had given to me from her garden.  I added about a teaspoon of the mixture to the lasagna noodle, and then folded it over twice, and then put it on a baking dish that I had put a bit of olive oil on, then put it in the oven at 350 degrees.

Now, as for the ragout, the first step was to create a buerre blanc.  I’m not one for sauces…there are some I like, but in general, I don’t use them.  However, I went ahead as this would be a good chance to learn some technique, and it actually sounded pretty good.  So I melted about a third of a cup of butter product (mistake!!) piece by piece into about ½ cup of water.  Then once it was all incorporated, I added the mushrooms, let them cook down, then added the leeks and garlic.  While this was happening, I was boiling the asparagus, which I had cut on the bias into 2 inch pieces.  I added the asparagus to the ragout, seasoned with salt and pepper, and added some dill and tarragon, and mixed it all together.

Looks good...

To serve, I put the ragout in the bottom of a pasta bowl, then took the free-form ravioli out of the oven and put 5 pieces on top of the ragout.  Then I garnished with more dill and tarragon.

Tastes good...not so much.

The taste?  Well…this ended up not being an overly successful dish.  The ravioli itself ended up a bit tough, although the filling was actually pretty good.  The ragout?  Not my favorite.  First, it was kind of greasy because I used the butter product instead of straight butter.  Again, it didn’t taste bad, but I couldn’t get the greasy feeling out of my mouth for a couple of hours.

But I did learn some technique with sauces.  I also learned I have the ability to get multiple components ready all at the same time…that was pretty cool.  And I’m not unconvinced that the idea behind the free-form noodle using a lasagna noodle was a bad idea.  Perhaps I will work on that sometime in the future.