Thursday, March 11, 2010

Two Great Tastes Don’t Always Taste Great Together

I decided that I need to share more of my misadventures in the kitchen. As I’ve gotten more experience with cooking, they don’t happen as often, but oh yes they do happen. Tonight’s dinner didn’t turn out quite as I’d envisioned – but that’s OK. It was educational! In this case, I tried out two recipes that worked out just fine, they just didn’t work well together.

Recipe #1 was the pork chops with vinegar peppers that Paula posted recently. It was very tasty, just as she promised, and quick and easy to make. Recipe #2 was a baked risotto with butternut squash.

Why, exactly, did I think that the squash risotto would be good with the peppery pork chops? To be honest, I didn’t think it would be good. I didn’t think that it would be bad, either. I had risotto on the brain because I’m trying to clean out my pantry and I had a little arborio rice, and also because I’m trying to clean out the cellar and was making vegetable broth. I also had some squash puree on hand because I’d already cleaned out my closet. And finally, I wanted to try a baked risotto because the stove was tied up with vats of boiling veggie broth.

I poked around on my beloved Internet and found a recipe that looked pretty good. Because I ended up modifying it quite a bit to use the ingredients I had on hand, and because it turns out that some people we know have no love for the Food Network, I’m not going to bother to post a link to the original recipe (unless you really, really want to see it – in that case, click here).

I haven’t tried baking risotto before. I suppose that it can’t possibly be as creamy as the real, laboriously-stirred version, but this was pretty darned good. The squash and the crème fraiche gave it a really creamy texture. It was too sweet and rich, though, to pair well with the vinegary peppers on the pork chops. Next time I’ll try it with chicken or a nice beef stew. I think a pork stew would be OK, maybe this one with fennel. Or that pork confit. Mmmmmm.

Baked Risotto with Squash
(Makes 4 side-dish servings, based on the fact that hubby and I ate half of it for dinner)

2-1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup pureed cooked winter squash or pumpkin
~1/4 cup vermouth or dry white wine, optional
~1/4-1/3 cup crème fraiche (or mascarpone cheese, if that's in your fridge)
Salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg
Grated Parmesean or other cheese, optional (Gruyere would be nice)

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Heat the broth in a saucepan on top of the stove, or in the microwave, to warm it up.

Place 2 cups of broth, the rice, squash, and vermouth into a 2-quart baking dish or casserole. Stir well and cover with the casserole lid (or use aluminum foil).

Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. If the broth is boiling too vigorously, turn the heat down to 325 F. Bake until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender.

When the rice is cooked, stir the risotto. If you are not serving it right away, pour the remaining ½ cup broth on top and set aside (I put it back in the oven, with the heat turned off, until the pork chops were done cooking). When you are ready to eat, stir in the remaining broth, the crème fraiche, and a pinch of nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Eat (preferably NOT with vinegar peppers).


Kate said...

Some people you know? No one I know, I HOPE.

I have tried to make risotto a total of one time. I remember two things about it: 1) It was only mildly so-so and 2)My arm fell off from stirring. So if I don't have to stir, then maybe I'm willing to try again. I will report back.

Sounds like there is an awful lot of cleaning-out going on. Feel free to nip on by and tackle my basement. I'm not sure, but I think there were potatoes down there at some point. They're all yours if you can find them.

Culinspiration said...

Sweet, I'm so happy you posted this. I have about a cup or two of pumpkin soup left that I was struggling to use up. One can only eat so much soup!

Thanks, I'll be trying this for sure. I might make it on the stovetop and cut back on the dairy to save some calories. It was kind of an indulgent weekend here in Berlin. :-)

Culinspiration said...

I just wanted to let you know, I've had problems leaving you comments, particularly using the OpenId feature. They just don't seem to go through (despite typing the security phrase). I had to use the "Name/URL" option to comment.

Karen said...

Thanks for letting us know about the comments problem (and thanks for trying to comment!) I'll have our web guru take a look and see if he can figure out the problem.

I am jealous of both your indulgent weekend, and your being in Berlin!