Tag Archives: wine

Cooking: Butternut Risotto

This is one of those recipes that results in the flavors of autumn. It is a “comfort food” in our home, and one of my parents’ favorite things I cook. Here is what you need:

Two cups of diced butternut squash: you will need an ice pack for your wrist after chopping up a butternut squash, unless you have an extremely sharp knife or, perhaps, an axe. I toss my squash in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast it in the oven for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees. You don’t have to do this, but I like how the flavors become concentrated and the sugars are caramelized.

You also need the following: 4 cups of chicken stock/broth, 1/2 cup dry white wine, 4 or more (I always use more) of pancetta or bacon (the real, good stuff, not the thin, pre-cooked stuff), 2 medium shallots, minced, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1-1/2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice, 2 teaspoons of sage, 1/2 cup grated Parmigiana Reggiano, olive oil, salt and pepper. Put the chicken broth and wine in a pot and begin warming it. You want it to be hot when as you add it to the risotto, but not boiling. I like to squeeze the juice of a lemon into mine as well.

Now, Arborio is a delightfully fat & starchy rice that makes the risotto hearty. I also use it for rice puddings.

You will also need a really good, dry white wine. Please use something you would drink, people. You need to stay hydrated while you cook this marathon dish. I use my all-time favorite dry white wine, Orvieto Classico:

You’ll want to cook up your pancetta in a little olive oil until it’s awesomely crispy, then let it drain on paper towels:

Cook up your shallots until softened and add the garlic. Throw in the Arborio & squash and stir it together for about a minute, getting the rice all coated and toasted. Add one cup of the chicken stock & wine-y goodness. Stir continually, and sing softly to your risotto, if you so desire. Enjoying some of that wine will help with this.

This is the long part: continue to add the broth mixture, a ladle-full at a time. Stir continually until each ladle-full is almost completely absorbed before adding another ladle. Slowly, the rice will begin to give up its starches and your risotto will thicken and become wonderful. Near the end, the risotto should be creamy, but still “toothsome”, so you actually have some bite to it, and it isn’t just mush:

At the end, crumble the pancetta and add the sage into the risotto. Mix in the cheese and remove the pot from the heat.

Plate it up! Serve it with a nice salad and warm bread and the rest of that wine, if there is any left. If you want some nice color contrast, throw some parsley on top of it, but I don’t like green plants in my risotto, so I leave it out. Enjoy the comforting goodness!

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Pasquetta

My favorite day in Italy was Pasquetta.  In Italian culture, this is the Monday after Easter, in which families picnic in the countryside.  Friends of our program, Kay & Chubba, live in a villa in the hills across from Orvieto.  They invited all of us students to join them at their home for Pasquetta.  The day after Easter, we all hiked up to their villa, carrying food and books and journals and cameras.  The weather was glorious, food was in abundance, and Kay & Chubba opened the wine made from their vineyard.  We ate and talked and ate and laughed and ate and took naps and ate and explored.  I just remember how incredible the weather was, how breathtaking the view of the city from Kay & Chubba’s villa, and how happy everyone was.  It’s a shame we don’t have such a tradition in the States: a day to simply do nothing but be together, enjoying good food and the beautiful world around us.

Buona Pasquetta!!!

Seriously, this is the view of gorgeous Orvieto from where all of us are sitting in the picture above.  See why we stayed there all day?!

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Junebug

One of the best friends of my mom gave her an early birthday gift yesterday.  It was a Pinot Grigio I’d never heard of:  Junebug.  The bottle’s packaging is what really struck me.  It’s unique and cheerful and makes the consumer think she is having a glass of wine that will transport her to a simple, lovely, late spring day.  Now, I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I am one of the people who do.  If it attracts me visually, I’m more likely to give it a chance.  Therefore, though I’m generally not a white wine drinker, I’ll be enjoying Junebug with Mama, if for no other reason than it comes in a beautiful bottle.  I only hope it tastes as crisp and wonderful as it looks.

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Wine Time

The production of wine goes back thousands of years, and many believe it actually originated in the Middle East.  Evidence of the earliest European wine production has been uncovered at archaeological sites in Macedonia, dated to 6,500 years ago, which is an incredibly exciting fact for a member of the Macedonian ethnicity who just loves her wine.  However, wine production improved considerably during the Roman Empire, and today, much of the world associates classically great wine with Italy.

I experienced some truly wonderful Italian wines while living in Orvieto.  I had only consumed light white wines before Italy, but my roommate over there came from a family of red wine drinkers, and she got me hooked on the full-bodied Chiantis of Tuscany.  I will now drink a dry red wine at room temperature over anything else I am offered.  Thanks a lot, Amy.  You’ve ruined me.

My time in Italy inspired me with the desire to try wines from other parts of the world, including Argentina, Chile, Hungary, and Australia.  If you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner once in a while, or a glass while you are cooking, I encourage you to try something imported, something new, and not just the cheap table wine that tastes like weird juice.  My favorite sparkling wine, far more than champagne, is Italian Prosecco, or the delightfully crisp Moscato D’Asti.  You get the bubbles and the feeling of something expensive and special, but without the bitter aftertaste champagne often leaves.

My parents and I have sort of adopted a “house red”.  We love the wines from the Kalbarri vineyard in Australia:

We don’t drink too much white wine anymore, but when we do, it’s usually the Orvieto Classico I introduced to my family upon my return to the states.  I haven’t found a vineyard that has reproduced the divine Classico that the Bigi vineyard does, but they don’t export their wine, so I’ve had to settle for another:

Chianti, however, will always have a special place in my heart because it reminds me of all of the meals I ate, the friends I made, the personal growing I did, and the memories I made throughout Italy.  Wine is a huge part of life over there, not a beverage on which one becomes drunk, but one that is enjoyed in company and to celebrate every wonderful thing about life.  When I purchase a Chianti, (which I do only every once in a while because I’m a snob about it actually coming from the vineyards in Tuscany) I splurge a little, because some things in life, as in relationships, are about quality, not quantity.

Here is where I will sound like a huge wine snob:  do not buy boxed wine.  It’s never as good as bottled, and it tells anyone who looks in your refrigerator that either you are incredibly cheap or you drink so much that you need a giant straw to go into your liquored up juice box.  In conclusion, enjoying wine and being a wine snob does not make you an alcoholic or a bad person.  It’s always about moderation, friends, just like with junk food, children, and romantic comedies.

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Boeuf Bourguignon: A Playdate with Mama

We did it.  Mama and I attempted this seemingly overwhelming recipe and not only did we actually finish it, but it was pretty much incredible.  It was mostly Mama’s doing. 🙂  Now, the culinary queen herself, Julia Child, has a ridiculously complicated recipe to follow, so we turned to another mutual favorite, Ina Garten, for a simpler, less time-consuming recipe.  We sort of combined the two recipes, with great success.

Now, the ingredient list and recipe are long and I want to paint today, so instead of typing it up, you can find Ina Garten’s here and Julia Child’s here

Here we are, cooking up the bacon:  real bacon, not the pre-made, quick microwave stuff, but real, fat-rendering bacon.

Next comes the meat, the gorgeous red stewing meat that smells divine as it browns and will slowly stew until it falls apart in your mouth.

My brother and father were completely willing to eat just this:

Add the onions and the carrots.  We couldn’t find pearl onions so we used regular and it was still amazing and they still caramelized beautifully.  We used baby carrots instead of taking all that time with real, large carrots, and it was still amazing also.

Now the meats are returned to the pot to begin melding with the veggies.

Now everybody gets to relax in a decadent bath of beef stock, tomato paste, thyme, garlic, and a good, and I mean really, really good bottle of dry red wine.  It slowly bubbles together and reduces and thickens for a freakishly long time and it smells like nothing you’ve ever smelled before.

Serve the finished French stew over noodles or mashed potatoes (I mean real, you peeled ’em, chopped ’em, boiled ’em, then whipped ’em with milk or sour cream and butter potatoes, not flakes-in-a-box mashed potatoes), some great artisan bread, and a glass of that full-bodied red wine.  You’ve never eaten anything with so much depth of flavor.

Yeah……I started eating before I got around to taking a picture.

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