You might think he's doing something else. But in reality, he's learning how to sit/stay, and not doing a very good job of it (he eventually learned how to do so beautifully ... sort of ).

domenica 11 aprile 2010

Jesus Christ is Risen Today (Last Week, Actually)

Easter began on the stroke of midnight last week as the local parish church bells began to chime. It was lovely, solemn, beautiful. Later that morning we listened to the Hallelujah Chorus which inexplicably sounds better at Easter than it does at Christmas. He shall reign, forever and ever, we suppose.

Many friends were coming for lunch at a too-small-for-all-of-us table in a room that barely could hold us. It didn’t much matter. The food tried, as much as possible, to celebrate what was available in the garden (not much, the first week in April). So those ever-present sorrel mayonnaise’d eggs kicked off the proceedings, followed by a most green risotto, and two roasted legs of lamb from a local shepherd (when we picked them up at a small town in the middle of nowhere, having ordered them a few days previously, it was slightly unsettling to flip through said shepherd's little photo album which included pictures of the fields where these sheep grazed (green, beauteous, Tuscan) and yes, pictures of their probable ancestors; at any rate, their lives were nice before they were no more).

The Scallion and I overcooked them in part, I think, because we followed U.S. recipes written for industrial farmed lamb. (This made only us and one other guest unhappy, as all the others opted for “well-done.”)(Wimps.)

This risotto is a bit of business. It’s imperative that all those fava beans get peeled, so put on – oh, Led Zeppelin loud or a Gregorian chant or Lady Gaga, or rope in an unwitting child (with promises of something that can be delivered), and peel them. The effort is well worth it. Gone is that slightly metallic taste sensation (can taste sensations be unpleasant? This one surely could be). Our garden yields sprouts right now, so clipping those from the arugula patch and those from the cress patch provided the flourishing and finishing touches. If you don’t have a garden, or immediate access to sprouts, garnish this risotto with pea shoots, which have yet to catch on in this country.

The Stooges constantly attended during preparation and consummation. Because we made too much (even with the occasional seconds), they greatly benefited at their Easter dinner following our Easter lunch. (The rest of the meal included minty garlic potato salad, asparagus with Hollandaise[1], and strawberry shortcake.)

Risotto with goat cheese, fava, and peas

8 shallots, peeled and finely diced
3 T. butter
4½ c. Arborio rice
2 c. good dry white wine
5 c. vegetable stock, heated
2 lbs. fresh peas, podded and put in reserve
3 lbs. fava beans, podded , peeled, in company with the peas
A scant half pound of young, creamy goat cheese, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Arugula and cress sprouts, for garnish
(or pea shoots, a pile of them, arranged on top)

Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan, and heat the vegetable stock in a deep saucepan. Toss in the finely chopped shallots to the large heavy saucepan, and let melt, stirring constantly. Add the rice, and stir to coat. When thoroughly covered/coated with butter mix, add the white wine, stir, and let evaporate. Once this is done, tend the risotto—stirring all the while—by adding a ladle of broth, letting it evaporate, and then doing it many more times, with feeling, until the rice is cooked through (about 18 – 20 minutes).

At the penultimate ladleful, add the raw peeled fava beans and equally raw green peas, and stir. Toss in the goat cheese, and stir to combine. Serve piping hot from the stove, garnishing with sprouts or shoots.

Serves 12 humans and 3 dogs

[1] Why is this splendid and obscenely-not-heart healthy sauce called “Hollandaise” (i.e., Dutch; an adjective referring to a mostly not particularly interesting cuisine)? Alan Davidson’s Hollandaise obscure entry (the Oxford Companion to Food, New York, 1999) recommends turning to the inestimable Harold McGee for how it cooks and doesn’t curdle. The Larousse Gastronomique (New York, 1988) is more concerned with non-curdling than etymological lore. Mercifully, the penultimate Joy of Cooking (New York, 1991) sort of bails us out: “These famous French sauces (the first named for Holland and the second for the southwestern French region of Béarn, home of the beloved monarch Henri IV) …” Why Holland??? And, given the fact that Henri IV was married to Maria de’Medici (daughter of Francesco I) … ought we to dare to suggest that Hollandaise is, in fact, Florentine? We shouldn’t and won’t, and it should be noted that Béarnaise sauce (where, apparently Henri was from), unlike Hollandaise which includes egg yolks, lemon juice, salt/pepper/hot pepper sauce to taste, and clarified butter, has all those ingredients but adds dry white wine, tarragon, and shallots. From the not-to-be-100% relied upon “Hollandaise is one of the five sauces in the French haute cuisine mother sauce repertoire. It is so named because it was believed to have mimicked a Dutch sauce for the state visit to France of the King of the Netherlands.” I say plaudits to that Dutch head of state (we should find out his name, and saint him) and hm to the rest of it. Prophet Pellegrino Artusi (1820-1911) has a recipe for this in his Scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene” (somewhere in Italy, 1904), which means that upper-crust Italians were probably enjoying this sauce with boiled fish and other things well over a hundred years ago.

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