Saturday, March 8, 2014
When it comes to cooking, sometimes you need to see it before you go home, try to make it yourself with a vague recipe you found on the internet, burn the crap out of everything, decide your stove hates you, so you decide to hate it back and end up spending the night eating uncooked pasta while you rock yourself on the couch and toss curse words at your kitchen appliances (hereafter known as "the devils.")
Luckily, LeRoux Kitchen in Portland offers free cooking demos on the second and fourth Saturday of the month. Cooks can see what they're doing before they dive in to do it.
Just this Saturday, risotto came to town. Risotto is made with Arborio rice - a high-starch, short-grain rice that gets an awesomely creamy texture.
LeRoux's resident chef Matt Burnham led the charge, preparing three risotto dishes simultaneously (one for breakfast, one for lunch, one for dinner...although I'd eat any of them at any time, maybe even simultaneously).
The breakfast risotto included sweet Italian sausage, green and red peppers, and onions. His BLT recipe called for bacon, roasted tomatoes, and spinach (Burnham joked that the "L" in his dish really stood for "leaf" rather than "lettuce).
The puttanesca risotto featured olives, capers, plum tomatoes, parsley, red pepper flakes, umami paste, and parmesan cheese. We also learned what the word "puttanesca" means. And it's naughty.
Matt did a fine job of fielding our questions while preparing three separate meals. He didn't even burn anything. And when the risotto was plumped and thick, and the combined scents of sausage, bacon, and peppers had us all on the brink of a hunger-induced riot, we got to sample.
Liking the Southwest Breakfast recipe the best (it was hard to decide, they're all shining risotto stars), I decided to make it myself at home. And it rocked there too. I'm a risotto prodigy! (With a little help from the folks at LeRoux.)
Note, this photo is actually of reheated leftovers. The dish is a little less creamy the next day, but still tastes risotto-tastic.
Some tips of the risotto trade:
1. Use a wooden spoon. A metal one, according to Burnham, crushes the grain and can ruin the texture.
2. When adding your liquid (be it water, stock, wine), add enough to just cover the rice. Allow it to reduce, then add more liquid, just enough to cover the rice. You get where I'm going with this.
3. Add warm liquid to the risotto. Have your stock (or water or whatever) warming in a saucepan on the stove as you cook.
4. You'll be adding approximately 3 cups of liquid for 1 cup of rice. If that includes some stock and some water, add the flavorful stock first. That way, if you end up not needing all three cups of liquid, at least the good-tasting stuff made it in.
5. Risotto is like a 2-year-old. It needs to be watched constantly, else it's likely to do something silly, like stick a fork into the electrical socket or wander out the door into traffic. Keep your eyes on the risotto. Stir it often. Don't leave it alone.
6. Taste as you go. It'll be hard not to, because all that stirring will work up an appetite. If the rice tastes undercooked or "kinda sticks to your teeth," as Burnham said, it ain't done.
Upcoming cooking demos at LeRoux:
April 28 at 1 p.m.: Pizza
May 12 at 1 p.m.: Frittatas
May 26 at 1 p.m.: Pulled Pork Sliders
For more about cooking demos at LeRoux, check out their Facebook page or the events page on www.lerouxkitchen.com.
Shannon Bryan is a feature writer for the Portland Press Herald and content producer for MaineToday Media's entertainment website, www.mainetoday.com.
And here's a well-known truth: Shannon can't cook. She's also ostroconophobic (in Maine?!?), but in a foodie place like southern Maine, she's determined to learn how to cook, eat, and order with the best of them. Read about her culinary crusade:
Pans on fire
She's also an investigator into all that's strange and entertaining to do around here. Those findings are gathered here:
Out Going: Things to do in southern Maine