Today’s OmNomNom: My life in recipes (Pt. 1)

OK, switching gears today, as per my usual Friday routine…I’ve had all the outrage I can take for this particular 24-hour period, so I’ll pretend the world doesn’t suck for a few minutes and focus on a topic that’s a bit lighter than everything else I’ve written about this week: food.

Actually, to be more specific, I’m focusing on recipes, because I have to deal with an abundance of them right now. I just got a new recipe off of The ObamaCrat.com blog, where Jueseppi B. does a great job of covering a lot of serious subjects, but he also hunts down some killer recipes from all over the place. The other day, he had posted one for Strawberry-Banana Bread, and that just had my name written all over it. So I printed it out, and set it aside on my computer desk, to be filed in my recipe folder at a later date. Today, while getting some papers cleared up in my office, I finally went to file that recipe away.

And that’s when it all went wrong.

See, when it comes to storing my recipe collection, I really shouldn’t refer to it as “filing”. There is no “filing” happening. What is happening is that I’m stuffing recipes – everything from index cards, to stuff I’ve cut out of newspapers or magazines, to labels from boxes or cans – into a blue notebook that I’ve had for years now. It’s a wild and wooly mess, just about bursting at the seams, and it has no rhyme or reason to it whatsoever. And the recipes themselves are a right royal mess, as well. Many of them are only legible to me, with notes that I’ve added or things I’ve changed being scribbled wherever I have room. I can decode them, but if anyone else ever tried it, good luck.

I have stuff in there from many years ago – things like my late grandma’s orange-glazed cookie recipe (something which I bugged her to give me, but never actually tried. I know they wouldn’t be as good as she made them, anyway), a casserole recipe from an old roommate I had in college, and lots of other things I’ve picked up from friends, family and anywhere else you can imagine.

In reality, I only use maybe 2 dozen of these recipes on a regular basis, for dinners and so on. But whenever I think about cleaning the old blue notebook out, I have yet to find a recipe that I would consider throwing away. I’m not a complete pack rat, but where my recipe collection is concerned, I am a total hoarder, and nothing ever gets tossed. EVER. It’s something I’ll use for a special occasion…something I keep meaning to try, and I will as soon as I have a free afternoon…something I haven’t made in a while and really ought to put in the rotation again. It’s pathetic, it truly is.

One day, I’m gonna get it together and streamline all this crap. Scan it, save it, get it in some semblance of order. That day is not today, however.

Until then, I have started going through the batch, one by one, and I am trying to find things that may have been buried in there and haven’t seen the light of day for a bit. I figured I’d take a cue from Jueseppi and share some of these recipes, for anybody out there who may be a foodie and likes trying new dishes as I do.

In some cases, the recipe I post might have a little story or history attached to it, and that is the situation with today’s selection.

I’m Italian-American, and my husband was born and raised in Scotland. Now, you’d expect me to be the chef in the family, since Scots are not exactly known for their cuisine.

In general, I do the cooking, and I am not too shabby, if I do say so myself. But my husband works in the foodservice supply industry, and has access to a lot of ingredients and information that most home cooks don’t have. He started to get curious about cooking after getting to know a lot of professional chefs in high-end restaurants and hotels. He began experimenting in the kitchen, and to my surprise, he had a real knack for it right out of the gate. Soon enough, he decided that he should eventually be able to duplicate any dish he had ordered while dining out (Scots may not be known for their cuisine, but their bravado is legendary).

One night, he and I had dinner in a very nice Italian restaurant while visiting some out of town friends. I had porcini risotto, and I couldn’t stop raving about it. When we got back home from our trip, my husband got sick of hearing me moan about how sorry I was not to live near that restaurant, because I wanted more of that risotto. Of course, he decided he’d have to somehow find a way to make this stuff at home himself.

He scoured cookbooks and internet sites to find recipes, and he tried a couple that were only so-so before he hit on one that made my mouth pretty happy. He tweaked it a bit each time he made it until we were both satisfied, and it is now my favorite dish that he makes. It’s not too complicated, but it is something that requires a bit of careful observation, to make sure it cooks properly. Also, the porcini mushrooms aren’t cheap, so it’s not really everyday dinner fare. But it has a really deep, rich flavor, and it is worth the time and money when you’re in the mood for something special. I eat it on its own, but it also works well as a side dish.

PORCINI RISOTTO (makes 4 servings)

  • 1-1/2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1-1/2 cups hot water
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups Arborio rice (or medium-grain white rice)
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup Cognac, brandy or white wine
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1. Place dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl, and pour hot water over mushrooms to cover. Allow 20-30 minutes for mushrooms to reconstitute. Drain, reserving the liquid.

2. In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion. Cover and cook until golden, stirring occasionally (about 15 minutes).

3. Add rice, porcini mushrooms, 1 cup of reserved mushroom soaking liquid, 3-1/2 cups of broth and the Cognac, brandy or wine. Bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium-low.

4. Simmer uncovered until rice is tender and mixture is creamy (about 20 minutes). Keep watch and stir often while cooking, and add more of the remaining broth in small increments if mixture becomes dry.

5. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Sprinkle lightly with Romano cheese. Serve immediately with extra Romano cheese on the side, so people can add to taste.

Hopefully some of you enjoyed this little journey into my world o’ food, and if so, I’ll post some other recipes/stories from time to time. For now, I’ve got some work to attend to, so I’m outta here for today. Buon appetito, y’all!

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2 thoughts on “Today’s OmNomNom: My life in recipes (Pt. 1)

  1. Chris, my heart-felt thanks to you and your chef/husband. The Porcini Risotto recipe now lounges in my file collection, perhaps to be attempted after another revision of my recipe for Brazilian Flying-Squirrel-Mango stir-fry. [It’s the ‘spice thing’ of course.]

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