Risotto with Italian Chicken Sausage and English Peas

Main Dishes, Recipes, Side Dishes

Last week I posted a picture of our dinner after having made what I thought was just a simple but tasty way to use up some storebought Italian sausages I had hanging out in the fridge. But the photo garnered many “likes” on both Facebook and Instagram (follow me: keepcalmbakesouffles) so by popular demand, here is the recipe. I had a package of Open Nature brand Italian chicken sausages, but your favorite sausage of just about any brand and flavor will do. (Although if you have some bratwurst to deal with, might I suggest our beer braise with caramelized onions instead?)

Risotto with Italian chicken sausage and English peas

Risotto with Italian chicken sausage and English peas

Also, I chose to toss in English peas as they looked especially fresh and colorful on the shelf of my local Trader Joes (which, apparently, now stocks microgreens as well in case you wanted to bring restaurant plating techniques to your home kitchen). You could substitute (or add) fava beans, chopped asparagus, artichoke hearts, shaved fennel… if you dream it, you can achieve it. Longtime readers may recognize that the instructions are very similar to the risotto al funghi that we posted last summer!

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 white or sweet onion, diced

1 package Italian chicken sausage, sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces

1 1/4 cup arborio rice

1 cup dry white wine (2 buck chuck Chardonnay will do fine)

3 cups chicken broth (approximately)

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or a few sprigs fresh thyme

1 cup English peas (or frozen petite sweet peas)

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup parmesan, grated

Salt & pepper

Prep

Prep

First things first, set up your mise en place: minced garlic, diced onion, sliced sausages, bottle of wine opened and ready to go. (And peas picked out of their pods if yours are THAT fresh.)

Sweating the Onions

Sweating the Onions

Sweat the onions and garlic in oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the Sausage

Add the Sausage

Add the sausage and saute for a few minutes. I tried to get a bit of color on some of the slices.

Add Rice and Wine

Add Rice and Wine

Add the rice and pour in the wine to deglaze the pan. Stir until the wine has been absorbed.

Simmer Simmer

Simmer Simmer

Toss in the thyme and pour in the chicken broth, about 1 cup at a time. Let the liquid come to a simmer. When the rice has absorbed most of it, add more chicken broth, reserving about 1 cup (less is OK) for the next step.

Add the Peas

Add the Peas

After about 20 minutes or when the rice has just gotten to the al dente stage, add the peas and pour in the reserved broth.

Finishing the Risotto

Finishing the Risotto

When most of the liquid has been absorbed and the peas are cooked through but not mushy, finish with the butter and parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot.

Serving Suggestion

Serving Suggestion

White wine may be a more traditional pairing for risotto, but I enjoyed my portion with a tall glass of the Sam Adams Seasonal brew Cold Snap, an unfiltered white ale with the smooth brightness of the summer ale but a hint of spice to remind you of the best parts about this time of year. (Yes, I loved it so much at Dave & Buster’s that I bought a few bottles to enjoy at home!)

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Vietnamese-Style Stuffed Tomatoes (Ca Chua Nhoi Thit)

Main Dishes, Recipes

Stuffed tomatoes (cà chua nhồi thịt) is one of Martin’s favorite home-cooked dishes. His mom used to make for him when he was a kid, and it’s a dish that really takes him back to simpler times. So although I don’t particularly crave it, I was definitely motivated to learn how to make it. No Vietnamese mother writes down her recipes and every Vietnamese mother has her own recipe taught to her by her mother and so forth. But between Martin’s mom and my mom, we were able to pull together a hearty meal that’s easy enough to prepare on a weeknight but that also freezes well to keep for later.

Vietnamese Stuffed Tomatoes

Vietnamese Stuffed Tomatoes

At home when my mom prepares this for my dad (also a big fan), she includes bean thread noodles (bún tàu) and reconstituted dried wood-ear fungus (nấm mèo). Traditionally, the filling is made with ground pork, but we like the extra heartiness that a simple ground beef stuffing offers (and sadly, it is a bit difficult for us to acquire bun tau and nam meo here on the West Side). We also love our stuffed tomatoes extra saucy, hence the many tomatoes.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

4-5 ripe tomatoes (round ones, not roma)

1/2 lb ground beef (80-20 is a good fat ratio)

1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce or seasoning sauce x 2

1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic salt x 2

1/2 teaspoon black pepper x 2

1 teaspoon sugar (see below)

1/2 sweet onion, diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced

Preparing the Tomatoes

Preparing the Tomatoes

Prep the tomatoes, starting with the pretty halves for stuffing first. For the prettiest stuffed tomatoes, I use only the “bottoms” of each of the 4 tomatoes. Cut across the tomato (not down through the stem) leaving a little more than half for the bottom side.

Re-purposing a One-Trick Pony (Grapefruit Spoons)

Re-purposing a One-Trick Pony (Grapefruit Spoons)

Use a spoon (or even better, a serrated grapefruit spoon) to hollow out the tomato middles; toss these into a small saucepan. Set the ready-to-stuff halves aside.

Chopped Tomatoes for the Sauce

Chopped Tomatoes for the Sauce

Dice the remaining parts of the tomato (and any additional whole ones you plan to use) into rough chunks – skins, seeds, and all – and add to the saucepan. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper (adjust to taste). Cook down and simmer on medium to medium-high heat until the tomatoes fall apart. Taste; if too acidic, add about 1 teaspoon of white granulated sugar.

Seasoning the Ground Beef

Seasoning the Ground Beef

In a small bowl, season the ground beef with the other “set” of the seasonings above – 1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic salt, 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (this is a good opportunity to use the pre-ground, packaged pepper if you have it sitting around). Obviously it’s not recommended that you taste the raw beef (unless you ground the meat yourself) so try judging the flavor based on smell. Yes, I’m suggesting that you sniff the bowl. If you would like to use onions in your stuffing, mix them in now. We have made this both with and without and they are equally delicious.

Stuffing Time!

Stuffing Time!

Retrieve the pretty tomato halves and stuff away. The 4 tomatoes should use up most if not all of the mixture. Err on the side of over-stuffing, as the meat will shrink a bit as it cooks and you don’t want your lovely stuffing to fall right out of the tomato! If you have extra meat, just roll them into meatballs and let them join the party. (Sometimes we will prepare a full 1 lb package of ground beef for the same number of tomatoes just to have extra meatballs – be sure to double the amount of seasoning to accommodate!)

Sear the Stuffed Tomatoes, Meat Side Down

Sear the Stuffed Tomatoes, Meat Side Down

In a frying pan, heat the oil and saute the garlic until it just starts to brown. Add your stuffed tomatoes meat-side-down (and meatballs, if preparing) and get a nice sear going. Be sure to rotate the meatballs periodically to get an even sear on all sides.

Seared Tomatoes

Seared Tomatoes

You’ll want to let this go until the bottoms are browned and seared and the meat part feels like it’s firming up. At this point, you could flip them so the tomato side touches the pan.

The Cooked-Down Tomato Sauce

The Cooked-Down Tomato Sauce

Back to your sauce – are the tomatoes all lovely and cooked down? Good. If my tomatoes are a bit bland or acidic, I might mix in a bit of tomato paste to help it along at this point.

Handy-Dandy Immersion Blender

Handy-Dandy Immersion Blender

The easiest route to make this sauce more “saucy” is to take an immersion blender and let it whir through the sauce until it’s smooth and thick. Alternatively you could smash the tomatoes with the back of a spoon and fish out any stray skins that float around.

The Sauce

The Sauce

Pour the sauce into the pan with the tomatoes. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes or so to let the flavors meld and to ensure that the beef stuffing has cooked through. Serve over a steaming bowl of white jasmine rice.

Simmer Simmer

Simmer Simmer

Serves 4 (we like to make this for a weeknight meal so we’ll each have a portion for dinner and leftovers for next day’s lunch!)

For anyone wondering, this is my mom’s more traditional version with ground pork, ground shrimp, bean thread noodles, and wood-ear fungus in the stuffing:

More Traditional Style of Ca Chua Nhoi Thit

More Traditional Style of Ca Chua Nhoi Thit

How ever you decide to prepare stuffed tomatoes, we know it will be a delicious and comforting bowl to warm your heart on a cold winter’s night. The blended sauce was the brainchild of Martin and his mom, established through a phone conversation one evening when I was working late and Martin wanted to surprise me with dinner. He’s quite proud of it and as he should be — it’s velvety and packed with flavor, perfect for mixing into white rice and shoveling down by the spoonful. Enjoy!

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Risotto ai Funghi (Mushroom Risotto)

Appetizers and Starters, Recipes, Side Dishes

Risotto ai Funghi, Italian for mushroom risotto, is traditionally made with porcini mushrooms. However, with porcini mushrooms hard to come by aside from the foragers at local farmer’s markets, I whipped up this risotto with good ol’ cremini (baby portabello) mushrooms and it’s still a comforting, hearty meal for a cold night. You really could use any mushrooms or blend of mushrooms of your choosing, although I would not recommend using only white button mushrooms – those little guys are a bit plain in flavor.

Risotto ai Funghi

Risotto ai Funghi

Ingredients:

(adapted from this AllRecipes.com recipe)

3 cups chicken broth (low sodium or homemade would be good so you can control the seasoning)

2 tablespoons olive oil

10-12 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I used 8 oz of cremini and 3 oz of fresh shiitake)

1 shallot, finely diced

1 clove of garlic, finely minced

3/4 cup Arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine (Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc are good choices)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

In a small pot, bring the chicken broth to a simmer and lower the heat.

Mushrooms, ready to go into the skillet!

Mushrooms, almost ready to go into the skillet!

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Toss in the mushrooms, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and saute until they are softened and browned, about three to five minutes. Transfer the mushrooms and their liquid to a bowl and set aside.

Sauteing mushrooms

Sauteing mushrooms

Now in the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the shallot and garlic until the shallot becomes translucent, about one to two minutes.

Sauteing the shallot and garlic

Sauteing the shallot and garlic

Add the rice. Let the grains toast a bit, stirring frequently so nothing burns. I learned this trick from the instructions on the back of our favorite Rice-A-Roni box. Personally, I like the toasted flavor the step imparts on the final product. After a few moments, pour in the wine and continue to stir until all of the liquid has been absorbed.

Toasting the rice

Toasting the rice

Now for the oh so fun (not) maintenance of the risotto. Working on medium to medium-high heat, start ladling in about 1/2 cup of broth. Stir gently to keep the risotto from sticking. It will take about two minutes before the liquid is absorbed. Continue slowly, adding about 1/2 cup of broth at a time, to build the starch levels, the primary contributor to the risotto’s creaminess.

Slowly but surely

Slowly but surely

You may not need all three cups of broth. Or you may find yourself needing a bit more (in which case you could also substitute wine or water, if needed). Risotto making is not a perfect science. But once the rice is al dente, add in the reserved mushrooms and their liquid. Mix to combine.

The step that makes a mushroom risotto a mushroom risotto!

The step that makes a mushroom risotto a mushroom risotto!

Plop the pat of butter and stir in, allowing it to slowly melt and blend with the risotto. Hey, I never said this dish was particularly healthy…

Mmm butter...

Mmm butter…

Sprinkle with the grated parmesan. You’ll want to know how the salty cheese impacts the overall flavor before moving on to the final step – seasoning. I like to use pink Himalayan salt as a finishing salt, along with some fresh cracked black pepper.

Parm time!

Parm time!

I particularly enjoyed this recipe since its difficulty seemed to be just right. Some recipes claim to yield a finished dish in 15 minutes and some call for a full hour or longer, but for me, the rice had absorbed all of the added liquid after about 30 minutes. Also, I found this slow, stirring method to be well worth the extra effort and attention.

Not sure how my humble risotto would fare in Hell's Kitchen!

Not sure how my humble risotto would fare in Hell’s Kitchen!

Don’t let Gordon Ramsay’s relentless yelling on Hell’s Kitchen instill a fear of risotto in you like the show did in me. I believe in you! If you do give this hearty, mushroom-y recipe a try, please holla back and let us know how it turned out.

Gottsui – Sawtelle, West Los Angeles

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) is often translated as a Japanese “pancake” or “pizza” with a cabbage & batter base, assorted toppings that range from octopus legs (たこ, tako) to cheese (チーズ, chiizu) to bacon, and typically drizzled with the sweet and viscous Worcestershire-based okonomi sauce. And for such delicious comfort food, okonomiyaki is pretty hard to find in LA (though there is no shortage of sushi, ramen, and izakaya joints if you know where to look!). So when we found Gottsui in one of the busiest plazas on Sawtelle, we were super excited. It’s appropriate that this Kansai-based dish had found its LA home in Little Osaka.

Yosh - ready for okonomiyaki!

Yosh – ready for okonomiyaki!

I was so thrilled that I went twice in one week, bringing along different friends each time.

After being greeted with a loud and hearty irrashaimase ( いっらしゃいませ), we were seated immediately and presented with heavy, laminated menus with cute illustrations depicting each of the many, many okonomiyaki and yakisoba dishes and their toppings. This lowered any language barriers and made it easy to point & choose as needed.

White Peach Chu-Hai

White Peach Chu-Hai

On my first visit, we were celebrating the end of a long week, so the boys ordered steins of the Kirin draft and I had a white peach shochu cocktail (もも チューハイ, momo chu-hai), sweet and balanced with just the right amount of shochu (a Japanese vodka).

The Chefs

The Chefs

As we sipped away, we could observe the chefs preparing other diners’ okonomiyaki on the huge teppan grill behind the counter. Nothing like the sizzling hiss as the cabbage and batter mixture first hits the griddle to really whet our appetites.

Seafood Okonomiyaki with Wasabi Mayo

Seafood Okonomiyaki with Wasabi Mayo

With so many options to choose from, I was a bit overwhelmed but decided to settle on the Seafood Okonomiyaki, substituting wasabi mayo for the regular. And boy was I glad I did! Filled with bits of squid legs, shrimp, and scallops and topped with seaweed (のり, nori), copious swirls of okonomi sauce and pale green wasabi mayo, AND dancing bonito flakes, this was really heaven on a skillet. The base was full of wilted cabbage, barely held together by tasty batter. I’m not a huge fan of cabbage but I LOVE okonomiyaki. With flavors reminiscent of my very favorite snack takoyaki (たこ焼き), this was so good that I ordered it again on my return visit!

Trio Mushroom Okonomiyaki

Trio Mushroom Okonomiyaki

Martin ordered the Trio Mushroom Okonomiyaki, topped with a combination of shimeji, eringii, and white button mushrooms along with green onion (ねぎ, negi), nori, and wasabi mayo. Deliciously earthy and vegetarian, I really enjoyed this one, especially since Martin opted to add one very crucial topping – a perfect fried egg with crispy edges and an oozy yolk.

Gottsui Okonomiyaki - the flag says Kokoro wa Hitotsu, or One Heart.

Gottsui Okonomiyaki – the flag says Kokoro wa Hitotsu, or One Heart.

At each visit, one of the people in our group ordered the original Gottsui which comes with pork belly, shrimp, squid, potato, fried egg, and mayo. Basically, it was an okonomiyaki with the works. This was also quite good and the potato, which I was skeptical about, was an excellent starchy vehicle for the okonomi sauce.

Hiroshima Okonomiyaki

Hiroshima Okonomiyaki

The last one that I was able to fortuitously sample thanks to friends who love to share was the Hiroshima – the only okonomiyaki with a soba noodle base (not the dark buckwheat kind, but the yellow noodles that put the soba in yakisoba). It was topped with pork belly, green onion, daikon radish, and nori and drenched in sauce that was sweeter and stickier than okonomi sauce. The texture was pretty interesting, although the noodles made the okonomiyaki more difficult to cut into.

Served like this, I can see why people call it "pizza"

Served like this, I can see why people call it “pizza”

My phone now will try to autocorrect “ok” to “okonomiyaki” when I type up text messages, thanks to that fateful week of coordinating not one but two visits to Gottsui. Now that I know where to find some yummy, hearty okonomiyaki on the Westside, you can bet I’ll be coming back!

Love the cute menu illustrations!

This was mine – the Seafood. I love the cute menu illustrations! (Source: gottsui-usa.com)

Also, if you’re going to be in the LA area this weekend, be sure to check them out at 626 Night Market. They will be one of the many vendors this Saturday & Sunday (June 8-9th)!

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Check out Gottsui: gottsui-usa.com

2119 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

See their Yelp reviews here!

Roasted Bone Marrow

Appetizers and Starters, Recipes, Side Dishes

Roasted bone marrow has to be one of my all-time favorite comforting meat-treats. One Sunday as Martin and I were strolling through our local Mar Vista Farmer’s Market, we stumbled upon Dey Dey Farms, now our go-to vendor for grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chickens. The vendor stall lists their many products on a whiteboard and two words caught my eye — marrow bones. “DIY marrow?” I asked Martin. He was game (haha – no pun intended) and we selected a pound, approximately 4 cross-sections of the cow’s femur. The man behind the table told us that marrow is best consumed raw to really take advantage of its nutritional content, but I just could not resist the thought of gelatinous, rich marrow spread over toast.

Roasted Bone Marrow

Roasted Bone Marrow

Do-it-yourself roasted bone marrow is actually quite easy, and I wish I had learned that sooner. To me, this is the perfect hearty dish for a cold winter’s night.

Ingredients:

Marrow *

Sea salt & pepper

Dried parsley flakes

* For a light dinner or appetizer, we allotted a half pound per person.

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Clean the marrow bones. Some people like to soak the bones to extract the blood but I haven’t had issues with roasting them as-is. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both of the cut sides of the bones. Top with some dried parsley and roast for about 20 minutes or until the marrow middles break down into a glistening gelatin.

Hot out of the oven!

Hot out of the oven

Serve with a nice, crusty bread au naturale or slice a baguette into crostinis. Use a marrow spoon or just any small spoon to dig out the gelatinous bits and spread them on the bread for a heavenly bite.

You could also whip up a lemon-dressed parsley salad, the traditional accompaniment for roasted bone marrow. For further decadence, serve a bone (or two) alongside a succulent steak!

Stunning

Stunning.

Bon appetit~!

our-growing-edge-badgeI almost always order roasted bone marrow if I see it offered on a menu, but this was my first time making it at home so I thought it would be perfect for this month’s example of my growing edge – the part of me that yearns to keep learning and trying new things and meeting new challenges. Thanks to Bunny Eats Design for inviting us to participate in the monthly blogging event for Our Growing Edge. :3