Words

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Friday, April 2, 2010

Yesterday...

...was April 1st. April Fool's Day. A golden, yet missed, opportunity to celebrate with a fool. No, not that kind of fool. A fruit fool. A dessert, one which I have not had in a long time. Generally speaking, a fool is made using puréed fruit, sugar, whipped cream and some kind of flavouring such as rosewater. The most popular fool is a gooseberry fool, but it can be made with pretty much any soft fruit or berry - raspberry or blackberry fool is quite common, as is rhubarb fool.
So why's it called a fool? Well, the Old English word was foole,  possibly derived, according to some, from the French verb fouler, meaning to crush or to press, as in grapes. The O.E.D. disagrees, however, saying this definition is "inconsistent" with the original meaning. They offer no alternative origin, though.


Of course the fool is generally a summer dessert (it's hard to come by fresh gooseberries, grown locally and not in some giant hothouse, without paying an arm and a leg for them). The weather has also not been very summery despite the fact it is spring. But it would have been nice to celebrate All Fool's Day with a fool.

So what did we eat?

We were going to do a stir-fry with some chicken. We had cubed chicken breast, onions, tomato, some stir-fry veggies in a pack from the supermarket: some baby corn, broccolini (baby broccoli) and snap peas with a little red chili pepper. We had mushrooms. We didn't have much in the way of noodles, but we had rice a-plenty. So I thought: how about a risotto?
Risottos are dead easy to get right and dead easy to get wrong. All you need to do is relax. Firstly, a lot of people will tell you that you need a specific type of rice to make a risotto. Well, I'm here to tell you - you don't need to worry. As long as you don't use wild rice, which can be chewy and difficult to get to the right texture, you're fine. Long-grain rice or arborio are your best bet, but basmati works well too.

I used a saucepan that was quite wide, kind of a cross between a pot and a skillet, and started by sautéing the chicken, covered, with a drizzle of EVOO. After the chicken was done but not brown I removed it from the pan. Into the pan on a med-high heat went the rice, about a cup, with a smidge more olive oil, followed by some chopped onion (2 small ones) and 2 cloves of chopped garlic. I let the rice sauté for a minute or two just to get evenly covered with the EVOO and to get a little beige. I took about 2 cups of chicken stock, and added some to the rice, a little bit at a time, just to sort of deglaze the pan and let the rice absorb it. Add in the chopped tomato, and add more and more stock by degrees to the rice, stirring all the while and not letting the pan get dry! As you slowly add the liquid and stir the rice not only cooks and absorbs liquid but starts to acquire a creamy texture while still retaining its shape. Here's the sort of texture you're looking for:


 In went the mushrooms, chopped. After running out of stock I added small amounts of cider to the pan. I would usually use white wine, but depending on what you have, cider or beer can be good too, or just plain water if you're not a boozer. Now I began to periodically check the rice for doneness. When the rice was almost there (you want it to be firm but yielding and not crunchy!) I added in the veggies (chopped a bit but not too much) and let them cook (they don't need but five minutes) with the mixture. Finally I added in the chicken and let it heat back up. If I'd been cooking for just me I might have thrown in the entire chopped chili pepper, but as it was, one person I was cooking for does not care for anything spicy, so I just chopped it and put it on the side as an optional garnish. I used some on mine and boy it was a spicy little booger. Good, but spicy. Anyway, when the risotto was done I just spooned it out onto three equal plates and said there ya have it! It was good!

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