Well, what’s happened since my last post?

I’m married, I’m a member of my church, I’m starting a new job soon… I could write for days. But, better to just get back into the swing of things.

As usual, I’m still cooking, and my focus continues to be a spin on bold flavors and trying to stay healthy (most of the time) and sustainable. So, today, I’m just going to share a recipe I just found!

Ginger Tilapia

More soon!

Pollo Garda

Season High: Pollo Garda

Ah… new frontiers.

I’ve never made risotto before… going it alone from scratch for the first time was a but unnerving, but great to take a run at.

First, the setup… my new cast iron skillet was calling me. I decided that I could build an order to the prep of the dish (which I only had partially envisioned… I wanted to see it all come together into whatever direction the ingredients took me…)

So, some low heat and a bit of butter and olive oil… just a touch. I had a couple of chicken breasts (seasoned high, of course!) that I had pounded out just a little — I didn’t want to flatten them, just get a uniform thickness for the roasting step — and I seared them off in the pan once I was able to see a bit of water dance on the side of the pan. From there, I moved them to a pan, dressed them with some rounds of organic lemon and freshly chopped Italian parsley, and convection roasted them.

Once I had addressed the chicken, I rendered some pancetta in the pan (after adding a touch butter and bringing it just to the point of golden-brown) and removed it to drain once most of the fat had melted away. What a gorgeous aroma… pancetta is just an entirely different animal from American bacon!

Once I had done this, I used the pancetta fond, excess fat, and butter/oil to flash-sear some asparagus. Once it had just the right amount of color, I removed the stalks from the pan and dropped them in an ice bath. A few moments there (to kill the cooking process) and I let them rest.

While all of that was going on, Joy had put together a broth of white wine, chicken stock, and zest from the organic lemons, which had been brought up to a temperature just below a simmer. I toasted the arborio in the pan, after evacuating some of the excess fats, and once it had a nice, nutty aroma — began adding broth and stirring.

…30 minutes later… chicken is resting, last of the broth is going in, and I’m getting really happy with the creaminess of the risotto. Once the balance of the broth was in the pan, I started charring some halved grape tomatoes, and began to heat the asparagus back up with a spritz of olive oil.

The fireworks started then… had a lot to do all at once to get everything to plate at the right temperature (the heating pad and foil rig worked really well to keep the chicken in the zone…) and I started by folding in a blend of fresh-grated cheeses: Asiago, Parmesan, and Romano. Once I had good consistency, in went the pancetta, tomatoes, and asparagus (which I dispatched into bias-cut pieces before adding) and folded everything together.

While all of this was going on, Joy had measured out some white wine, lemon juice, capers, oil and butter — some quick work of reducing those (in the proper order, of course) built a nice, small amount of picatta-style broth to finish everything with. So… risotto plated, chicken sliced and down on risotto, broth and parsley laid over the top, and some fresh Sartori Parmesan microplaned over the top to finish!

So… surprisingly… it went well. Risotto needn’t be scary… just time-consuming!

Pollo Garda: Chicken (roasted with organic lemon), risotto (Parmesan, Asiago, Romano, pancetta, asparagus, charred grape tomatoes, white wine, organic lemon zest), picatta broth (white wine, organic lemon juice, capers, butter), Sartori Parmesan (microplaned as garnish, with reserved Italian parsley)

I enjoyed a wonderful piece (or two) of pumpkin bread this morning, compliments of Marilyn, my lovely girlfriend’s mother. I love this time of year… the traditional spices, ciders, turning of the leaves – so much to draw comfort and inspiration from! The menu at CityGate is going to change soon, too, with some great ideas on the horizon: stay tuned.

After attending church yesterday, Joy & I went to her parent’s for lunch, after which her father, brother, and I did a little exploring. A couple weeks back, her father picked up a mini-forge. He handcrafts custom knives, usually from steel files (sharp-looking effect from the texture) and this was his newest foray into expanding his work. Heating, hammering, balancing the anvil, twisting the metal — there was a distinct feeling of something from the past; working with 3000° steel and shaping it was very impacting. I can’t wait to get back to see his progress, and hopefully lend some assistance again.

And a sad note… Nancy Hillquist passed away a week ago. She worked for years with my grandmother at Sherman Hospital, babysat my friend Breanne when she was growing up, and was one of my favorite teachers, as she instructed my nutrition course in college. She will be missed. Ultimately, she succumbed to breast cancer. Of course, many of us are familiar with Susan G. Komen for the Cure; funds can be sent in Nancy’s honer — donations can be made here.

I’m also proud that my primary employer — Bank of America — is part of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Million Dollar Council Elite. We offer our customers debit and credit cards that bear the Susan G. Komen logo, and the more folks that carry and use those cards, the more the bank donates. There’s a ton of other things we’re doing, as well. Check out what Bank of America is doing to help the cause!

On the plate tonight: filet brined in Worcestershire and garlic stock with a side of lemon-steamed asparagus.

My girlfriend and I have embarked on a journey to perfect a recipe that I came across a few weeks ago.

I felt that the pineapple-soy glaze wasn’t strong enough in pineapple flavor, nor was the it quite thick enough.

So, after some advice from Dave, a friend of mine that’s exec chef at an outstanding Naperville dining establishment, I added some butter and reduced longer and lower (low and slow — always a good way to go.) Seems to have done the trick.

Any ideas on some other salmon preparations?

The starting gun

27 August 2009

So many inspirations… so many reasons to explore.

Salt, pepper, rainy days, growing older, striped figs, white truffle oil, Wrigley Field, the Gospels, go-karts, and first movies, just to name a few…

More to come!