This little dish I had at Play, Food & Wine in Ottawa a while ago was listed on the men as: Grilled Octopus with Black Rice Risotto, Saffron Mayo and Cipollini. Now, I love octopus and order it often when I see it, but in this case, I probably wouldn’t have bothered writing a post about it except for the interesting accompaniment of black rice.
The octopus itself was, sad to say, not quite up to this establishment’s usual high standard; It was, to be honest, at less than peak freshness and it had been overcooked to the point that the texture had suffered.
The Saffron Mayo, which appears as the yellow blobs in the above picture, tasted quite nice when taken alone but the flavor was so delicate that it got completely lost as an accompaniment to everything else. The Cipollini, which are a bit hard to see in the picture, were very nice, but I am not entirely sure what they were. Cipollini is a generic Italian name for small onions, but it also refers to the bulb of a particular sort of hyacinth that is also eaten in some Mediterranean cuisines. In any event, what I was served in this dish was lightly pickled and it lent a nice tangy counterpoint to the other flavors.
It was the rice, though, that stole the show for me, not the least because it is the first time I have ever tasted this black variety. It was served, ostensibly, as a Risotto, but it was quite dry and much closer to the way I cook Risotto rather than the creamy, nearly soupy, consistency it generally has. The grains were very small and short, being almost spherical, and the flavor was lovely with a rich nuttiness over a faintly earthy backdrop. The texture was also very pleasant and had a chewy quality to it that you don’t commonly get in most rice varieties. The appearance is a bit alarming, perhaps, but I thought it made a very nice bed for the rather disappointing octopus…
If you have eaten at a Vietnamese restaurant more than a few times, you have probably encountered this particular item in one appetizer dish or another. These semi-translucent circles are made from a very thin batter made with rice flour that is poured into bamboo trays and then dried, usually in the sun. The trays are generally made with a lattice of bamboo and this leaves a visible impression on the dried sheets, as you can see above. The dried discs originate in Vietnam, where they are known as ‘Bánh tráng’, and I have always thought this is probably a better name for them, even in the west, as ‘rice paper’ actually has several different (non-culinary) meanings.
Rice paper was, for a long time, generally only available in Asian stores in larger urban centers in the west, but they have become much more widely available these days. They actually come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and there are even types with different textural and flavor additives like sesame seeds, or dried shrimp to be found. For this post, however, we will be focusing on the basic form, which is the most widely known and commonly available… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Rice Paper Wrappers”
If you read much about Japanese cuisine, or even just scan recipes, you can certainly get the idea that the preparation of the vinegar dressed rice for sushi is a very arcane, almost ritualized process. In fact, amongst Master Sushi Chefs the steps required to make the perfect rice for any given sushi preparation is as much a science as an art and can take a rigorous apprenticeship to perfect.
That being said, however, we need not be overly daunted by the prospect of making sushi ourselves. Today, I am going to share with you my method for making the seasoned rice. It departs from the traditional practice in that the vinegar and sugar is added to the rice as it cooks (rather than as it cools afterwards), but the simple process produces a perfectly acceptable sushi-style rice suitable for all sorts of further preparations… Continue reading “Quick Sushi Rice”
Before getting to any actual recipe today, I have to point out that what I call a Risotto is a type of rice dish I learned from my father and differs in a few significant ways from the strictly traditional. Essentially, a ‘true’ risotto is based on short grain (typically Arborio) rice that is first sautéed and then is cooked with stock added a little at a time until a creamy, although not quite soupy, consistency is reached. Indeed, rather than being cooked ‘al dente’ a proper risotto is said to be ‘al’onda’, or ‘to the wave’ meaning that, when the pot is tipped, or struck on the side, the surface of the rice should ripple.
My form of risotto is based on long grain rice and is, in culinary parlance, more of a pilaf. The rice is sautéed first, but I add the stock in one go and cook by the absorption method to achieve a somewhat drier result. In any event, whether you call this a risotto, or an Italian-style pilaf, with the inclusion of saffron and truffle oil and in addition to the lobster, today’s dish is going to be truly decadent… Continue reading “Lobster Risotto with Saffron and Truffle Oil.”
I think I can safely say that rarely a week goes by that I don’t use Mirin in the preparation of at least one meal. It is invaluable as a marinade component and a glaze, as well as being a great addition to steaming mediums, broths, and stir-fry and dipping sauces. Indeed, I have listed it as an ingredient in so many recipes published on my blog that is high time that I gave this useful foodstuff a proper introduction…
Essentially, a true Mirin is a brewed rice ‘wine’, similar to the Japanese beverage Sake, wherein the starch rice is converted into a sugar by a Koji mold (Aspergillus oryzae) and, during this same process, fermented to produce alcohol. In Sake, the fermentation will consume all, or most, of the sugars but in Mirin, a good deal remains and thus it may be described as a ‘naturally sweet rice wine’.
Products sold as Mirin that destined for the kitchen (as opposed to being purely potable) may be ‘true’ Mirins, but they may also be artificially sweetened Sake, or else non-brewed concoctions that have the taste, and usually not the alcohol content, of proper Mirin. The three products we will look at here are chosen because they provide a pretty good illustration of the range of purchasing possibilities… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Mirin”
Quite some time ago, I posted a version of Jambalaya I cooked myself. My wife and I both make the dish from time to time but, until recently, I had only once had it served to me outside the home and this was at Vineyards Wine Bar and Bistro , in Ottawa. That place is not a Cajun restaurant and their interpretation was not, I am afraid to say, particularly impressive.
On my last trip to the capital, I paid a visit to Fat Tuesdays as I had long wanted to sample their ‘Oyster Po’boy’. Unfortunately, that particular delicacy still remains on my ‘bucket list’, as I discovered that the restaurant has now discontinued the item, apparently due to some sort of supply issues with the buns they used. In any event, though disappointed, I saw that Jambalaya was on the menu and, as Fat Tuesdays is most definitely a Cajun place, I decided to see what they could do with the dish… Continue reading “Notable Nosh: Jambalya (Real Cajun style?)”
I was shopping for some corn syrup to use in a recipe when I spied this product on our local store shelf. It is the first time I have ever seen, or heard of it…
The label touts this syrup as being a healthier alternative to other sweeteners and, while I suspect that this may be true when it comes to the ubiquitous High Fructose Corn Syrup, I take the rather ambitious claim with a grain of salt, as it were. Anyway, it certainly sounded interesting, and definitely worth a try… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Brown Rice Syrup”
When I featured Chinese Preserved Pork-Belly in a recent ‘Foodstuffs’ post, I said that I planned to use some of it in a very common way by steaming it over rice. This dish, which permits of countless variations, is a very ‘homey’ sort of preparation and many people add the pork, along with other ingredients, to rice in electric steamers to make a quick, simple meal. I am using a clay-pot to steam my rice and I am departing from the more standard method by using pre-cooked rice, thus necessitating a fairly short cooking time. In addition to the pork, I will be adding some greens and other flavorful ingredients… Continue reading “Steamed Rice with Preserved Pork-Belly and Egg”
When I featured a commercial brand of Tum Yum Soup Paste in a recent post, it struck me that the paste, in addition to a number of non-soup applications, might be nice flavor base for fried rice and, since I had half a fresh pineapple, I thought I might combine the two.
Serving fried rice in a pineapple shell is not uncommon, especially in Thai restaurants, and, besides being attractive, it is the sort of dish that permits an almost endless range of permutations. Some of the pineapple flesh is always included of course, and shrimp seems to be quite a popular addition. Sometimes, the rice is very plainly seasoned but I also see Thai curry pastes being used as a flavor base and, for this exercise, the Tom Yum paste should work admirably as well. Instead of shrimp, I am going to use some Cuttlefish flesh I have frozen from a previous purchase, along with black mushrooms, some diced ham, and a little green and red bell pepper… Continue reading “Thai-Style Pineapple Fried Rice”
One of my earliest blog recipes was for a Paella with Seafood and Chicken that I posted almost a year ago. Paella is so commonly served with shellfish of some sort that many would regard it as being a seafood dish but, in fact, that isn’t really the case at all. In Spain, Valencia is considered the spiritual home of Paella and the traditional version there, while still based on saffron infused rice, contains snails, usually rabbit, and sometimes chicken or duck. Beans, often a variety, are always included (frequently along with other green vegetables) and tomatoes are required, although the amounts used vary considerably.
I have been meaning to try a Valencian style Paella for ages now but, sadly, it has been about two years since I have seen rabbit in our local grocery store and I have given up hope of obtaining any at present. Still, some Paellas are made in Valencia using only snails so I figure that a ‘bunny-less’ one containing just snails and chicken should still be alright. Beyond that, I will stick to traditional ingredients (although I prefer to use long-grained rather than short-grained rice), but I will make one departure from tradition in the method of cooking… Continue reading “Paella Valenciana”