Our college student, the musician (majoring in Jazz Composition and having a great time at the University of Texas at Austin), was coming home for the weekend. I called him earlier in the week to find out his requested meal for our quiet dinner at home on Saturday night. It seems like there is usually a big event going on when he comes home, so it was nice to plan on just chilling out, having a family dinner, and watching our Houston Astros play (if they managed to stay alive in the American League Championship Series).
Me: “Did you decide on your meal request?”
My son: “Risotto.”
Me: “What kind of risotto?”
My son: “Well, I don’t really like shrimp in risotto…just the normal kind.”
Me (wondering what ‘normal’ means in the risotto context): “Well, without a protein in it, it’s a side dish, not a main dish. Do you mean the kind with garlic and lemon and capers?”
My son: “Capers…oh, Mom! I know what we can for the main dish…”
In unison: “Chicken Piccata!”
We hung up happy, as we love, love, love piccata-anything. We had a plan.
With the menu chosen, I still needed to understand what “normal” risotto is; I haven’t made risotto without some kind of protein in it for years. I know from listening to my son rave that his Dad (my ex-husband and friend) makes a killer risotto, so I went right to the source: “how do you make your risotto? The main ingredients, I mean.” He answered right away:
Excellent! Now that I understood the “normal” context, I was able to concoct something lovely following his framework, sautéing about 1 1/2 cups of cremini mushrooms and a couple of chopped green onions in butter first, separately, and setting them aside, then, in a deep and heavy-bottomed pan, sautéed half a yellow onion and a ton of garlic, adding the arborio and toasting it quickly before beginning the time-consuming process of adding stock a bit at a time, which I had boiling on the back burner.
After all the stock was absorbed and the rice had turned creamy, I added the mushrooms, grated a bit of hard cheese from the fridge which might have been Parmesan or Romano, but I think it was more likely Manchego (it was in a baggie but not labelled, which is how we roll here at Glover Gardens and I hope you can still respect me). Rummaging around, I found the rest of a container of Boursin cheese, about 1/4 cup, and then threw it in for good measure. Some salt and freshly ground pepper, and then – Yum!!!
I turned to Epicurious for the Chicken Piccata recipe, using this one. It was great, and all I did to enhance it was to double the lemon and capers. That’s also how we roll here at Glover Gardens.
I had intended to round out this classic meal with steamed broccoli and more lemon, but forgot to buy it during the Saturday grocery run. What to do? I needed something bright, with acidity, crunch and contrasting flavors to complement the richness of the risotto. Rummaging again, I found a fresh jalapeño and one lonely carrot and decided gather a few more strange bedfellows and throw together a quick and perky salad for three.
Perky Salad (serves 3)
- 1 small green apple, chopped in small pieces
- 1 carrot, peeled and then shredded with the peeler
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
- 10 grape tomatoes, quartered
- 1 green onion, sliced
- 1 1/2 TBSP white balsamic vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and toss.
The result of this college-student-comes-home requested dinner was delightful, and I’m very grateful to be reacquainted with “normal” (delicious!) risotto. I’ll be making the crazy Perky Salad again soon – it was a wonderful foil to the warm richness of the risotto and the chicken and would go very well with grilled meats, too. The white balsamic vinegar is a real winner, adding the perfect tanginess.
And finally, the whole evening was made perfect by the results of the Astros-Yankees Game 7 of the National League Championship Series we watched together – Go Astros!!! The video below is from USA Today Sports, and beware if you visit – the haters are already hating that they Yankees didn’t win and ensure the “perfect” World Series matchup with the Dodgers, and their comments are really nasty. Sigh.
Well, haters or not, World Series, here we come!!!
Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook