February 2013

katie’s leek and butternut squash risotto

The thing that I love most about food is that certain dishes can be so tied to a place, to a moment, to a particular understanding of yourself, that when you taste those dishes again all of those memories come flooding back and you’re transported, regardless of how much or little time has passed. In my humble opinion, this is the one of the best reasons to record and share recipes.

Like my Nonnie’s pecan shortbread cookies, my mother’s red beans and rice, and Jordan’s steak au poivre, this risotto holds a special place in my heart. My friend Katie made it for my going away dinner before I left D.C. for Buenos Aires and again during our last year of college for an intimate dinner with a few friends. It is beautiful, seasonal and has just enough going on to keep your attention. Most of all, it is comforting and absolutely delicious. I’m thankful she gave me the recipe, along with several others from her repertoire.

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Leek and Butternut Squash Risotto, from Katie Norton
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups chicken stock
3 large leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced thinly, about 3 cups
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped finely
salt and pepper

One year ago: Braised Short Ribs
Two years ago: Alice’s Cauliflower Soup

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Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss the squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 40 minutes. You can roast the squash in advance, or do it while you’re babysitting the risotto.

Bring the stock to a simmer in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover and keep warm.

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In a large, heavy saucepan or dutch oven, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and saute until soft, but not brown. Add the rice and stir until the outside of the kernels becomes translucent, but the inside is still white. Add the wine and simmer until absorbed, stirring constantly.

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Add the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until it is absorbed. Continue to add stock by the 1/2 cupful until the rice is tender and the mixture has thickened, stirring frequently with each addition. Once tender and creamy, add the squash, cream, parmesan and sage. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy warm!

-Emily

pot roast for amanda

My grandmother, my Nonnie, makes a wonderful pot roast. So good is her pot roast that she clandestinely prepares it in her home kitchen and sneaks it into a bay area restaurant where it is then served to their very happy patrons. “Nonnie’s Pot Roast” it’s called on the menu and I’m proud to say that the “Nonnie” on the menu isn’t some imaginary Italian grandma, she is my Nonnie and she’s a damn good cook—though we’re not actually Italian.

When my friend Amanda needed a pick me up—and don’t we all know that sometimes the only think that can really pick you up is a good home-cooked meal—I decided to make my Nonnie’s pot roast. As it turns out, pot roast is one of Amanda’s favorite childhood meals, and I think she was smitten. Pot roast might not be the prettiest or the most elegant of dishes, but it will certainly warm your soul, and some days that counts for a lot.

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Nonnie’s Italian-Style Pot Roast
2 lbs chuck roast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 – 8 oz can chopped tomatoes
3 – 4 large carrots, cut into chunks (or a handful of baby carrots)
1/2 cup red wine
2 – 3 cups beef broth (enough to nearly cover the meat)
salt and pepper

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
2 lbs yellow potatoes (I like Yukon Golds)
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 – 1/2 cup buttermilk
salt and pepper

One year ago: Pizza with Pancetta, Shallot and Mascarpone
Two years ago: Passionfruit Mousse

Preheat an oven to 325 degrees. Season the chuck roast liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. In a large cast iron pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the meat. Sear both sides, until deep brown in color about 8 – 10 minutes per side. Remove the meat and set aside.

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Reduce the heat to medium-low. Saute the onions in the meat juices until translucent, 6 – 8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute a two minutes more. Add the wine to deglaze, making sure to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the meat to the pan. Add the bay leaves, tomatoes, carrots and broth. Return to a boil.

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If you’re making the roast on a weeknight, you can make the pot roast up to this point and refrigerate it then finish it in the oven the next day. Or you can cook it for a few additional hours until you’re ready for bed and then finish it for another hour or so the next day. It will need about 3 hours braising time in a low oven to become perfectly tender, and will happily adjust to whatever schedule suits you.

Cover the pot with a lid and place in a 325 degree oven. Cook for 3 hours, until the meat is tender. When you have about 1 hour left on the cooking time, start the mashed potatoes.

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Peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters. Put them in a large pot and cover with water. Season the water liberally. It should taste like sea water. Cover and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook potatoes 25 – 35 minutes, until fork-tender. Drain the water. Add the butter and beat the potatoes with a mixer or mash with a potato masher. Add the buttermilk and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Potatoes generally need a lot of salt to taste good – keep this in mind while seasoning your potatoes.

Remove the pot roast, carrots and bay leaves from the braising liquid and set aside. Use a blender or immersion blender to puree the braising liquid. It should turn into a thick tomatoey gravy. Season the gravy with salt and pepper, if needed. Slice the pot roast into thin slices.

Mound mashed potatoes on a plate. Top with slices of pot roast and carrots. Pour the gravy over the meat and potatoes. Bring some gravy to the table. Enjoy!

-Emily