Friday, August 10, 2012

Youngest Hawthorne's Birthday Dinner.

August 7 was Youngest Hawthorne's birthday.
I didn't need to ask him
 what he wanted for his birthday dinner.
I knew.

When he came to me and started with,
"Mama, you know what I want for din ...?"
I cut him off.

I knew he wanted his all time favorite meal, of course:
Risotto with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes
with a Parmesan crisp,
sauteed scallops on top,
with pesto and caramelized onions.
There can be no component left out.
The synergy here is amazing.

I don't cook by recipes.
I just get in the kitchen and get down and dirty.
Such is the case today.

You get no recipes.
You get the play by play
because that's how Rosie rolls and rocks.

First, I started on my Parmesan crisps.
Mr. Hawthorne grated the Parm
and I used a scant loose 1/4 cup for each crisp.

Rosie Tip #701
I've found that when grating cheese for Parmesan crisps,
a coarse grate works better than a fine grate.

Press into an even round.

Ready for a 350 degree oven.
I use silpat mats.

Mr. Hawthorne is grating about a cup of Parmesan for the risotto.
I'm pouring boiling water over the sun-dried tomatoes
and letting them soak a bit.
On the right are 4 pesto cubes thawing out.

Rosie Tip #579:
When I make pesto,
I make large batches since I grow basil in my garden.
If you keep pruning the tops of your basil,
you will keep the basil from going to flower and seed
and extend the plant's life.

My crisps took about 14 minutes to brown.
Turn halfway through.

Leave the not-crisps on the silpat for a few minutes,
then carefully remove to a rack, using a thin metal cookie spatula.

Additions to my risotto:
Bunch of spinach
Handful of sun-dried tomatoes, softening in boiling water
About a cup of grated Parmesan cheese.

I heated up a quart of my frozen chicken consomme.
I'm using the heated stock to gradually add
to the risotto, about 1/4 cup at a time.

I coarsed-chopped the spinach.

Additions to the risotto:
coarse-chopped spinach
sun-dried maters

I'm ready to start on my risotto now.
But first ...
... I sliced a large onion.
This is for the caramelized onions.
I'll work on these later.

I melted 2 TB butter and 2 TB Bertolli Extra Light Olive Oil
over medium low heat.
 And then the phone rang.
I was all ready to cook.
It was one of Daughter Hawthorne's friends
and we started chattin'
and the next thing I knew,
my nose was a-twitchin'
and my butter was a-burnin'.
Rosie  is easily distracted.

I had to wipe out the pan and start all over.

At this point,
poor Youngest Hawthorne
was quite worried about my ability to 
remain on task and complete this dish.
"Not to worry,"
 I told him.
"Just stay close by
and keep me focused."
And he did.

What happened was YH 
ended up cooking most of his birthday dinner.
He didn't trust me on this.

How many times have I done this for him?

Youngest Hawthorne made the risotto,
under my tutelage,
and he did the caramelized onions.
I love having a sous chef!
I seared the scallops and made the Parmesan crisps.

I chopped another medium-sized onion
for the risotto.
and added the chopped onion to the new mix of butter and oil.

At this point, Youngest Hawthorne, 
who was watching me like a hawk,
asked me,
"Mama, do you really need all those pans?"
Yes, My Little Grasshopper.
The pan on the right holds my shimmering chicken consomme.
The pan in the middle is for the risotto.
The pan on the left is for the caramelized onions.
The pan in the back is my scallop pan.
I specifically bought this pan for searing scallops
and I love it.

I added a cup of arborio rice to the butter/oil/onion.
Arborio rice, a short-grain, stubby rice,
 is the classic choice used for risotto.
Its high starch content brings a lovely creaminess to risotto.

What happened here was Youngest Hawthorne took over.
He gently assaulted the arborio in the butter.

Slightly toasting.
Just for a few minutes.
Add in about 1/4 cup homemade chicken consomme to the rice.

Cook over low - medium/low heat
constantly prodding the rice.

Keep going until the rice has absorbed the quart of stock.
Quarter of a cup at a time.

Near the end of cooking time
I like to add in a bit of Chardonnay.

And some cream.

Some softened sun-dried tomatoes.

And the spinach.

Youngest Hawthorne kept stirring,
letting the rice absorb the liquid,
adding in a quarter cup of hot chicken consomme
as needed.
Total time for risotto is about 40 minutes or so.

While my Little Hawthorne was working the risotto,
I melted some butter and oil and ...

...  added onion rings.

Action shot!

Give it a little sugar to speed the onions on their caramelization.

YH and I decided to give the onions a shot of Chardonnay.

Lovely steamy aroma.

Youngest Hawthorne tasted the caramelized onions
and deemed them too sweet.

Not a problem.
Chop up another onion
and add it to the mix.

The onions are caramelized
and the flavors are balanced.

Back to the risotto.
I added in the Parmesan cheese.

Caramelized onions back left.
Chicken consomme back right.
Risotto front right.
My scallop pan front left.

Cover the onions and the risotto
and keep warm.

Oh wait.
I added in some butter to the risotto 
and didn't stir it or the Parm in.
I just covered it.

On to the scallops:

But first, a scallop lesson:
  For proper sauteing, your scallops must be dry. And by dry, I mean dry both literally and figuratively. Literally, I patted the rinsed scallops until they were dry. Figuratively, the scallops are what we call "dry" scallops, as opposed to "wet" scallops. Wet scallops have been injected with a solution of sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) which helps the scallops maintain their moisture, plumps them up, and gives them a longer shelf life. It adds extra weight to the scallops for which you will be paying. The worst part is the chemical gives the scallops a milky appearance and no matter how hot your pan and oil, you will never be able to brown or sear these scallops because of all the excess moisture. The STP also changes the texture of the scallops (Rubber comes to mind.) and masks the sweetness and delicacy of their flavor. I would never buy wet scallops knowingly. Now, those of you who live in the heartland of the country, please, let me know if you can even get dry scallops. You can usually tell the difference by looking at the scallops. Wet scallops will be soaking in a milky-like liquid. Dry scallop liquid is clear. If you don't know and can't tell, always ask the fishmonger. Here's info on dry vs. wet. Oh, and for heaven's sake - if you're ever going to make a ceviche, don't even think about not using dry.
I rinsed my scallops, dried them thoroughly,
and peppered them.
No salt needed.
These are SEA scallops.

I heated 2 TB unsalted butter 
and 2 TB Extra Light Bertolli Olive Oil
in my scallop pan
and seared the scallops.

When you sear a protein,
you need to put it in the hot oil

RESIST the temptation
to push it around.
If you try to move it,
you'll tear the meat.
Let it sear.

After about a minute or so,
the meat will release itself.
It will be slightly browned.
At this point,
start turning the pieces over.

I took time out from the scallops
to check on the risotto.
Butter is melting nicely.

I deglazed my pan with white wine.

Ready for assemblage.

Base of risotto.

Cap with a Parmesan crisp.

Dot with excellently seared scallops.

Adorn with pesto.

A crowning of caramelized onion.

This is my all-time favorite thing to eat.

I love the flavors and the textures.

 There's the creaminess (and oh those flavors!) of the risotto.
The crispness of the Parmesan round.
The fresh greeness of the pesto.
The sweet savory onion.

One of the most delightful dishes I've ever had the pleasure to eat.

Youngest Hawthorne is happy.


Kathy said...

It has been my pleasure to eat this as well, and canIjustsay, it is stupendous!

Rosie Hawthorne said...

It has been my pleasure to serve you.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that looks awesome. Each of the components looks great on its own, but the combination of all the parts must be awesome. Thanks for sharing!

vera charles

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Thanks Vera. This is one of those dishes where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Synergism at its best! I love the flavors and textures.