Saturday, March 7, 2009
Title of the blog...
The title proclaims "stock," and so we shall have stock! As it turns out, vegetable stock is unbelievably easy to make by hand. The picture is not my best work, but it's difficult to take pictures of transparent objects! I tried taking a picture of the stock still in the pot, and I couldn't see the color - it looked like water. Next time I make it I'll try some more things and see what I can come up with.
The ingredients for vegetable stock are vegetables (root vegetables are best), water, and just a bit of spices. I used three onions, three carrots, a clove of garlic, five small radishes, and a pinch of whole black peppercorns. I just sliced all the veggies into large pieces (I smashed the garlic with the flat of my knife), covered them in the pot with water, and simmered it for about an hour. Voilà: stock. The radishes gave the stock a slight pink tinge which isn't visible in the photo. I've read that you should be careful with vegetables in the mustard family (turnips, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower), so I only used a few radishes, but the stock isn't too pungent or off-flavored. I didn't measure the amount of water I used, but I ended up with about five cups of stock. If you want more, just use more vegetables!
Now that I had stock, I needed something to do with it. Homemade stock only lasts a few days in the refrigerator, so barring soup, the only thing I could think of was risotto! I figured it would taste much better than if I used water or canned stock. Besides - my stock didn't have any salt. (There's no reason to use any - just add it later if you end up making soup.)
There was some exceptionally beautiful asparagus at the market this morning, so I took a chance (hoping it was asparagus season) and bought it. I also had some arborio rice from Wild Oats, since I'd been planning to do risotto at some point. There are many, many ways and theories of risotto, but I subscribed for this attempt to the "stir infrequently" method, and the result was wonderful. Don't let anybody tell you risotto is difficult - patience is required, but there are no tricky techniques here.
1 cup arborio rice
1 small bunch fresh asparagus (I didn't get it weighed, but my guess is between 3/4 and 1 pound)
1 small onion (1-2 shallots are even better, if you can find them)
6 small radishes (nontraditional, but I have to use them up!)
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock, preferably homemade
Parmiggiano or other hard Italian cheese
1 dried shiitake mushroom (you'll see...)
Wash and trim the asparagus, and slice it into small pieces. You'll want to slice smaller pieces at the thicker end, and longer pieces at the tips. Mince the onion or shallot and radishes.
Blanch the asparagus for 2-3 minutes in simmering water, adding the thicker pieces first, everything but the tips thirty seconds later, and the tips another thirty seconds after that. Taste a couple pieces for doneness - when it's almost as tender as you want, drain in a colander and plunge the asparagus into an ice-water bath to stop the cooking.
Bring the stock to a bare simmer. Heat about 2 tbsp olive oil in a wide pot over high heat, and add the onion/shallot, radish, and a pinch of salt. Stir often and cook for about five minutes - if it shows any signs of browning, turn down the heat. Add the arborio (you may need a bit more oil also) and saute for a few minutes, until the rice is turning translucent.
Add enough stock to just cover the rice, and turn the heat down to low. Repeat when it's almost all absorbed, stirring every few minutes. Keep adding stock until the rice is tender but slightly chewy (or however you like it) - this should take 20-30 minutes depending on your rice and your stove. You probably won't need all the stock. Add the asparagus and stir to combine, then add about 2 tsp of butter and 1/2 cup of grated Parmiggiano, and stir that in.
You may be wondering what that shiitake mushroom is doing on the ingredients list. This is definitely cheating, but if you crave even more umami flavor than the Parmiggiano can give (as I do), get out your microplane and grate some shiitake powder over the risotto. Try it over one bowl first, just in case, but it really elevates the flavor.
Regarding the other half of the title: there isn't any Bach involved, but I am performing my first Master's oboe recital a week from tomorrow. If by some happenstance there are any Kansas Citians reading this blog, I would be honored if you would come see and hear me perform several fantastic 20th-century works for the oboe, as well as a Baroque quadro sonata featuring one of my studio-mates. Don't worry, this isn't the scary kind of 20th-century music. The recital will be at 5pm on Sunday, March 15, in Grant Recital Hall at UMKC (5200 Holmes, KCMO).