Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Caramelized Onion Risotto

Caramelized Onion Risotto
by Maryellen Driscoll; Fine Cooking Magazine; December 2012
Serves: 4-6

Original Recipe
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lb. yellow onions (about 4 medium), halved through the root and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 oz. finely grated aged Gouda or Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 cup on a rasp grater) 
  • Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the onions and reduce the heat to medium. Cook without stirring until the bottom of the pot begins to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and stir with a wooden spatula. Continue to cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot frequently and adjusting the heat as necessary, until the onions are well browned, 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a 3-quart saucepan, combine the broth with 2 cups water and set over medium heat until steaming hot.
  3. Transfer the onions to a small bowl, cover, and keep warm. Add about 1/2 cup of the broth mixture to the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot with the wooden spatula until any stuck-on bits are released. Pour the liquid back into the broth mixture. Wipe out the pot.
  4. Melt 2 Tbs. of the butter in the pot over medium heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring gently, until glossy and translucent around the edges, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed, about 1 minute. Ladle enough broth over the rice to just cover (about 1/2 cup) and simmer, stirring often, until most of the broth has been absorbed (test by running a spoon through the rice; no broth should pool on the pot bottom). Continue to add the broth in this manner, stirring often, until the rice is tender but still has a bit of resistance when you bite into it, 20 to 30 minutes. (You may not need all of the broth.)
  5. Stir in the remaining 2 Tbs. butter, the cheese, and all but 1/3 cup of the onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately, topped with the remaining onions.

My Version
  • I used three big shallots instead of onions. 
  • I used the Gouda cheese instead of parm, which gave it a rich nutty flavor that was amazing.
  • I added some Cayenne for a little heat.  You know me....
  • I mixed all of the onions into the risotto instead of saving some to layer on top. 

This risotto was really good; I mean really good.   

I served it with Filet Mignon, sautéed mushrooms, and a spinach salad.   So good.   I actually made it for my sister Casey for her birthday.  Instead of “Cooking with Casey,” I cooked for Casey.   She and I need to get into the kitchen again for our "Cooking with Casey" nights.   The last time we were supposed to cook a fabulous meal together she had food poisoning.    We’ll be sure to get it on the calendar soon; she is a great sous chef.  

Red Wine.  We had it with a 2008 Northstar Walla Walla Merlotwhich was very good.  I usually prefer a Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel with steak but this was really good and lush.  I love velvety wines.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Happy Thai New Year

I absolutely love Thai food, and this is the week of Thai New Year.  The Songkran festival (Thai: สงกรานต์ ) is celebrated in Thailand as the traditional New Year's Day from April 13-17.  

Songkran falls in the hottest time of the year in Thailand, at the end of the dry season; April is the hottest month in Thailand (temperatures can rise to over 100°F).

The most famous Songkran celebrations continue for six days and even longer.  The most obvious celebration of Songkran is the throwing of water.  

The throwing of water originated as a way to pay respect to people, by capturing the water after it had been poured over the Buddhas for cleansing and then using this "blessed" water to give good fortune to elders, friends, neighbors, and family by gently pouring it on the shoulder.  Among young people, the holiday evolved to include dousing strangers with water.  This has further evolved into water fights and splashing water over people riding in vehicles.  Thais roam the streets with containers of water or water guns or post themselves at the side of roads with buckets and garden hoses and drench each other and passersby.  The spirit of holiday merriment is shared amongst all town residents and tourists alike.

The real meaning behind the water splashes is to symbolically wash off all misfortunes in the past year, thus welcoming the New Year with a fresh new start.  
Some people make New Year resolutions - to refrain from bad behavior, or to do good things. Songkran is a time for cleaning and renewal. 

To celebrate, I took my husband out to a local Thai restaurant, Sawatdee, that was having a Thai New Year celebration.   
Before we left, I was getting ready to take a shower, when my husband snuck up on me with a bucket of water, yelled “Happy New Year” and completely soaked me.   I screamed, then laughed, and then headed straight for a hot shower.  Of course he justified it by saying that it was good for me and it washed all the bad things away from last year.  I still can’t believe he did it.   

Anyway, back to dinner…….
I started with the Thai New Year Kir; sparkling wine and Midori which represents water and prosperity.   
Special egg rolls for an appetizer.
Thai beef jerky, papaya salad, cashew chicken stir fry, and Kanom Jeen, which was their green chicken curry with special long rice noodles which represents a long life. 
Thai dance
Fashion Show

The reason that the Thai New Year is on my radar is because I happened to be in Thailand during the Thai New Year in 2008.  It was a great trip with lots of amazing food and lots of water surprises; it was like a week long water fight.  Here are some photo highlights from the trip.....

Visiting a Buddha temple - have to have legs and arms covered despite the heat.

Thailand has the BEST pineapple I've ever had.  So sweet and golden.

Boat ride to Laos


Awesome street food - I ate a lot of new and different things and never got sick.
Driving the elephant.

Fresh lychee fruit.

Water fight!  The whole truck is filled with water.

They also put a water and chalk mixture on people's cheeks - I think it is supposed to keep you cool.

Gorgeous flowers.

Can you spot the monkey?

Amazing food.

Eating the Durian (stinky) fruit.

Shopping at the floating the market.

Ready for my Thai massage.  Of which I had many.  The massages were amazing and cheap.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Lemon-Thyme Sorbet

This is a great palate cleanser between courses or a light and refreshing dessert.  


  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 cup of thyme stems
  • 1 Tbsp. vodka
  • ½ cup Prosecco (optional)


  1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring it to a boil.   
  2. Boil for 3-5 minutes or until the sugar dissolves.   
  3. Turn off the heat and add the thyme leaves.  Let it steep for 15 minutes then strain it and discard the leaves.   
  4. Let the syrup cool completely.   
  5. When cool, add the lemon juice and zest, vodka, and Prosecco and stir until well combined.  
  6.  Let the mixture chill in the fridge for a couple of hours of overnight.   
  7. When ready, pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions.

FYI - The vodka is a trick I learned at a cooking class in Italy.  It keeps the sorbet from freezing totally solid and keeps it a little creamy (this works in ice cream and gelato too).  The Prosseco is just another fun and yummy ingredient I like to add.   You could also use it at the end and pour it over a scoop of the sorbet to make an adult float.  

I used lemons to serve the sorbet in and garnished it with a sprig of thyme.  I cut the lemons in half and squeezed them for the juice and then scraped out the inside with a grapefruit spoon and then put them in the freezer. 

When I was ready to serve the sorbet, I took the lemons and sorbet out of the freezer and let them set for 15 minutes before I scooped the sorbet into the lemons with an ice cream scoop.  

* If you don't have an ice cream maker you can make granite. Just pour the mixture into a container, place it in the freezer and use a fork to scrape the surface when it starts to set. Keep scraping every 30 minutes until it resembles "snow". It works well this way too.

** You can also use basil instead of thyme.