Riches & things

It's a good thing Christmas only comes once a year. It's also a good thing there are leftovers, so that even though it only comes once a year, we can enjoy it for at least a few days afterward.
The things we consumed yesterday! Coffee cake and sticky buns, fried eggs and toast, coffee and wine, and—finally, a black trumpet and lobster risotto.

The risotto was the star. It stole the day, hands down, with flying colors, this new dish. We'd never tried it before; it was a recipe I'd found in Cooking Light, a gift idea they'd had. (I know, the last one was terrible, but they've had so many good ones in the past, that I figured I'd give this one a try. Besides, it's particularly hard to go wrong with thyme, white wine, chicken broth, and rice.)

The gift idea was to give a fancy jar of dried mushrooms and rice, measured into the correct proportions and tied with a satchel of herbs and a copy of the recipe. I had neither the fancy jar nor the herbs, but I did have a very expensive, intoxicating bag of dried black trumpets. We'd picked them up at a farmers' market in Camden, from the Oyster Creek vendors and their farm in Damariscotta. We'd buried our noses in the bag, inhaled, and handed over a big wad of cash. It felt kind of like we were buying the other kind of mushrooms, only these were expensive for their smoky, exotic taste.

Packed into a dressed up Mason jar, they looked almost royal, delicate charcoal horns stacked atop a shimmering heap of rice. I gave them to my father, and though I hadn't planned on giving them as a Christmas dinner, when we started feeling around late in the day for a meal, he immediately brought them up. Between the trumpets and the lobster we'd had planned, we had our holiday feast.

The fishmonger and my father lit a fire in the pit outside, while I chopped onions and garlic. We soaked the mushrooms in chicken broth, letting them expand and release, and heated up a large soup pan. My father poured in the oil and a bit of butter, and in went the onions, the garlic, the rice. (It was the wrong kind of rice, we discovered later, brown basmati, but it filled in nicely for arborio in a pinch.)

My father added wine, reduced it down, and then the mushrooms, thyme, and herbs. He left me in charge of adding the chicken broth, cup by cup, reducing it down, and stirring slowly until all was absorbed. Meanwhile, outside, he and the fishmonger doused the fire with a heap of culls. Lobster tails and claws reddened and charred, while the meat inside slowly cooked.

It took a while—it's a time-to-spare, holiday sort of dish to be sure—but what we ended up with was absolutely delicious. The rice and mushrooms thickened, warm and sticky and steaming, and a few of us, after oohing and ahhing and indulging, went so far as to lick our bowls. The next time you find yourself with a reason to celebrate and a lazy afternoon, I think you should give it a try.

adapted from Cooking Light, November 2008

Serves 6


5 ounces dried black trumpet mushrooms
9 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups uncooked brown basmati rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon thyme, dried
1 bay leaf
2 cups cooked lobster meat, chopped
salt & pepper to taste

Soak mushrooms for 30 minutes or until tender in 2 cups of the chicken broth. Pour the rest of the chicken broth into a large bowl, and set aside. Heat butter and oil in a large, heavy bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add rice; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add wine, and cook until absorbed, stirring constantly. Stir in mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf.

Add broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently until each portion is absorbed. (This process takes a bit longer with brown basmati, but so long as you keep an eye on it, you don't have to be stiriring all the time.) When all the chicken broth has been added and absorbed, season with salt and pepper, add lobster meat, and serve immediately.

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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.