"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Barley Risotto and Creamed Spinach--Take Two

Pre-Thanksgiving seems the perfect time to focus on potential side dishes, don't you think? Well here are two, and I'll give you a rundown on them.

I had high hopes for Barley Risotto. One of the chefs I used to work with at the Emerson loved the fall season--he would brine pork chops in cider and herbs, slow roast lamb shanks, and make a heavenly barley risotto.

This version? Not so heavenly. Don't get me wrong--it's ok, and it's a great alternative to rice. I just thought it could go further in the flavor department, and with any risotto that seems to involve using wine at some point. I served it with roasted chicken, and then I took the leftovers and made a barley soup.

On the other hand, Creamed Spinach was a revelation. It's the simplest of recipes but it's the kitchen magic that makes it fun (and useful).

Because here's the thing. Spinach has all this water, right? So you either have to squeeze the dickens out of it or just live with a puddle of green water at the bottom of your serving dish.

THIS recipe makes good use of a flour-based roux to solve that little problem. It's easy-peasy...one tablespoon of butter, one tablespoon of flour, and let that fry for a little while in your pan. Add 2/3 c. heavy cream and let that simmer up into a nice thick sauce. Add your cooked chopped spinach, and you've got creamed spinach. The water from the spinach just thins the cream sauce out a bit. No weeping! (You or the spinach.)

This is a plain Jane recipe and can be dolled up however you like with onions etc. It's the technique that's so totally useful.

So if you're in charge of a green side for Thanksgiving and your family likes food on the basic side, give this one a whirl.

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