A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chosed to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.
For this challenge, we must make our own chicken stock and the risotto base. I was not worried about making my own chicken stock but more about making risotto. You see, I had only eaten risotto once in my life when my sis-in-law made it last summer. All I can remember was it tasted super delicious! Since then, I have been wanting to make risotto but was too scared to even start. I even bought ready packaged risotto (like those ready packaged rice) to start out but each time my courage left me. I sound very silly, don't I (even Pierre looked at me weirdly when he found that out). Those packets of risotto are still sitting in my garage. LOL! Now that the Daring Cooks had issued this challenge, I had to stop running and making excuses... however I did procrastinate on it until the last minute!
I had an idea of what kind of risotto I was going to make - Prawns & Mushrooms. Even watched a video on how to make basic risotto just to make sure I would not screw up on expensive prawns (I'm not even talking about fresh ones - the cheap frozen ones already costs about 12 €/kg). I had everything bought and ready to go, and then my laptop went belly up that very day (right after I got back from my grocery shopping). Arrggh! All my data, recipes, food pictures were in there! How can I cook when I don't have the basic risotto recipe to follow? How can I post on my blog? Yep! You got it right. FRUSTRATION is the word that described my state of being for the following days. As if it wasn't bad enough, someone up there decided to put the proverbial icing on the cake and the whole family got seriously sick with flu by late afternoon. Peachy or not, risotto was on tonight's menu. So I spat on my hands and rubbed them well for good luck like a baseball batter (Gotcha! Just kidding!), I went ahead and cooked it sans recipe, with just memories of how the guy in the video did it, crossing my fingers and hoping it would turn out good.
What do you think? Did it turn out good or bad? Did my ninja's training saved the day? Read further to find out!
Strike! I got it right - the risotto was done just right, the rice was thick and moist but not mushy, the prawns were cooked just enough to remain crunchy and flavorful, and go well with the mushroom. I can still see a possible improvement by using more refined mushrooms - morilles (morchella) or cèpes for example would probably make the dish a total bliss.
Don't be afraid to cook risotto like me. It's actually very easy - like cooking rice except one adds broth to the rice little by little until it is cooked. It's that simple. The great thing about risotto is that once you know how to make the basic risotto, you can make risotto with anything you have in mind or in your fridge.
To avoid having a very starchy or lumpy looking risotto, don't stir the rice constantly while it's cooking .
For the above recipe, I used my leftover frozen chicken stock from Poulet à la crème (Creamy Chicken). It's a very basic stock of water & chicken carcass without any extra ingredient. However you can also try making DC's Challenge Chicken stock if you wish.
My sincere apology for the delay in posting my mushroom recipe. Settling back to normal daily routine with a little one is hard and difficult after a summer vacation... plus I wanted to get good and precise mushroom informations, and it turned out to be a lot harder than I expected (partly because it's very different between French and English names).
I'm also so sorry for not having new pictures today. Here's a word of advice: when the new Windows Vista tells you that there's a problem with your memory card and ask you if you want to fix it, what it really means is if you want all your precious and perfectly fine pictures to be definitely and permanently wiped out.
As I was saying in my mushroom post, picking mushrooms was very exciting and fun - time just flew by while we were in the forest (to me it seems like the time has come to a stand still - just the gently cool breeze that blew at you once in a while, the sound of birds chirping... well including an occasional barking intrusion from the hunters' dogs.) I'm so lucky to have in-laws who love nature and who love picking mushrooms or else I wouldn't have the opportunity to ever experience this. I personally can't identify which mushrooms are edible and which aren't... it's Michèle, Patrick and Irène who guided me. Sometimes we will pick up a mushroom that we are curious about or not so sure of their edible state... once home, my parents in-law usually check out the unsure ones with their mushroom encyclopedia.
The hard work on mushroom trips is to re-identify them and sort it out by the species and throw out whatever that we aren't sure off or too old. This is to make sure that there are no poisonous mushrooms in it. Then we clean some of the mushrooms, try getting the worms and bugs out of the mushrooms by placing a plastic film over it to seal off air. After a few hours or overnight, all the bugs will come to the surface.
First an obvious disclaimer: picking mushroom and eating them can be dangerous, and sometimes deadly. Some poisonous mushrooms can look eerily similar to edible ones. You should not engage into it without taking all necessary precautions, including asking a specialist (in France, pharmacists are trained to recognize mushrooms and will traditionally help identify them, free of charge). Although I've done my best to be accurate, mushroom informations below could be inaccurate and should not be relied on when evaluating mushroom edibility or toxicity.
Judy guessed it right that I'm making a pie out of it while Gourmet Traveller,, Orchidea and Karin's sharp eyes identified: cèpes, Chanterelles and craterelles from the basket. To be more precise we had :
Creamy béchamel sauce
Creamy béchamel sauce
I didn't know a mushroom pie could be this delicious. The full woody flavour of the mushrooms just fill up your taste buds and the creamy sauce just heightens up everything. It was so good that everyone was fighting for the last piece ... hehehe ... guess who won the last slice? Bet you would never guess it.
Ok... people there is a mystery price to be won here ... whoever gets it right first gets a French specialty from this region and if the winner is a French, gets an Asian specialty instead.
The bring out the goodness and full flavour of this pie, it's best to use wild mushrooms, preferably: Craterellus or Black trumpet or Blewit or Chanterelles...or mix of wild mushrooms.
The past few days the weather has been rather wet, and after a big storm the other day we could almost smell the mushrooms sprouting everywhere in the forest. So yesterday afternoon, we went mushrooms-hunting, hiked up in the forest and stared hard at the ground as we walked, making sure we weren't stepping on some precious mushrooms. It takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the light in the woods and differentiate the moss, dead leaves, good and bad mushrooms. Mushrooms were everywhere - well lots of bad mushroom anyway. My heart beats with excitement like a little kid on her first treasure hunt... suddenly I spot my first edible mushrooms. Once you find them, you will most likely find the whole bunch sprouting near each other. I enjoyed myself thoroughly... it's like treasure hunting... you never know what you will find next - big treasure or small treasure. Well I can't say the same for little ninja who missed her afternoon siesta and was whining throughout the whole trip.
Look at my lovely treasure !
Can you tell what type of mushrooms I have in the basket?
Hmm...what kind of dish do you think will I be cooking these lovely mushrooms?
Psss: we have another bucket full of wild mushrooms