Lesson 40:Grains

Saturday, January 16, 2010

We cooked 5 different types of grains today: Long grain rice, short grain rice, farro, wheatberries, and quinoa.  

Each student had to make a recipe of rice pilaf and risotto.  To make the rice pilaf, I cooked a small amount of onions (about a tablespoon) in a touch of butter.  I added the rice and heated it through for a minute.  I added chicken stock, a bay leaf, a thyme sprig, and lots of salt.  Salt is the key to making a flavorful rice pilaf.  We were taught to taste the stock mixture and add salt until it tasted a bit over-salted.  I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.  It looks like just plain rice, but it actually was flavorful (and not too salty).

Next, I made a serving of risotto.  Like I mentioned in the previous post, I love making risotto.  It's so satisfying to keep stirring, gradually adding more broth and watching the rice become creamy and rich.  I finished my risotto with whole butter and a nice handful of parmesan cheese.  Not too long ago, I watched Anne Burrell on Secrets of a Restaurant Chef make risotto and saw that she vigorously shook and stirred the risotto after she added the final ingredients.  I have never seen this before and always thought that risotto should be carefully stirred beginning to end.  Chef Karen used the same technique as Anne Burrell and showed us that the final vigorous stir with butter and cheese off the heat makes the risotto extra creamy.  She was right! If only I had mascarpone cheese to finish it off (we called up for it, but it didn't get there until the very end of class).  If I was in my own home, I would have taken a big spoonful of the mascarpone to eat, but I controlled myself in class ;)

While we were taking turns making our individual pilaf and risotto dishes, each group worked together to make Farro with Sausage, Wheatberry salad, and Quinoa Salad.

The farro with sausage was by far my favorite.  It had lots of Italian flavors and just a hint of spiciness from the red pepper flakes.  I loved the addition of red kidney beans.  Farro is an interesting grain.  It is simply cracked wheatberries.  In this dish, it tasted like a heartier rice.  

I also love the crunchy texture of wheatberries.  We cooked and cooled the grains and then tossed them with a sherry vinaigrette and added tomatoes, scallions, and olives.

We didn't have much luck with the quinoa salad.  It tasted good with the lemon vinaigrette, scallions, and red peppers...but it turned out a little mushy.  I have never had problems making quinoa before (I make it all the time at home!) but for some reason I had a lot of trouble with it yesterday.  The first time I attempted to cook the quinoa, I used too large of a pot, so the quinoa was cooking unevenly.  In my second attempt, I overcooked it and it turned too brown and dry.  I finally passed over my duty of making quinoa over to Henry.  He followed the same exact directions, and it still turned out mushy.  I'm convinced that the ratio of liquid to quinoa was off.  

Dana also prepared a "dessert quinoa" that Chef Karen told us about.   It was basically like a rice pudding made with quinoa.. I never thought to do that before!!  I'm not crazy about bananas and rum in dessert, so I want to try making it at home with other flavors like pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg!

Today was less chaotic than other days and we actually got out early!  I ventured to the train station to catch the early 5:03 train equipped with lots of food for my family and some extra vegetables for chopping skills over the 3-day weekend!


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