Osso Bucco, Saffron Risotto, Asparagus & English Pea

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I love that osso bucco mean “bone with a hole”.  This dish of braised veal shank will make you melt just like the marrow is in the middle of bone. My osso bucco had a tiny small hole though that would be not let up the warm marrow. It was so deep in flavor and unctuous that the marrow thwart quickly became a thought of the past.

I used Marcella Hazan’s recipe for the veal shanks and paired it with the saffron risotto, channeling Suzanne Goin. A gentle saute of asparagus and English pea garnished the dish for a seasonal uplift. I get a certain level of pure pleasure shelling, sorting and blanching the green little babies. There is calm in the repetition. The osso bucco, like many stews and braises, was exponentially better after it rested in its juice a day. It made the best “brown bag” work lunch.

Duck Confit, Spiced Kumquat Compote, Brown Rice with Kale & Walnuts

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I had picked up a basket of kumquats at the Santa Monica farmer’s market one weekend and didn’t really know what to do with it. It’s yummy to eat it raw but not so much that I can pop the whole basket in my mouth. So I thought and thought. A savory fruit sauce for duck confit! Yes, a big ol’ pan of duck confit came about because of a little basket of kumquats.

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Arroz Negro

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I got my hands on some fresh, free and cleaned calamari. Hooray dirty job already done! I wanted to do em good and make something worthy. Hmm arroz negro? I’ve had arroz negro at AOC and absolutely love it. It’s a Spanish rice dish made with squid and squid ink and topped with aioli.

While I was trying to look up recipes on the web I realized I would need to get Spanish rice. I thought about substituting risotto rice (after all I had arborio, carnaroli and vialone nano in my pantry). Driving all over LA during traffic (there is always traffic) on Sunday is not my idea of a relaxing weekend. But I am trying to do a better job of oh I don’t know, being a better cook perhaps?

So I hauled ass and drove all over town. Here is how my Sunday went…

The only place I knew for sure that had Bomba rice was Spain Restaurant in Silverlake. By Silverlake I mean right at the entry of the 2, so practically in Glendale. And far. On the way though I purchased a fresh coconut stuck with a straw from a street vendor. It was the perfect thirst quencher on a warm day.

So I got to Spain and got my $10 1 kg bag of rice and headed off to Surfas. Of course I missed my turn and ended up on the frickin confusing and dangerous intersection of freeway that lives in downtown. Anyhow I made it to Surfas finally to get the squid ink. There were a dollar a bag. Then off to Whole Foods on Fairfax and 3rd St to pick up ingredients I needed to make the fish stock. I was a warrior on Sunday. LA traffic and drivers are very trying but I was determined to get everything I needed and take no shortcuts.

Of course I got to Whole Foods and they didn’t have any fish bones because “it’s Sunday.” The fish guy recommended I used the bellfish they had in stock which was priced at $3.99 a pound. Okay sure, I’ve done enough driving around for a day. I didn’t want to go across the street to the farmer’s market and spend 40 minutes trying to find parking (yes this has actually happened to me before).

I found one reliable recipe online on this blog which is currently based in Spain. The recipe is from Penelope Cruz’s The Foods and Wines of Spain. I doubled the recipe and but used more squid ink because the rice didn’t look black enough. It just looked gray. But the dish is called black rice. I used a total of four packets.

I did a few things differently. First off I marinated the sliced squid with parsley and lemon zest. I would have added chile de arbol but my mom had used up all my chilies to make kimchi. I cooked the rice first separately then when it was done I scooped it into oven safe dishes and also one cast iron pan, topped it with the squid, and baked it off for about 10 minutes in a very hot oven a la AOC.

One very frustrating part of the evening was trying to make the damned aioli. I have a horrible track record with aioli making. I always try to make it in a bowl not a blender. If I’m going to make aioli it better be made with my own hands. But this didn’t happen. I tried twice and both times it broke. I think my arm just gets tired at some point and I start pouring in the oil in too fast. Two cups of expensive grapeseed oil wasted. Booo. I was successful once though a long time ago so I’m not a complete failure.

So I cheated and used mayo and added saffron and garlic. A squeeze of lemon and a spoonful of saffron aioli later I got to dig into my delicious dinner.

Truffled Risotto

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You can only imagine how ecstatic I was when a very generous friend (*thank you*) handed over to me a truffle. My first truffle to be exact. First step was to stop by Surfas and get myself a truffle shaver, shiny and made in Italy. Then the Santa Monica farmer’s market early Saturday morning to pick up some potatoes for gnocchi, the base for the truffle.

When I got back home I stuck my nose into the truffle holding container and take a few deep whiffs. Smiled, put it back. Took out my new truffle shaver and admired it. Smiled, put it back. I waited around til Sunday so I could make the truffled gnocchi for dinner for Boy and me. I read cookbooks all day, drank some delicious raw milk and noshed on a boiled egg with sriracha. Then took a wonderful Sunday afternoon nap and dreamt about food. Perhaps snoozed one too many times (old habits die hard) and then woke up to realize maybe it’s too late to make gnocchi for dinner.

That’s when risotto came to the rescue. I always have risotto rice lying around in my pantry. This time it was Carnaroli rice.

It is a new variety, developed in 1945 by a Milanese rice grower who crossed Vialone with a Japanese strain. There is far less of it produced than either Arborio or Vialone Nano, and it is more expensive, but it is questionably the most excellent of the three. Its kernel is sheathed in enough soft starch to dissolve deliciously in cooking, but it also contains more of the tough starch than any other risotto variety so that it cooks to an exceptionally satisfying firm consistency. [Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan]

I kept the risotto simple with onion, garlic, thyme, butter, Parmigiano Reggiano, and chicken stock. In retrospect I should have cut the chicken stock with some water because as wise Marcella states “pure chicken broth becomes too distinctly sharp.” And also salty when reduced along with the added seasoning from the Parmigiano. I’ll confess right now that I am guilty of using store-bought chicken stock. Don’t hate me.

The risotto still came out delicious and I loved the individual character of each rice kernel. Perhaps a few more tablespoons of stock off the heat would have been smart because as you can see it is a bit thick. It should flow more. Ahh, so many mistakes. But one thing that wasn’t even close to a mistake was the showering of truffle shavings over the risotto. Sigh, pure happiness. I smile thinking about that moment – my first shave of a real truffle. It was pretty awesome. The perfume of truffle hitting the warm rice is amazing. Now only if I can get my hands on a white truffle from Alba I will be able to make heaven in my kitchen. I can already tell this is going to be an expensive habit. A very very happy expensive habit.