Wednesday, May 26, 2010

OMG -- a rice dish to die for

Wow, did this turn out fabulous.
I'm not going to call it risotto because I didn't use the tedious technique of constant stirring to absorb the liquid, bit by bit. There's no way it could have tasted better if I had, by the way.

The inspiration behind this creation was my coming into possession of a few rare, fine seasonal ingredients, especially fiddlehead ferns, morel mushrooms and fresh peas -- all from local sources and purchased at Findlay Market last weekend.

I added a little bit of lamb sausage for flavor, a small amount of local asparagus, and a few seasonings including a pinch of that magic ingredient, saffron.

I cooked the rice with only a bit of shallot and garlic and used chicken stock for the liquid. A couple of minutes before all the liquid was absorbed, I added the peas so they could steam. In a separate pan, I sauteed the mushrooms, ferns and asparagus, mixing that in with the rice at the last minute.

If you don't have all these ingredients, do not despair. You can substitute portabella or button mushrooms for the morels -- in fact, I used some portabella with the morels because I had only a tiny amount of the latter. Fiddlehead ferns are almost impossible to find, so just omit them unless you have a source. Substitute another kind of sausage for the lamb, if necessary, or drop it entirely and use vegetable stock instead of chicken to make the dish vegetarian.

It's a one-dish meal, but you might also serve a salad and crusty bread.

Recipe: Rice with Sausage and Spring Vegetables
Serves 4

For the rice --
2-3 T olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio or other short-grain rice
3 cups chicken stock, or a mixture of stock and water, heated in the microwave or in a saucepan until it's hot but not boiling
Salt and pepper
Pinch of saffron
1 cup shelled fresh peas
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus more at table

For the veggies --
1 large lamb, chicken or turkey sausage, cut into 3/4-inch slices
1 cups sliced mushrooms, preferably morels
1 cup fiddlehead ferns (optional)
1 cup fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch slices
2 T water or stock
Salt and pepper


Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat the rice well with the oil.
Add stock one cup at a time, stirring, and bringing the mixture to a low boil before you add more liquid.
When all the stock is added and the mixture has returned to a boil, add saffron, salt and pepper, cover and reduce heat to low. The rice will take about 18-20 minutes to be completely done.

Meanwhile, in a smaller skillet, cook the sausage until it browns, about 3-4 minutes on medium high heat. Drain excess oil, remove sausage to a plate and wipe the pan until just a thin coating of grease remains.
Add vegetables and saute over medium heat, adding liquid as needed for some moisture, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to low.
Uncover rice about 5 minutes before it's done and gently stir in the peas. Cover again.

When rice is done (taste it), stir in vegetable mixture. Remove from heat and add cheese.

Spoon into bowls, adjust seasonings (add more salt and/or pepper if needed), and pass more cheese at the table.

It may sound complicated but it is SO worth it; everyone in your family will moan with pleasure and lick the plate. Seriously.

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