THIRD PLACE! I don’t do third place when it comes to my cooking. When the weekend comes around in our house, I am master of the kitchen. I rule. What I say goes and everybody likes what I produce. Possibly because there is no competition but that is another story. But there was little I could do in this instance. Shockingly, the Wife and Stefan both conspired against me….
Stefan and Kees came to visit us here in Ireland. This was the return leg after our trip to Amsterdam, which I covered in The trip to Holland or “Hannibal Lecter ate my Dad”. Given the fantastic time we had over there, I thought I should pull out the stops and try to give the guys a good time. The Wife’s parents very generously donated their house in Tipperary for the weekend. En route to the shores of Lough Derg, we discussed possible menus. I, being the sly dog that I am, had the main course up my sleeve, with most of the ingredients either in the boot of the car or available in the Limerick Milk Market, where we planned to visit. I threw out an invitation to Stefan to rustle up a starter for the four of us. Stefan fell silent for most of the trip, his devious mind planning my culinary downfall. Little did I know that closer to home, the Wife was also plotting.
Up with the lark, I arranged breakfast and all the comforts one is expected to provide for overseas visitors before ferrying them to the famous Milk Market in Limerick City.
I then spent my morning carrying heavy bags, advising on cheese choice, the freshness of vegetables and the availability of various herbs.
My guests enjoyed some lovely Kerry lamb sandwiches from Peter Wood at Country Choice.
A quick tour of Adare village and two supermarket stops for extra vital provisions rounded out my chauffeuring duties. My cheauffeurees were well rested and ready to cook their desired contributions to the evening’s entertainment. I was a physical wreck.
Stefan had decided to use only Irish ingredients in his truly fantastic starter. While he was efficiently preparing his contribution, I tried to get some of my own prep work done. No sooner had I a knife in my hand than the question “What about a pouring shot of the onion?” Given that they are guests in our economically challenged country, I put down my knife and dutifully took pouring shots. Not one, but dozens. Pouring onions, pouring cheese, pouring shellfish, even some pouring shellfish stock reduction. Not to forget the pouring parsley, pouring parsnips (I kid you not) and pouring creme fraiche! Stefan was relaxed and ready to serve on time. Before doing so, he muttered something about out-doing Richard McGary and bringing the pouring honours (not unlike the Ryder Cup) back to Europe.
The Wife who sort of guest posted her wonderful Mum’s Meringue Cake in her first appearance as cook here on the blog also had a propensity to require photography. Mercifully, there is not a lot of pouring involved in the production of the meringue cake. However, this was mostly needed before I could get a look at my own ingredients.
With the last of my energy draining away, I assembled my ingredients (forgetting the beef) and took my first photo.
- 1 litre of good quality chicken stock
- 300 gms of risotto rice
- 6 Portobello mushrooms
- 3 small onions
- 25 gms of dried porcini mushrooms
- Olive oil
- A good handful of parsley
- Parmesan cheese to taste and to serve
I do need to give you a quick run through the process. Not because I haven’t done this before but because I took the photos and it would be a shame to waste them (particularly the pouring shots). First I brought the stock to a simmer and added the porcini. I forgot to take a photo because I was tired. Then I chopped the onions and Portobello mushrooms.
I put the onions on to sweat in some olive oil (I know how they feel) and fried the mushrooms in some oil and butter.
If you think I was going to restrict the pouring shots because of physical exhaustion, you are mistaken. Let’s kick things off with a stock shot.
We added the porcini to the Portobellos in the pan. Next we poured the Carnaroli rice.
Then I stirred the rice to absorb some of the oil and onion flavour before pouring in about a glass of fine Italian wine.
The slow and relaxed process of making the risotto commences with another pour.
The pouring, stirring and occasional tasting process takes anything from 20 to 40 minutes. With the rice approaching ‘al denté’, we poured in the mushrooms.
Next we grated some parmesan and stirred it in. Seasoning with salt and pepper, just before we poured in the chopped parsley.
Then we added some butter and left to rest.
While the risotto rested, we heated a cast iron griddle, added some salt and seared the lightly peppered steaks. This took only a couple of minutes in total.
All that was left to do at this stage was slice the steak thinly across the grain and serve on the risotto, sprinkled with a generous helping of parmesan.
With nothing left to pour, we served the main course. All agreed that Stefan’s starter was a winner. They agreed that the Wife’s meringue cake was a winner also. Finally, damming the risotto and flank steak with faint praise, they consented that my efforts were “very good”. They reassured me that it really was “very nice”. They even said “everything worked well together”.
I know third place when I see it.