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Mushroom and Sweet Potato Risotto, Roasted Lemon Chicken, Cholent, and Sol Del Chile Cabernet Sauvignon

This past week we were in the mood of more warm comfort food, and that was exactly what we got when we made a pot of Mushroom and Sweet Potato Risotto. Once again, Italy’s creme rice dish, showed its muscle and nutty flavors.  We love Risotto, and have no problem enjoying it for days or weeks on end. Once again, I must stress that our way to make the risotto work for a Sabbath meal entails a few extra steps.

Risotto Recipe:
2 tsp of olive oil
3 onions diced
16 oz of sliced mushrooms
2 large sweet potatoes cubed – roasted in the oven
4 or 5 garlic cloves
2 tsp of olive oil
2 cups of Arborio rice
1 cup of white wine
5 cups of chicken/vegetable stock
2 cups of Rice Dream before reheating (if the stock is all used up)

  1. Peel, cube, and cook the sweet potato, either by roasting them in an oven at 400 degrees, or by sweating them in a separate pan till they are soft.
  2. Saute onions in the risotto pot until they are browned. Then add 1 pound of brown mushrooms and start to sweat them until they start to release their brown juice.
  3. Then add the crushed cloves of garlic until they melt and meld into the onions and mushrooms.
  4. Then remove the onions and mushrooms and place to the side.
  5. Add some more oil to the risotto pot and wait till it heats
  6. Add the Arborio rice to the heated oil and wait till you start to smell the rice toast slightly
  7. Then starts the dance of hydration to dry to hydration to dry and – well you get the point.
    1. Once the rice is well coated with the oil and just starting to toast, add in the one cup of white wine
    2. Add broth from the pot on the stove, one cup at a time,
    3. Continue to do so until the rice is just starting to get tender, do not go further.
  8. Once you turn off the heat, add back in the mushrooms, onions, and sweet potatoes. We do this at the end, to make sure the rice gets all the attention it needs, thereby assuring the fact that the rice, and only the rice, is being targeted by the warm liquid.
  9. Let the pots cool and place both the leftover liquid and the risotto in the refrigerator. The next day, when it is time to warm up the risotto, place cups of the liquid, or rice milk if you have no more liquid, until the rice does not accept any more liquid. This works because the pot is cold, and the liquid is simply being absorbed by the starch.
  10. Place the closed/sealed risotto pot into the oven, set at 240 degrees, and let it stay there for at least 1 1/2 hour, but not much more.

To go along with the risotto my wife made her fantastic lemon roasted chicken, which we had with some fresh green salad. The combination worked out great, while the wine I chose fine. I wanted to try the Sol Del Chile again, as I had a bottle around, and I wanted to know where the bottle was heading. The bottle is clearly peaking or a bit behind, so drink up! Also, I tried a bit of the 2008 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc that I thought was bad, but turned out to be a bit better than I first thought, though not that much more improved.

Finally, we had Cholent on Saturday with leftovers of the Sol de Chile and it was OK, but the cholent was better. The wine started off a bit too dirt forward, but like the last time, it got better with more air, so that the fruit could show itself, while melding with the dirt and coffee.

The wine note follows below:

2008 Sol Del Chile Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B+
The nose on this bright dark ruby colored wine is filled with mounds of loamy dirt, bramble, raspberry, red cherry, currant, light oak, vanilla, and coffee. As it opens the wine shows dark cherry, black currant, and much more loamy dirt. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine has currant, dark cherry, loamy dirt, raspberry, a hint of black berry, along with lovely tannins that create a full and mouth coating mouth. The mid palate is balanced with loamy dirt, nice tannin, oak, and nice acid. The finish is long with dark cherry, dirt, oak, currant, and coffee, with nice tannin, acid, loamy dirt, and dark cherry lingering.

Shiitake Mushroom & Sweet Potato Risotto along with Goose Bay Viognier

This past week we were looking for an easy and slow weekend, so we opted to stay home and cook a lovely risotto. We have made risotto many times before, but this one was the best by far.  The main difference this time was that we fried the shiitake mushrooms separately in a large pan, and we browned the sweet potatoes and onions in another pan, and then before the last round of water, we put the fried shiitake mushrooms and pan fried sweet potatoes into the risotto mixture. Initially it looked like there were too many mushrooms, but when we warmed it up the next day the smokiness of the fried mushrooms permeated the flavor and they shrunk a bit more in the pot, making for a lovely looking and tasting dish.

The shiitake mushrooms stayed dark brown while also keeping their texture and structure. The sweet potatoes were cubed a bit large, so they too remained whole but soft when reheating for the Friday Night Shabbos meal. As usual, do not complete the risotto the night before, instead leave that for Friday. Friday before sunset add in a cup or a cup and a half of rice milk and mix the dish up well. Then throw it cold in a 225 degree oven for an hour+ and it should come out warm and delicious.

Shiitake Mushroom & Sweet Potato Risotto Recipe
Three sliced onions
1tbl of Canola Oil for every round of browning
2lb of shiitake mushrooms – sliced
Sea Salt on each batch of onions, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes – to help with browning
2 yellow sweet potato
4 or more cups of broth brought to boil and then kept warm on the stove in a small sauce pan
1 to 2 tbl of olive oil
2 cups of Arborio rice
1 cup of dry white wine
1 to 2 cups of rice milk – USE only before shabbos

Dice half the onions (1 and a half onion), slice the mushrooms and place in separate containers. Also dice the other half of the onions, and cube the sweet potatoes, and place in containers. Now in one pan heat up 1 tablespoon of Canola oil and sauté the onions until golden brown. Then add the mushrooms in a single layer at a time, and sprinkle them with sea salt. Make sure to not overcrowd the pan, so that you brown the mushrooms instead of steam them. After the mushrooms get nice and browned and slightly crispy pull them out.  Add another tablespoon of Canola oil (making sure to not have the oil splatter as the pan is VERY hot at this point), and brown the next batch of mushrooms. Once all the mushrooms are done, remove them, and add in oil once more and then start on the sweet potatoes. You want them to get a bit browned, but more important than caramelization, is that they start to smell sweet as they give off their starch and break down the sugars. Remove them from the pan once they start to get very soft.

Then in a small sauce pan bring the 4 cups of broth to a boil and then keep them on the fire on a low simmer, for use in a few minutes. Now, in a large Dutch oven or Pot add a tablespoon or two of Olive oil and heat it up. Then add in the other diced onion(s) and sauté them until soft. Once browned, throw in the spices and herbs and the two cups of rice. Make sure the coat the rice with oil and once they start to dry and stick to the pot, throw in a cup of dry white wine. Once that is gone, put in a cup of water at a time, from the sauce pan, until it too is soaked up by the rice. Once the rice has soaked up three cups of water and the wine, throw in the mushrooms and sweet potato. Mix them all around until they are correctly integrated with the rice, and then throw in the last cup of water.

At this point the dish is complete and let cool over night. On Friday afternoon, remove the pot from the refrigerator and let the pot come to room temperature. Next, add in the 1 to 2 cups of rice milk, depending on how the mixture is setting up and place in an oven at 225 degrees. One to two hours later the risotto is ready.

When I smelled the risotto and the lovely smoky mushroom smell oozing out of it on Thursday night, I knew I needed a white wine with an equally powerful perfume and aroma. I went into the cellar and brought out a bottle of 2007 Goose Bay Viognier. I have spoken often about Viognier and about this particular bottle before. It has a lovely perfumed nose, but only after two hours of air time. Well folks, I have bad news, that nose is gone and so is the wine – mostly. It is still alive, but the nose and the lovely floral aspects are all but gone, which is a real shame. I only have one more bottle, so it is not too bad for me. Drink this up if you have more.

The wine note follows below:

2007 Goose Bay Viognier – Score: B to B+
This wine is on its way out 😦 The perfume nose lasts for only a brief moment, and even then it is not overpowering as it has in the past. The nose on this light gold colored wine has peach, mint, lychee, grapefruit, rich and spicy oak, slight perfume, and citrus. The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts off being oily and perfumed with peach, grapefruit, and lychee, but that quickly dissipates. The mid palate is bracing with acid and oak, and slightly out of balance. The finish is long with more acid, rich and spicy oak, and lemon tartness. As the wine airs, it loses much of its fruit and becomes a bit more balanced but also more like a single trick pony that is not so awesome. The mouth turns to quince, grapefruit, and jasmine. The mouth softens with less bracing acidity, but it too is short lived. Soon the wine becomes and oak bomb with lemon and slight notes of grapefruit. Drink up!

Sweet Potato/Parsnip Risotto, Honey/Pepper Flake Roasted Chicken, and Four Gates Pinot Noir

We were not interested in another red meat meal, yet with the cold front lingering we were interested in a warm comfort food.  So we went to one of our old standbys – risotto.  I changed the risotto recipe this week to precook the root vegetables before integrating them into the dish.  There is a major issue with cooking food for Friday Night; the fact that the food needs to be reheated.  Its rears its ugly head for Risotto, where the creaminess that comes from extracting the rice’s innate scratches, is hard pressed to duplicate in a Friday Night situation.  Risotto is normally finished with cheese or butter, which of course causes issues with a meat dinner, but also makes it difficult to replicate in an oven.  In the past, I have been successful with cooking the risotto one or two cups of liquid short, letting it cool down and refrigerate it over night.  Then take it out the next day, let it come to room temperature, and then add in the last amount of liquid, plus some fat of some sort, and throw it in a low temperature oven, in a ceramic like dish.  The ceramic dish helps to force the heat into the dish and if it has a good enough cover, it helps to keep the heat from escaping.

So in our past attempt at making risotto, which was a semi-failure, we pointed out that adding in the raw vegetables late to the party was a mistake.  This time around, I sweated them in a separate pot, and added them to the dish at the end, knowing there would be more time in the oven to make them all work together.  This time the dish worked out great, proving that either roasting or sweating the vegetables ahead of time, is a far better approach.

The recipe can be found here, where we roasted the root vegetables ahead of time.  In the end there are really on two things in my recipe you can change; the vegetable and its preparatory heating.  In our case this week we chose a mixture of Sweet Potato and parsnip, cubed into the same shape, and sweated in a pot until almost tender.  The rest of the recipe stands true (albeit sans mushroom), and a cup of liquid short.

Friday day remove the risotto early to let it come to room temperature, add in more hot liquid and a bit of oil, mix it around, and place it in the oven right before Sabbath.  My wife made a wonderful roasted cut up chicken that is spiced with honey, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes.  The meal was rounded out with a lovely fresh green salad.

Lemon Rosemary Pepper Flake Roasted Chicken Recipe
1 cut up chicken
2 tbsp  lemon juice
3 tbsp of honey
2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp red pepper flakes

Clean the cut up chicken and then place the chicken in a roasting pan.  First put the lemon juice all over the chicken and then place honey all over the chicken as well.  With the chicken glistening with both lemon juice and honey, shake the rosemary and red pepper flakes all over the chicken as well.  Bake the chicken covered at 325 degrees for 1 hour.  After one hour, remove the white chicken from the roasting pan.  Leave the dark chicken in the roasting pan for another hour, and then remove the pan and let cool down, before placing in the refrigerator.

To match the chicken and risotto, I pulled out a wine that I have not had in a bit of a while, a Four Gates Pinot Noir N.V. (2005 and 2006 vintages).  The wine has evolved since we last tasted it.  It is rounder with more oak, clean red fruit, and tart red cherry. The wine paired so nicely with the risotto and roasted chicken.

The wine note follows below:

N.V. Four Gates Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz CA – Score: A-
The nose on this ruby colored wine, with a hint of orange, is rich with oak, raspberry, Kirsch cherry, coffee, and a hint of plum. The mouth on this medium bodied wine rounds out nicely, after an hour of air, and the tannins are nicely integrated, giving the wine a full velvety mouth.  The mouth is also concentrated with a lovely tart cherry, raspberry, and oak.  The mid palate is balanced with nice acidity, integrated tannins, oak, and coffee.  The finish is super long with tart Kirsch cherry, along with acidity, oak, coffee, and lovely tannins.  A rounded flavor of oak and tart Kirsch cherry lingers on the palate long after the wine is gone.

Eggplant/Sweet Potato/Mushroom Risotto and a bottle of Domaine Cazes Le Chalet

This past week we had a repeat performance as we love risotto and heck, a chunk of meat is always appreciated.  The risotto was unfortunately a bit off kilter because I threw in too many eggplant and sweet potato.  To start I sautéed onions, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and a single eggplant.  The vegetable sauté took a fair amount of time to come together, but once it did I placed it to the side.  I then cleaned the large pan, placed a bit of oil in it, and then coated two cups of Arborio rice in the oil.  Coating the rice is such an important step in making proper risotto, and is sometimes overlooked.  So, I then followed the many stages of risotto mixing, and at the last stage I made the error of adding in so many sautéed vegetables that the rice could not coagulate together in a proper manner.  The kernels were cooked well and they let down their starch walls, but I had too many vegetables between the kernels and their starch, that the risotto was not as creamy as I would have wanted.

Good news – the meat did work well!  We used flanken once again and braised it long and low in a pool of alcohol, brown sugar, a bit of honey, and a bit of water.  The cut of beef was quite enjoyable with the risotto, and a large fresh green salad.  I had heard a bit about this wine, and wanted to try it.  It stood up to the meat and risotto just fine.  The wine region is not well known, but even less known about this wine is the fact that the grapes are sourced from the winery’s bio-dynamic vineyards, find out more here.

The wine went very well with the risotto and meat.  The wine note follows below:

2008 Domaine Cazes Le Chalet – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is rich in mineral, Kirsch cherry, cranberry, and smoke.  As time passes the wine turns to cassis and blackberry, on a condensed cherry gum drop background.  The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is spicy with cherry, cranberry, and plum, and turns blacker as time passes.  The mid palate is mineral, with nice integrated tannins, and acid.  The finish is medium long with bright acidity, more tannins, red fruit, and tart cherries.  Clearly a wine that gets blacker as time passes, and one that goes nicely with meat or light cheeses.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Mushroom Risotto, leftover Braised Flanken, and some Goose Bay Chardonnay

OK, I can already hear you all wondering out loud, has he really lost it?  Yes, we had leftover alcohol and brown sugar braised flanken with some Chardonnay.  To be fair, there was only a bit of the flanken left over, and it was not the main player on the table.  The clear star of the evening was the killer risotto.  Once again, Italy’s creme rice dish, showed its muscle and nutty flavors.  We love Risotto, and have no problem enjoying it for days or weeks on end.  So, when given the chance to make some, I jumped at it, and it came out wonderfully.  We started by peeling, cubing, and then roasting the sweet potato in the oven at 400 degrees.  In the mean time, I whipped together the usual risotto recipe, where we start with two or three onions diced and then sautéed in olive oil until they are perfectly caramelized.  In the mean time, we started another pot with onion soup mix and water and brought it to a boil.  Once the onions were caramelized, we threw in four garlic cloves and then some basil to boot.  Once the garlic and herb coated the onions, we threw in two cups of Arborio rice, and made sure they were coated with the oil and herbs s well.  Then starts the dance of hydration to dry to hydration to dry and – well you get the point.  You first hydrate the pot with a cup of white acidic wine, and then let it get absorbed into Arborio rice and then continue hydrating the pot, a cup at a time, from the boiling liquid you have alongside it.  In our case, it was the fore mentioned onion soup mixture.  We kept hydrating the pot, until the half way point, when we threw in the thickly sliced mushrooms.  They quickly started to release their liquid, and slowly started to shrink.  After a couple of minutes, we resumed the hydration dance, until the risotto was 90% of the way there.  At that point I threw in just enough liquid to get close but not complete the mixture.  In other words just a cup or so less than what is needed to force the Arborio rice to release its starch.  I did this because; I had another warming ahead of me on Friday night.

Risotto Recipe:
3 onions diced
16 oz of sliced mushrooms
2 large sweet potatoes cubed – roasted in the oven
4 or 5 garlic cloves
2 cups of Arborio rice
1 cup of white wine
5 cups of chicken/vegetable stock
2 cups of Rice Dream before reheating

Friday night, right before the Sabbath, I threw in the roasted sweet potato chunks, along with two cups of rice dream, and mixed it to the best of my ability, right before I left for synagogue.  When I came back and took the dish out of the oven, it had come together perfectly.  The starches had released themselves in a balanced manner, and they did not overrun the dish in any way.  Instead, the risotto was integrated with its companions in a singular, creamy, and homogeneous manner.  The sweetness of the sweet potatoes and the earthiness of the mushrooms, combined well with the Arborio rice, wine, and flavorings to add a dimension of nuttiness to the mix.

So back to the wine, yes I had a Chardonnay and I loved it.  The Goose Bay Chardonnay was fine and did not need to be rushed or consumed quickly, but I did anyway.  In the end, I could had drunk a red wine with the risotto and meat, but instead I enjoyed a wonderful wine, that was buttery and fruity and had just enough oak to make it easily stand up to the risotto, and not be conflicted by the flanken.  The wine note follows:

2006 Goose Bay Chardonnay – Score: B+ / A-
The nose on this light gold to gold colored wine is rich and not your common run of the mill Chardonnay.  The nose is almost perfumed Viognier style from the extra rich and ripe fruit.  The nose continues with rich ripe peach, honey, lemon, sweet oak, ripe guava, alongside some almond or toast.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine carries the rich and perfumed nose with rich ripe peach, guava, and honey.  The mid palate is balanced with still bracing acidity that almost is a bit tart, but that calms down over time, along with oak, and toast.  The finish is almost mouth coating and lingers long on the palate with tart and bright fruit, rich butter, sweet oak, honey, and a fair amount of vanilla.  This is a wine that is not at the end of the road, but is highly enjoyable right now, except for the tartness that fades with air.

Mushroom/Squash/Sweet Potato Risotto, and 2005 Ella Valley Chardonnay

After two weeks of French food it was time to return to my roots – Italy and its fresh herbal flavors.  There is no dish and flavor that epitomizes Italy more than Risotto, and after some richer French food, we went with some creamy delight that was highlighted by herbs and Farmer’s Market vegetables.  We started with four stalks of cleaned leeks, and two pounds of Shiitake that were sautéed until browned.  I then removed the onions and mushrooms and used the same pot to soften the sweet potato and yellow crookneck squash.  We then removed the soften vegetables; added back the onions and mushrooms (yeah would have been far easier to cook in a second pot – lesson learned – maybe next time I will just roast them).  I added back a bit of olive oil, and two cups of Arborio rice, and made sure that the grains were well coated with the oil.

An aside, there is a HUGE difference between sweet potato and yams.  Many think they are the same, and I cannot but stress how foolish this line of thinking is.  The Sweet Potato nomenclature is really broken!  Sweet Potato is a firm potato that cooks and stays firm.  Yams are a soft potato that cooks soft and is better used in sweet potato pie.  So the next time you go to the supermarket and want to add some sweet flavor to your dish, figure out ahead of time, if you are looking for a firm or soft sweet flavor.  Yams are going to go soft after some time, while the “sweet potato” will stay firm like a red or yellow potato.  OK – back to risotto.

Wait – one more aside, in case you are wondering why we want two starches – Arborio rice – the king of starchy rice and sweet potato, the answer is because we wanted to 🙂  Simply put, we had a sweet tooth and we wanted risotto, so sweet potato it was.  OK – this time, no more tangents.

OK, after the rice, leek, and mushrooms were properly coated, we started the risotto dance.  Yep, it is a dance that requires you to lead most of the time, but still give the partner a chance to shine.  You place a cup of hot water/broth in and then let the rice soak in the liquid.  Back and forth you go, until the rice starts to become slightly mushy and creamy.  It is truly imperative that you have a pot of just boiling chicken broth hot on the stove.  This allows for the rice to not be cooled down and then heated up (if you were to ad in cold soup).  The ironic aspect is that you start with a cup of wine, and that is NOT boiling, but it is room temperature, and the pot is boiling hot and the rice is well coated, so that is why the first wet liquid in a risotto recipe is commonly white wine.  After the wine is soaked up, we ladled in a cup of broth, waited for the rice to soak it up, and then to start the process again.  The interesting and complicated part of the recipe is when to throw in the additives.  You see the onions and/or leeks are an imperative part of any risotto recipe and are the base of all risotto recipes that I have seen.  We threw in mushrooms because we like them, and they do not get in the way of the rice cooking/creaming process.  But, the real question is when do you throw in additives – like our sweet potatoes and squash?  Some have it going in early – but that is a disaster because it does not give the rice a chance to set up.  Some have them added after the third cup, but we added it at the very end, right when folks would add Parmesan cheese – which is not my style.  I was really happy with the outcome, though one more aside (yes I lied); it is hard to make risotto for Friday Night dinner.  Since the risotto needs to be reheated for Friday Night, it is hard to remake the perfect creaminess you get when it is just made.  We did a solid job, but would love to find a way to perfect it.

4 stalks of leeks halved and sliced up thinly
2lb of mushrooms sliced
Salt to wilt leeks and mushrooms
2 yellow sweet potato
12 small yellow crookneck squash
2 cups of Arborio rice
1 cup of wine
4 or more cups of broth

Once we finished the risotto, I looked around for a wine to match, and settled on a 2005 Ella Valley Chardonnay.  The wine was oaked and as it opened, it felt overoaked – almost Californian, but without the weight or sugar to hold it up.  The wine turned green as it opened, the oak and green flavors overpower the mouth, but still a nice Chardonnay.  This is definitely a wine that should be drunk soon and enjoyed with a nice fat fish, creamy sauce linguine (thinking Italian!), or light cheeses.  By the way, this wine may not be a huge winner, but its better siblings – the Ella Valley Vineyard Choice Chardonnay (both Oaked and UnOaked) are huge winners.

The wine note follows below:

2005 Ella Valley Chardonnay – Score: B+
The nose on this light gold to gold colored wine starts off with sweet oak, lemon, green apple, almond, vanilla, and eucalyptus.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is more bright than rich, glycerol and oily, with apple, pear, and slight bitterness.  The mid palate is bright with bracing acidity, a bit unbalanced with green notes.  The finish is long with mint, summer fruit, tart lemon, with toast and vanilla.  As the wine open more, the fruit fades a bit, the heavy oak comes to the top, and the acidity and bitterness are a bit off.

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