Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A little 3 course dinner for your next date night! Roasted Garlic with Bread, Black Forest Ham and Spinach Risotto, and Charred Pineapple with Ice Cream

This trio of courses is something I put together for my friends Brandon and Becca when they told me they were interested in cooking, and wanted to cook together, but didn't really know what to make.  I sent them the grocery list for all 3 first, then the recipes to follow.   They had a fun date night, and I know they have made it multiple times sense, which makes me happy !!!   You don't HAVE to make all three courses, but it's pretty easy, so 'eh, why not?  Here we go:

4 bulbs of garlic
loaf of french or italian bread, cut diagonally into 1/2 inch slices
olive oil
kosher salt
1 bag of fresh spinach
16 oz. really good deli ham- preferably black forest ham
2 boxes of chicken stock
1 Stick butter
1 sweet yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cups of risotto rice (aka short grain or arborio rice)
3/4 c white wine or vermouth
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated parmesan (fresh grated preferably)
1 pineapple
vanilla ice cream
couple tsp sugar

To start-   assemble ALL ingredients for both dishes and have chopped, measured and ready to go in tupperware or small bowls. (Mis en place- like we talked about last time!)  Read the whole recipe through at least once before you start.

Fresh Roasted Garlic with Bread

Preheat oven to 350
Cut off the top 1/8th or so of the bulb of garlic from the tip (not the stem) just so that you expose the tip of each clove of garlic. Do not peel garlic.  Set each bulb cut size up on a piece of tinfoil about 12 by 12".  Drizzle garlic with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, and wrap garlic (keeping it cut side up) so that it is completely sealed.  Set on rack in oven, roast for about 40 minutes.  Test one bulb for done-ness: carefully open tinfoil and check for cloves of garlic to have softened completely and turned golden brown.  When cloves are all soft, garlic is ready.  Keep wrapped in foil (so it stays warm) until ready to use.   To eat, simply squeeze the garlic onto bread, make sure to sprinkle each crostini with a bunch of salt (or it won't be as good) and enjoy!

Main course:
Black Forest Ham and Spinach Risotto

You will need to use your biggest pot to cook this.  Preferably one with a rounded bottom, but if that isn't an option, just use your biggest pot and make sure when you're stirring to get in the corners of the pot or the rice will stick and burn.   You will need a second, slightly smaller pot to hold the chicken stock.  To begin, heat the chicken stock to a boil (you can even throw some herbs in there if you want to- like a bay leaf and some fresh thyme if you have it).  Reduce heat to a simmer once it has reached boil.  You need it to be hot to use as you cook the risotto.
Wash your spinach well and slice it lengthwise (same direction as the stem) into thin shreds. The best way to do this is make small stacks with it facing the same way and cut one stack at a time.  Cut the ham into thin strips as well. Heat 1 TB of EVO and 4 TB of butter over medium heat until the butter melts- but does NOT brown.  Add the finely chopped onion and sautee until is soft and starting to turn golden (about 5 min) DO NOT BROWN. 
Reduce the heat, add the rice, stir to coat in oil and butter.  Cook, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes or until grains become translucent.  Add the wine, and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute until reduced.   Gradually add the hot stock, ONE ladleful at a time.  Stir constantly over medium heat (this makes the rice release its starch) making sure it doesn't stick on the bottom. You want the liquid to bubble and reduce, but not stick to the bottom of the pan.  You'll keep adding stock 1 ladleful at a time for about 25 minutes.  You may not use all of the chicken stock.  Expect to use about 3/4 of the amount, but it completely depends on the amount of heat you use while the rice is absorbing the liquid.  Once rice is soft to the bite (NO crunch AT ALL!)  stir in the ham and spinach with the last ladleful of stock.  You are just trying to heat the spinaach and ham.  Remove risotto from heat.  Add remaining butter and cream.  Mix well, then stir in the Parmesan until it melts.  Add a few pinches of salt to taste, and black pepper as well.  Garnish with grated parmesan.  Serve immediately.

Dessert:  Charred Pineapple with vanilla ice cream  Heat broiler with rack in top oven position.  (You can also grill the pineapple if that works better)
Use a cast iron or other heavy bottomed skillet, or if you don't have one, use a rimmed baking sheet.
Peel pineapple (use a serrated knife to cut the bottom 1/4 inch off of the pineapple so it stands up.  Cut the skin off one side at a time by cutting the skin off from top to bottom.  Lay pineapple on its side and cut into half-inch rounds.  Heat your baking pan or skillet under the broiler for 5 minutes to heat up. Carefully place 4 pineapple rounds in hot skillet.  Sprinkle each slice with a pinch of ground cinnamon and a teaspoon sugar.  Broil until edges turn golden, about 8 minutes, rotating pan as needed to brown evenly.  Serve warm or at room temp, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and another sprinkle of cinnamon.

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