Mushroom Risotto

Last week I’d made a delicious roasted chicken for dinner, and being the frugal girl that I am – couldn’t let that chicken carcass go in the trash can without making a batch of chicken stock with it first. When menu planning for that week I took stock of what I had in the pantry before heading to the store to do my weekly grocery stock-up. I had a full package of arborio rice, and a bunch of samples of different varieties of dried mushrooms that the good folks at Marx Gourmet Foods had sent me – so I put mushroom risotto on the lineup.

I ended up making it on a cold, rainy evening…and this filling meal couldn’t have been more perfect. I’ve gone on before about how wonderful dried mushrooms are to keep around. They add so much flavor to whatever dish you use them for, and they never go bad in the pantry. While I’d say porcini is my hands down favorite, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the matsutake. They were lighter in flavor, almost floral. I’d imagine they would be absolutely perfect in a big batch of homemade ramen noodles! But, if you can’t find them – don’t sweat it. The dried porcinis alone, combined with the earthy flavors of the sauteed fresh mushrooms will give more than enough flavor to this dish!

The stirring necessary is a little bit time consuming, but take if you take the time to enjoy a glass of wine (that you’ve been forced to open for the dish!)…it makes it a little more fun, and the time pass quicker. And the result you’ll get in the end is so worth it! A thick, rich, and creamy dish – that is just bursting with flavor. Great for my gluten-free friends, and could easily be made into a vegetarian dish by using vegetable broth instead of chicken stock. I’ve only made one other risotto in the past, but I’m looking forward to trying some different recipes in the future!

Shrimp Saltimbocca

A couple of weeks ago we took Jon’s brother, who was in town visiting, to the airport up in Baltimore. I never miss an opportunity to visit a fancy grocery store, so we all went along for the ride. Had a nice dinner, hit up the sale racks at Antrho, and dragged Uncle Trevor through every aisle at Whole Foods before dropping him off at the airport. Then we stopped by the new Wegmans location in Crofton on the way home. I always love visiting their delicatessen, and I couldn’t resist having a few slices of the most gorgeous proscuitto I’ve ever seen sliced off to take home with me. And come home with me they did…along with some awesome peppered salami and sliced chorizo. I had to fend off Jon from eating all the “gabagool” in the fridge.

What he didn’t eat, I decided to use to do a fresh spin on one of my very favorite classic Italian dishes. Traditionally, this is made with a chicken breast. Which is awesome. But our local seafood joint happened to have some gorgeous, large shrimp in this weekend and the wheels in my head started turning.

It was a little bit more time consuming than chicken breasts, just because of wrapping shrimp individually in the prosciutto. But, your efforts are well rewarded. The salty richness of the proscuitto permeates the shrimp, rendering some of it’s fat and getting nice and crispy. Then a pan sauce is made from the browned bits, garlic, white wine, lemon juice, and butter. I served it over pasta, but I think it would be a wonderful appetizer or first course on it’s own. I’m so glad I remixed this one, because I think I like it better than the original!

Spaghetti with Clams

I’ve mentioned before that we live in a small town in a rural area, full of small towns just like ours. And in these small towns, it’s not uncommon for someone to have 2 professions. Like, the chief of police also owns the only extermination company for a 50-mile radius. Or the mayor of the town, who also owns an electric supply company. Or Jon’s boss at NASA, who farms cultured clams in his spare time…

We’ve been wanting to get a bag of “littlenecks”, the smallest and tenderest of clams, for quite some time now, but Jon would always forget to mention it to Scott for some reason or another. Finally last week, he remembered to remember, and a big bag of these guys were waiting for him in the office refrigerator on Monday morning. I knew I wanted to do a pasta with clam sauce, but all the other ones I had tried in the past were kind of lackluster. So, I turned to Giada. I’d found both of her cookbooks in the thrift shop for $1/piece (one man’s trash is another man’s comeup!) and there was a recipe that looked great, yet had a simple ingredient list – precisely what this dish should be.

And, I’m pleased to report that this recipe fully lived up to my expectations. A punch of garlic, a little bite from the addition of white wine, and then just an awesome brininess from the clams that rounds out all the flavors and brings everything together. So quick, too. Dinner is literally done in the time that it takes to boil the pasta! Winner, winner – clam and pasta dinner. Have a great weekend, kids!

Rigatoni with Beef & Sausage Ragù

I don’t know about where you guys are, but there was a hint of fall in the air here this weekend. We turned off the air-conditioning and opened up all the windows, and I even had to don a long-sleeved shirt at the local fireman’s carnival on Friday night.

Needless to say, I was feeling something in the way of comfort food. And what better fits that bill than a big bowl of baked cheesy pasta? My girlfriend made this dish for me after we brought home our first son Andrew, over 5 years ago now. She drove all the way from Annapolis to come and make us this pasta, and share dinner with us. It quickly became a favorite in our home, and consequently my “go-to” baked pasta dish.

Ground beef and spicy Italian sausage is simmered in a rich tomato sauce, releasing all their meaty flavor into the sauce. Then at the end, a bit of heavy cream is stirred in…making it lighter in flavor, but yet richer at the same time. Layered with a bit of mozzarella cheese before baking, it’s becomes bubbly and crusty in the oven – everything that a baked pasta should be. Paired with a glass of red, a fresh green salad, and some crusty bread – it’s the perfect Sunday meal to gather your family around the table. We intend to enjoy every last day of summertime, but I’m definitely looking forward to that chill in the air being here to stay!