GOOD FOOD TAKES TIME (Good Cooks take the time needed)

May 10th, 2012

Hooray hooray for the month of May!

Its time for a new menu and new learning’s.  I have a good feeling that this month will be an appreciation of patience.  The best things in life take a bit of time.  In the past couple of months things like pasting garlic have tested my time table.  First you must peel each clove, remove the innermost sprout, mince it and then you can finally draw the flat of your blade over it again and again until an aromatic paste is formed.  At first it sounds simple enough but in the midst of  the 5th clove, with more garlic sticking to the knife and my fingers than actually turning into the beautiful smooth texture I envisioned, I realize the clock is against me. I am pretty sure I was given this laborious task for a few reasons.  Either Bob wants to be sure I’m not able to attract ANY eligible men and therefore keep my mind in the kitchen, or he is protecting me from potential vampire attacks.

I feel this month will continue to challenge me to remember to breathe in times of frustration and to persevere toward the amazing meal.  Take shucking peas for example.  In my mind I have lofty ideas that a whole box of English peas should take oh…45 minutes to get done.  I have the water on and heating so it will be ready to blanch them when I am ready.  Of course, I should have known by my mentor’s slight head shake and Cheshire cat smile that my time-line was more around the 1 1/2 hour mark.  In the end the whole huge box only yielded about 3 1/2 cups of shucked sweet little green peas. I call them ” escapeas ” because half of them take flight – in no particular direction except away from the bowl they are meant for!  And let’s not forget these little gems are just one component for the risotto on our first course of the May Dinner Show.

This Italian rice dish is one that must be nurtured itself as well.  A good risotto must be tended to constantly for about 25 minutes and when it is done it must be served right away to impart the creamy texture intended.  It waits for no one!  Arborio rice is most commonly used, sauteed in butter or olive oil first and then adding a ladle of stock one at a time, stirring to distribute the liquid evenly and prevent any burning. When the stock is absorbed you repeat the process. It can be mixed with a variety of ingredients, mushroom leek and lemon has worked well for my dinner parties in the past.  Whatever you add the goal is to have a dish that is hands down one of my favorite comfort foods.

I was so excited to see Osso Bucco on the menu this month as well!  I had seen plenty an Iron Chef make it while totally geeking out on the Food Network, wishing that I did not have to live vicariously through the judges on the flat screen.  The first time I was able to order it for myself was at Mario Batali’s restaurant Babbo on my birthday trip to NYC.  Truth be told he was always my favorite Iron Chef anyway so this was my little dream come true.  Lets just say I was not disappointed…the marrow from the bone gave the slow cooked braised veal a velvet mouth feel.  The meat was so tender it almost melted.

It is made with lamb on our menu, but the effect is the same.  I have seen it turn even the most skeptic of palates into lamb lovers.  I truly believe it has to do not only with the painstaking preparation, but also with the quality and freshness of the lamb itself.  Bob has it delivered within the week the lambs are harvested, and they are only harvested when ordered. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I now know the time and work involved in each little step takes my enjoyment of a meal to a whole new place.  Every component in the menu has a purpose on the tongue.  It can be light and sweet like my peas or full of richness and depth like the lamb.  A bright gremolata balances any heavy notes and a thick nutty cream sauce can smooth out delicate potatoes. It is truly the little things, the sometimes frustrating, time sucking, minute details, that really do make all the difference in a dish. So this week I am in great appreciation of the symphony of food I help to create as I embrace every task I am given!

Here is the Lamb dish with rutabaga and gremolata. Melts in your mouth.