Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Season and Seasonality

"Hello... Woah. You look like a wet cat." This is how I was greeted tonight. Granted, I probably looked a fright. It was raining pretty hard. There's no shelter where I wait for the bus. I had cold, wet water running down my head, ears, neck, back for longer than I care to think about or admit.

Good thing I was already planning a delicious, soul warming dinner. Truth be told, I've been planning this meal for about two weeks. First time, the fish didn't look good. Then we kept needing this or that, almost always including the fish. Finally, I thought it would happen last night. However, yesterday ended up being a disaster of a day and having a weird eating schedule. Such is life - this meal was meant for tonight.

What is this meal, you ask? Nutty, wonderful Butternut Squash Risotto with Mustard Crusted Haddock and lightly dressed oven roasted beets. This is a shockingly sustainable for the Northeast in January. The fish is from a sustainable co-op and all the vegetables are from our CSA.

As with any good risotto, you must keep the broth warm. This broth had the butternut squash whisked in so that it was added in intervals together. I, with all my wonderful planning, used the largest of my three pots to reheat some soup that did not take up even half that pot. I like to live on the edge with my broth precariously close to boiling over.

For the risotto, after the butter hits the pan, add the onion and saute until soft. Then you want to throw in the soft, fragrant fresh sage. After a few minutes, the rice is added followed by wine a few minutes later.

Next you get to every so carefully ladle the broth out of your way too full pot. Oh wait, that's just me. Thankfully, for all the poor planning and frantic stirring, it smelled wonderful. Paired with the earthy aroma of the beets in the oven, I knew I was in for a treat. Oh? Did I not mention that step one is wrapping your beets in foil and putting them in the oven? Well, it is. I had that much planning done. Next time, though, I'll have my fish ready to go in the oven before The Stirring commences.

I am consistently amazed by the last phases of anything. Just when it seems like whatever it is you've been working on (cake, risotto, a building) won't come together because it's too near the end and it's just not right, you do one little thing and *poof*. Your project is completed and the end result is just magic. Risotto is no exception. Before the parmesan, it's just sort of soupy rice with an okay, but not great flavor. Add the parmesan and you have this amazingly flavorful, cheesy, nutty dish. This shit practically writes its own infomercial.

Other than the forethought required to get the beets in the oven, they couldn't be easier. Wash, wrap in foil, roast, skin and slice. The dressing requires only a little dicing, measuring and whirring. Unless you can't handle plating and drizzling, these beets are a delicious no brainer.

The fish was pretty easy too. The recipe, though sounding perfect on paper (computer screen), needs a little tweaking in the seasoning department. I'm going to give you the recipe as I would modify it next time I make it. My other regret is that I was trying to put this dish together while watching risotto that craved constant stirring lest it stick to the bottom of the pan.

Together, this dinner was out of the park fantastic. The risotto is creamy, nutty and just a little sweet. It paired perfectly with the vaguely citrusy, earthy beets. The fish was light and the crumb topping added a wonderful texture. It was just one of those nights where everything on the plate worked.

Lemon Mustard Roast Beets

1 lb Beets
1/2 - 1 Shallot, minced
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/3 c. Lemon juice
1/3 c. Olive Oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash the beets well and wrap in foil. Place in oven until tender, about 40-45 minutes. While the beets are roasting, place all the remaining ingredients in a food processor or blend with your favorite immersion blender/bullet/regular blender and whir until completely emulsified. Take the beets out of the oven, unwrap and allow to cool until you can easily handle them. Peel the beets using a peeler or push the skin off with your fingers. Slice about 1/2" thick. Plate and drizzle lightly with the dressing.

Mustard Crumbed Haddock
Adapted from a recipe provided by Cape Ann Fresh Catch

2 1/2 tbs Unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 Shallots, minced
1/2 c. Dry white wine, divided
1 1/2 lbs Haddock fillets
1 tbs Lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. Breadcrumbs
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbs Dried parsley
Lemon wedges, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pour 1 1/2 - 2 tbs of the melted butter into a baking dish large enough to hold the fish fillets in a single layer. Sprinkle shallots over the butter and pour in 1/4 of the wine. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange the fish fillets on top. Sprinkle each with a little lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, toss the bread crumbs with the remaining melted butter. Mix in the mustard and parsley. Pat the bread crumb mixture evenly over the top of the fish fillets. Drizzle the remaining wine over the fish.

Bake until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, about 15 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Butternut Squash Risotto
Adapted loosely from Williams-Sonoma

4 tbs Melted unsalted butter
2 medium Yellow onions, diced
2 tbs Sage, minced
6 c. Vegetable and/or chicken stock
2 c. Butternut squash puree
2 c. Aroborio rice
1/2 c. Dry white wine
1/2 c. Grated parmesan cheese (or more)
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Simultaneously, heat place the stock in a large sauce pot over medium-high heat and whisk in the butternut squash. Bring to a simmer and maintain.

Once the butter is melted, add the onions. Saute until starting to turn translucent then add the sage and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes longer. Add the aroborio rice. Stir until the grains are well coated with butter and begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the white wine, stirring until it's almost completely absorbed.

Add the simmering stock mixture in 1-3 ladles worth intervals allowing the liquid to be absorbed almost completely before adding more. Stir very frequently. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked through and tender. This process should take about 20-30 minutes. Stir in cheese, salt and pepper. If your taste prefers, you can add more cheese or butter at this point. Serve immediately.


Julie said...

Need beets now.
This looks amazing!

tarah said...

They were seriously good! And if you took a bite that was risotto and beet, it was unreal.

I still have more beets begging to be roasted in my fridge.