Monday, January 25, 2010

Gobbled up...

Every year, about this time, I'm reminded why turkey is such a big deal come November.

If you're like me, you anticipate that unmistakable rich and smokey smell that will permeate the house all Thanksgiving day and before you've even had your first bite of bird, you'll eagerly anticipate the mile-high turkey sandwich, complete with all the fixins', that will be Friday's architectural masterpiece.

But, every year, about this time, I am also reminded why it takes me almost twelve months to invite my fat feathered friend back into the house as welcomed guest.

This year, it all started Thanksgiving evening with a lovely meal hosted by Alice and Ole (Charlie's Mom and Dad) at Meadow Club. It was spectacular...and what a treat not to have to cook this least I thought. Well, I hadn't even had my first bite of professionally prepared pecan pie and I was already hankering for some homespun leftovers. So, as I chewed, I plotted...I'll cook another Thanksgiving at home on Saturday and invite some of my family that I didn't get to gorge with that day. The die was cast...

Saturday was fabulous, more bird, more stuffing (I tried a new recipe with toasted sourdough bread, roasted chestnuts and prunes this year that was crazy good) and all of the other usual suspects. Carly helped with everything, as usual, and Willy even had a hand in the feast scrubbing a couple of potatoes and snapping a few green beans.

When he tired of that, Carly kept him busy making these place cards (an idea I yanked out of Family Fun Magazine years ago...back when I thought I'd actually have time for stuff like this).'s grand having a 14-year-old daughter!

Everyone left fat and happy and ladened with several Ziplocs filled with enough leftovers to fulfill their sandwich dreams. Even after all that, enough meat survived to turn the following week into a turkeyfest: turkey sandwiches, turkey and barley soup, turkey enchiladas, turkey tetrazinni...we were more stuffed than the bird herself.

Oh, I forgot! The day before Thanksgiving, Carly's 8th grade class (with the help of me and a few other moms) made Thanksgiving dinner for the residents of a local old folks home. More turkey, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy and pumpkin pie...all from scratch. The kids were awesome and so was the feast!

If that wasn't enough, Greg and Judy had their annual Christmas kick-off party the next weekend complete with their traditional, and much anticipated, barbecued turkey. It was spectacular, as it is every year, but I must say, after that weekend, my goose (I mean turkey) was officially cooked.

Christmas followed, and with it 33 pounds of prime rib that I cooked to serve 26 people including a baby and two vegetarians. You do the math...that's lots of leftover cooked cow.

For one week solid we fed off of the giant vat of prime rib minestrone I made from the bronto ribs not to mention prime rib french dip and plain old slabs of prime rib eaten a la Fred Flintstone. Enough with the meat already...

So, one afternoon, in desperation, I wandered out to my neglected garden to see if there was a hint of anything fresh, green, edible and/or not formerly mooing or gobbling. Here's what I found...

Humm....looks a little more like Sarah Connor's post-apocalyptic dream scene from Terminator II than the luscious bounty of green-grocery I was hoping for. Then, just when I was about to slump back into the house in defeat to gnaw on a bone, I saw this little patch of green in the upper planting bed...a surviving mini crop of arugula!

I yanked a handful out by the roots and, on my way back into the house, caught a glimpse of this little beauty, rising like a phoenix from the ashes of my pitiful little Meyer lemon tree.

What to do? Arugula, lemon...I've got some left over champagne in the fridge from Christmas...probably too flat to drink but...I'm thinking risotto. Yah...champagne risotto with Meyer lemon and arugula. Where's the beef? Not here. I'm in.

The secret to risotto is low and slow. Watch the onions and garlic...don't let them scorch. Then, pour in the rice.

Here's how the rice will look when it's almost done. Creamy, not globby, tender but with a little bite...not too mushy. Now you can add the rest of the ingredients.

I added a Parmesan crisp for garnish and I'm glad I did...I crumbled it over the top and the crunch was great.

Champagne Risotto with
Meyer Lemon and Arugula

Blanch in simmering water and mince to make 1/8 tsp.:
  • several large strips of lemon zest
Heat in a saucepan:

  • 3/4 cup leftover champagne
  • 2-2 1/2 cups chicken stock
Cook over moderately low heat until soft:
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
Add and stir until it smells great:
  • 1 large garlic clove minced and mashed to a paste with 1/4 tsp salt

Add and stir to coat:

  • 3/4 cups arborio rice (available at most markets)
  • 1 Tbs. fresh Meyer lemon juice
Add enough warm champagne/stock mixture to just cover and stir until absorbed. Keep adding liquid slowly, enough to just cover the rice, until all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is creamy, tender but not mushy (it should have a little bite to it). Let each addition absorb before adding the next, stir frequently, and use more stock if you must to achieve the correct consistency. Remember, low and slow, baby.

Now add:
  • 3 Tbs. butter (I said no meat, not lowfat)!
  • 1/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped arugula
  • salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkle with shredded or grated Parmesan cheese.
If you would like to make the Parmesan crisp, mound 1 Tbs. of shredded Parmesan per crisp on a non-stick surface (Silpat or parchment). Bake at 350 degrees until crispy (about 8 minutes).

Makes 4-6 servings as a first course.