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Back to Basics

June 14, 2011

Happy Tuesday!

I’d like to start out by expressing how I’ve been feeling lately.

Lately I’ve been frustrated, confused, and feeling a lack of inspiration, passion, etc.

I feel like I’m almost losing myself and what’s important to me.

It has made me look back and remember how I felt the day I decided to apply to culinary school.  The day I made my first cake.  The days where I would read cookbooks cover to cover. The days where I’d  feel instant satisfaction when I succeeded at replicating a recipe.  The day I got my first restaurant job.   The day I thought that food could really turn into my career.

I just haven’t felt that excitement lately. I’m not sure what attests to that, but whatever it is, it needs to change.

So with that, I decided today that I need to go back to the basics.  Go back and really search within myself and discover why it is that I fell in love with food.  I need to really go back and hone my technique and skills that I’ve learned over the years.  I just need to find my “happy place” with food again, because let’s face it, it completes me, it’s who I am.

For my first home cooked meal at home since I returned from Texas, I chose to revisit a classic, risotto.

Now it has been quite some time since I made risotto, so I am a bit rusty, but I never forgot the technique.

Just like riding a bike right?  Right.

Risotto is such a versatile dish, there are a million different flavor profiles to chose from.  For this one, I decided to stay simple and classic.  I’m going back to basics, remember?

I gathered some arborio rice, a shallot and a few cloves of garlic.

I peeled and minced up the shallots and garlic.

I also picked some fresh rosemary and thyme from my garden.

I took the leaves off their stems and gave them a rough chop and set them aside until way later.

At this time I gathered the rest of my ingredients, chicken stock, cheese [I used what I had, goat and parmesan], peas, butter and lemon.

Once I had all of my ingredients, I poured a container of chicken stock into a saucepan and let heat up slowly.

For me this is a key step.  Heat your stock!!!  I promise it makes a difference.

While the stock heated up, I sauteed the minced shallot and garlic in some olive oil in a separate pan.

Just until they are translucent.

Then I added the arborio rice to the pan.

I gave it a stir to mix it nicely with the shallot and garlic.

I let it sit for a while, to get toasty, stirring occasionally.

To prove how rusty I was, I had a few extra crispy pieces of garlic and shallot in there because I took my eye off of it.  Oh well.

Once the rice was toasty, I gradually added a couple ladlefuls of the heated chicken stock to the pan.

Always making sure to stir of course!

It should be known, risotto LOVES attention.  It’s not one of those things you can just let go on the stove.

You need to keep stirring and add more stock when it gets absorbed by the rice.  Yes, it can be considered a bit tedious, but trust me it’s worth it.

Once the risotto is close to being done, I added a pat of butter, because you can’t have risotto without butter.

Note:  You should taste your risotto as you are going along.  See how done the rice is.  That will gauge how much time you have.  There’s nothing worse than overcooked risotto, or rice in general!

At this point I added my goat cheese and parmesan cheese.

I stirred it until it was all good and incorporated.

The risotto should be pretty much done at this point, so I added a few extra pops of flavor, none of which require cooking.

Frozen peas, lemon zest and fresh herbs.

The heat on my stove was off, so I just stirred it all in and that’s it.  The heat of the risotto thaws the peas almost instantly!

Time to plate!

One of the critiques you always hear chefs say, is that risotto should run on a plate, not clump up.  Make a note of that!

While this was not the “perfect” risotto, it was still tasty.

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m extremely hard on myself when it comes to food.  If it’s not perfect or what I envisioned, I get really disappointed.

So of course I thought, this could have been looser and creamier.

I did however love the punch of the lemon zest.  It brought the risotto to another level for sure.

So even though I’m sure I would not get Tom Colicchio’s blessing on this batch, I’m determined to get better at my craft and rediscover my love for cooking.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get to more farmer’s markets for some inspiration this summer!  I’m going to make it a mission this summer to dive into some of my old cookbooks and recipes and recreate them all over again.

On my culinary journey, I want to hear from you guys!!  Is there anything you would like to see me cook?  Anything you’d like to see?  Let me know! I always love hearing feedback and suggestions from you readers!

Thanks for sticking with me through this little rough patch!

Have a good night!

Vanessa 🙂

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Craig permalink
    June 15, 2011 9:23 am

    Wow nessa! I must say that the way in which you open up and express or expose your feelings about something so intimate is…dare I say.. and inspiration to me. I dont think I would’ve been so brave in a public forum.The amazing thing is that you wrote what I feel so vivdly its almost like I told you my own story, that in itself is inspiring to me.I have’nt checked in in a while but Im glad I did when I did. I easily related to this post and I feel better for having read it. Thanks nessa and keep striving to find that happy place. It’s scary when food isn’t exciting anymore…

    • June 15, 2011 12:41 pm

      Aw I’m glad you found it helpful Craig!! I hope things are well for you! Thanks for the comment.

      • June 15, 2011 9:24 pm

        I have moments like this too, which is why I have been so on-off with my decisions regarding a career in food. I think its really natural when you have a career which is so physically demanding. Everyone always has a bad day (or week or month for that matter) at work, even if you LOVE what you do. Just remember that when things get tough! Definitely going back to the basics helps.

      • June 15, 2011 9:34 pm

        It is physically demanding, but I don’t think that’s my problem. I just think that I’m losing the importance of food in general. I still love food, I always will, maybe I just need an environment change? I just wish I would figure it out already! I hate being in this funk. I agree with going back to the basics 🙂 As far as your decision, just do what makes YOU happy, whether it be food as a hobby or food as a career. If you ever need to talk about anything food/career related, don’t hesitate to shoot me a message!

  2. Jamie Saults permalink
    June 15, 2011 11:32 am

    Post a spaghetti sauce please.

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