Yesterday, marked the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. I remember that day… I was in high school. I remember being woken up by my family. I was informed about a terrorist attack New York. I didn’t know about the other attacks in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon yet. I got ready for school and joined my dad in the dining room, where he was finishing his breakfast and watching the news. Watching the clips of the attack felt surreal, as if I was watching a movie. I couldn’t believe what had happened. That morning, traffic was extra heavy going to school. What usually took 30 minutes with traffic, took almost three times as long that day. My first class was Japanese. Before class began, we had a moment of silence. That day changed our world. It changed the way we traveled. It changed a lot of things. Let’s take a moment to reflect…
This week, we learned to braise a protein. I braised chicken thighs. Braising is similar to slow-cooking, but without using the slow-cooker (i.e., Crock Pot). Speaking of Crock Pot really quickly… I love it! It’s so convenient and simple. My dad sometimes makes roast pork in my mom’s Crock Pot. It’s so delicious! The meat is tender and juicy. Ooh! Making my mouth water! Anyway, back to braising. Braising is done using wet and dry heat. First, the protein is seared in a pot on the stove-top. After it’s golden brown, it’s taken out. In that same pot, the sauce is made. Onions are sautéed with canola or vegetable oil. Next, a roux is created by adding all-purpose flour. This will thicken the sauce. Then, tomato purée or paste and chicken stock are added and mixed thoroughly. Finally, aromatics: bay leaves and thyme. Salt and pepper can be added at this point as well. Voilà! There’s the sauce! The chicken is put back into the pot with the sauce, covered with a lid, and put into a 325ºF oven until the meat is tender (approximately between 60-90 minutes).
While the chicken was baking in the oven, I made risotto. Ah! Another rice dish cooked on the stove. I mentioned in a previous blog post that I made rice pilaf in July. I made it on the stove-top and then finished it in the oven. I had to make that dish twice because the first attempt was very mushy. I’m so used to using the rice cooker to make rice. It’s so easy and convenient. But, before there were rice cookers, people made rice on the stove. My grandma and her children grew up cooking rice on the stove. While there are challenges making rice on the stove, I know there’s a purpose to why these particular dishes are made on the stove-top, compared to in a rice cooker.
I was nervous to make the risotto. Risotto may look like overcooked rice, but it isn’t. The short grains of the rice give it that starchy texture and look. Long grain rice is not recommended for risotto. One can overcook the dish if left on the stove for too long. I watched a recorded demo of the chef instructor while making my risotto at the same time. To my dismay, it came out mushy. Shucks! It tasted good, but it didn’t look entirely appetizing. In some ways, the first attempt’s risotto reminded me of grits. The second endeavor was a lot better. The grains were in-tact. Yay!
Making risotto is time-consuming. Each venture took between 45-60 minutes to make. Risotto is a dish that requires constant attention. A chef instructor called it “babysitting.” Once left unattended, even for a couple minutes, the rice will start sticking to the bottom of the pot and can burn. I don’t think it would be pleasant eating burnt risotto. Be prepared to constantly stir the pot of rice for a long amount of time. Also, the creaminess of the risotto comes from adding the hot chicken stock to cook the rice. NOT milk or cream! Another chef instructor called that “cheating!” Haha! Butter and fresh Parmesan cheese are added at the very end and make it more creamy.
Have a splendid week as we head into mid-September. Golly! Before we know it, Christmas will be here again. I’m starting to feel in that holiday mood again.