Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wild Rice and Chorizo Pilaf

I put this together one night as a side dish for grilled whole fish and asparagus. It turned out to be so delicious that it was the highlight of the meal. It's very easy, but of course wild rice takes over an hour to cook so you have to factor that into your plan.

The work is all done at the very beginning: first brown some dried Spanish chorizo along with onion and garlic; then toast the rice in the pan for a few minutes (this builds flavor, and I swear it helps keep the grains separated rather than clumpy); and finally add the liquid and leave it alone. As with any steamed rice, that 10 minutes of resting time is important. It lets the grains absorb any remaining moisture so there's no clumping when you fluff them up.

The chorizo, by the way, must be the Spanish type, which is cured so it's ready to eat as is. The Mexican type is a fresh sausage which is totally raw. As you might have guessed, these two aren't interchangeable. Not every supermarket out there will carry Spanish chorizo, but it's worth seeking out. I get mine from a butcher. You generally use only a small amount because it packs so much flavor. I've had a piece of it in the freezer for months so I can hack off as much as I need for dishes like this one!

Wild Rice and Chorizo Pilaf
You must use Spanish chorizo, which is cured, rather than Mexican chorizo which is raw.

Serves 2 and may be doubled

Cooking spray
5 to 6-inch piece Spanish chorizo, diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
2/3 cups wild rice blend (such as Lundberg)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/8 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (such as Kitchen Basics)
Chopped parsley and a tiny squeeze of lemon for serving if desired

Coat a small saucepan with cooking spray and heat on medium. Add chorizo and cook, stirring frequently until it releases some of its juices, 1 to 2 minutes. Add onion and cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add rice, black pepper, garlic and oregano and cook, stirring very frequently until rice is opaque, 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, raise heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to lowest setting and simmer, covered, until rice is cooked through, 60 to 65 minutes (or follow package directions). Check rice at 55 minutes and add more stock if needed. Remove from heat and rest for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with parsley and a small amount of lemon juice if using.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Blackberry Scones with Lemon and Poppy Seeds

I rarely make scones with fresh berries. Actually, that's not true. I'm fairly certain that I've never made a scone with fresh berries. First off, I'll tell you that I love berries. My second favorite fruit (after figs) is berries. It can be raspberries, blackberries, blueberries--whichever is the freshest, the sweetest, and on sale.

I also love scones, but I tend to favor more "dessert-like" recipes, even though I never go overboard on the amount of butter and rarely use high-fat dairy, like cream. My absolute favorite scones are Cinnamon Chip. There's also Maple-Pecan and Pistachio. Those last two have icing.

Once I finally combined fresh berries and scones, the results were awesome. They were sweet enough; the dough was incredibly tender; and the firm blackberries stayed intact, creating juicy chunks of berry. One caveat, however, is that fresh berries add a ton of liquid to your batter. It might look very dry, but once the berries are mixed in, you'll be fine.

I tried this recipe with fresh raspberries, and they were far too soft. They broke up, so no chunks of fruit; and they turned my dough into a moist blob almost instantly thanks to their high water content. The firmer blackerries, on the other hand, held up fine (if by chance, yours are very, very soft, they may not work so well). I think blueberries would also be great. Just make sure they're sweet and tasty.

Blackberry Scones with Lemon and Poppy Seeds
I use thick, homemade buttermilk (here's the recipe I use). Store-bought should be fine, but don't use milk mixed with vinegar or lemon juice; it's too thin. I think this recipe would work well with blueberries, but raspberries are too soft and will break up. Wash your berries a couple hours, or even the night, before so they're completely dry. The poppy seeds are a nice touch, but feel free to skip them.

Makes 12 medium scones

2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (300 grams)
6 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tsp lemon or vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp poppy seeds
8 Tbs very cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
2 cups fresh blackberries, dried well and halved
2 tbsp (approx.) turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cardamom. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, extract and lemon zest; whisk in poppy seeds.

Add butter to flour mixture and incorporate with a pastry blender or your fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal with some larger, shaggy chunks. Add wet ingredients and stir just until most of the dry ingredients are moist (dough will be quite dry as berries add moisture). Gently stir in blackberries, working them in with floured hands if needed. If dough is still very dry, you can drizzle in some buttermilk; if it’s too wet, knead in more flour.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and quickly knead together. Divide in half and pat each half into a disk about 3/4 to 1-inch-thick. Cut each disk into 6 wedges. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.