Gourmet Cooking (Home Chef Style)

At this point, this post is now going live a week behind the actual occurrence.  I haven’t had this much to post about all at once.  Maybe I should take time off more often.

This is my first vacation since 2016.  I haven’t had this much down time at home since I came home from working a campaign in Texas.  One of the best parts of being home for this long is getting to spend time with my dog (and my sister’s dog).  Our family dog is 12 years old, almost completely blind, and probably doesn’t have a ton of good time left in her.  While she does love to sleep all day (I feel you, Sadie) she is still a bit lively and loves to fetch.

I have got to spend some quality time with my pup.  We have played, taken naps, and done some belly rubs.  I can tell Sadie loves when I come home.  She likes to have another person to dote on her, but she also just misses her buddy.

Before I came home, my dad asked if I would make dinner one night.  I eagerly agreed and started thinking of what to make.  He said I could make anything I want and that I could surprise him.  I think he should be careful what he says; giving me a blank canvas could be dangerous.

I decided on a theme for dinner.  I wanted to show what a gourmet meal cooked by a home chef looked like.  I think there are certain dishes that people tend to stray away from because they seem to cheffy.  I wanted to make the point that home chefs can develop in-depth flavors and delicious restaurant quality meals right at home.

My meal had three main components.  The first was chicken meatballs in a white wine sauce.  This is a recipe I got from Chris from his Tasting Rome cookbook.  The second was a mushroom risotto which I mostly winged.  The third was roasted asparagus.

I had never made these meatballs before, but I have made chicken meatballs.  What I know to be true about working with ground chicken is that it has a gummy texture, making it hard to form meatballs.  It is important to have a good binding agent.

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I think this recipe works well for that.  I made sure to do a fine chop up the pistachios to provide the necessary texture to these meatballs.  My least favorite part of making these were that I had to touch bread that even briefly was soaking in chicken broth.  The recipe said to wring out the liquid, and that felt so disturbing in my hands.  It smelled very good as the wheat mixed with the warm chicken broth.  However, there are few things more disgusting than handling wet bread.  For some reason that bothered me more than touching the raw meat.

I felt I did a great job with the meatballs.  When you look up this recipe online, it looks like people really struggled to form round meatballs.  They mostly look like small meat knobs.  My meatballs formed well and cooked evenly.  The inside had a great texture and really looked like chicken.  The white wine sauce was delectable.  I could have just served this over pasta and been happy.

However, I decided to serve it with a mushroom risotto.   I knew this risotto would not be as creamy as the risotto I had at Timber Creek the other week, but I knew I could make a distinctive risotto.  I started by looking a recipe to get the overall gist of making risotto.  I have made risotto a handful of times in the past, but it is by no means my speciality.

I took the recipe as a guide and got creative.  I will give you a general breakdown of how I made this.

  1. Mince two cloves of garlic and two to three shallots.  While you are mincing these, put 4-5 cups of chicken broth in a sauce pot on the stove to boil.  Turn the heat to low to allow for a simmer once the boil is reached.
  2. Drizzle olive oil in a deep pan or sauce pot and drop in the garlic and shallots once the oil is hot.  Let simmer for a couple minutes to make the aromatics.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add two cups of arborio rice to the pot and let toast for 1-2 minutes.  Add the simmer chicken broth (1/2 cup at a time) to the pot with the rice.  Don’t add more broth until the liquid in the pot is gone.
  4. While you are working on the chicken broth, take 8 oz of chopped baby bella muchrooms (about 1/4 inch pieces).  Add them to a separate frying pan with olive oil and stir occasionally until mostly cooked.  If they finish cooking before you are done with the broth step, just turn on the heat and leave the mushrooms in the pan.
  5. Once you have added all the chicken broth and it has cooked out, it is time to add our mushrooms to the risotto.  Stir the mushrooms into the cooked rice.
  6. At this point, add 1/2 cup of white wine, 2-3 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup of grated parmesan, a handful of fresh chopped parsley and other Italian seasonings (oregano, basil, etc).  It is okay to use dry spices if you don’t have fresh ones.  Once the wine has cooked off and the butter has melted, season with salt and pepper to taste.  You should be ready to serve immediately, but if you are still cooking other food, cover until ready to serve.  This dish is best served hot!

That is the risotto recipe I came up with while cooking this meal.  I mostly winged it, but it turned out great.  It had great texture and flavors.  The mushrooms were cooked perfectly.  This was a pretty good risotto.

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Finally, I made roasted asparagus.  While I was working on the other food, I preheated the oven to 425 degrees.  I trimmed the end of an entire pack of asparagus and threw them on a baking sheet.  I drizzled the asparagus with olive oil and seasoned with seasoned salt and pepper.  I let them cook for about 15 minutes.  Before serving, I sprinkled grated parmesan cheese onto the asparagus and popped them back in the oven for 1-2 minutes, just enough for the cheese to melt.

The asparagus was a hit.  My dad especially like them.  Even my mom who doesn’t like asparagus ate some.  We completely demolished that tray of veggies.

I would call this entire meal a success.  Everyone loved the food I made, and I was proud of what I presented.  I really do feel like I made a gourmet meal at home.  I think my grandma would be really proud if she were here.

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My parents don’t have wine glasses so we drank the wine I served out of plastic Duck Dynasty cups.

I especially enjoyed sharing this meal with people I love.  I got to show my family some of my cooking skills.  I also invited Katie’s mom (Chris) who came over for dinner.  Unfortunately, her dad (Will)  was unable to come due to being out of town for work, but I did get to visit with both of them when I stopped by the house the next day.

After dinner, I served the dessert I made.  While not fitting into the gourmet theme, I made chocolate cupcakes, a recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.  My youngest brother doesn’t like a lot of different cakes, and he didn’t eat any of the cake my mom got for my birthday.  I decided to make chocolate cupcakes because I knew he’d like them (and because I knew he wouldn’t eat any of the things I made for dinner).

I really need to work on my piping skills, but the icing did taste delicious.  I felt the cake was good but a tad dry.  Next time, I will keep them in the over for a few less minutes.

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The beautiful flower arrangement made by Chris

 

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