Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Something Old, Something New

My talk with Herb last week had left me nostalgic; not only has he been a regular since the the first owner of our original incarnation, El Greco, but has been dining on Broadway longer than he would like me to say here. He explained to me how different the face of Broadway was, when it was adorned by high-end clothing shops, like Store 219 (!!!), and a variety of fine dining eateries - a far cry from the stretch that we see today.

I have only been here for two and a half years, and about eight months of that was before we made the change to Table 219, so my nostalgic time perception is probably a little skewed, but there has still been something that I have been missing...

As you may or may not know, El Greco was Mediterranean-themed, and we had two weekly specials at a time: one fish, and one risotto. Now as Table 219 I have streamlined the specials into one that can contain anything: meat, fish, poultry, etc., allowing for a more variety of dishes that have been the inspiration for these writings, but the risotto special was cast aside since it was so decisively Italian. So as a nod to the past and to the way that it helps shape our future, I decided to create a risotto dish that encompasses all of the best attributes from my favorite risotto dishes.

First, as with anything, the foundation must be secure, which for risotto means you start by toasting the dried rice (I've used the more known Arborio rice before, but have now found that another variety called Carnaroli is even better) in oil before adding white wine and slowly cooked onions and garlic with some neutral vegetable broth. Once cooked to near doneness I spread the rice mixture thiny over a large pan to cool quickly to keep from becoming mushy.

Next I seared thick cuts of Angus Beef bottom round (similar to a brisket) before slowly cooking them in vegetables and Guinness beer until fork tender. The resulting liquid was then thickened into a distinctly flavored gravy that is dark and rich, with a slight bitterness that offset the creamyness of the risotto.

To complete the risotto I finished the rice with half and half, parmesan cheese, lightly roasted cubes of butternut squash, baby artichokes, diced chunks of the braised beef and a touch of tarragon for that hidden note of flavor. As a final touch of complexity I topped the rice off with a savory scoop of roasted garlic whipped cream to soften the edges of the artichokes and Guinness gravy.

Thanks to Seattle Magazine for recognizing us for our great brunch, we have been slammed (forgive the pun) for both brunch and dinner. Though the two are generally viewed as separate, I have thought of a way to tie them together while coming up with a topping for this weekend's French toast.

This time of year doesn't give me many options for fruit, and for variety sake I have to settle for a compote made from frozen berries to keep from buying produce from Chile, otherwise all I have is apples... and pears.

I love poaching pears. There's just something about the transformation that I love and the ability to infuse a piece of fruit throughout with whatever flavor you want; something that you can't do to a peach or banana. So this week I will have Caramel Poached Pears on the French toast, as well as in the cocktails!!

I start with a caramel by cooking sugar and water until it is a dark amber and then cool it down. I then add trimmed and halved Bosc pears with some lemon juice and slowly cook them until tender, but to allow for the flavor to penetrate the fruit I let them cool in the liquid completely. The remaining liquid is a rich, golden color that has also captured the pear's flavor. After shaking with ice and some Absolut Pear and finishing it with a few slices of poached pear, this drink is a true delight!!

With Love,