November 29, 2014

White truffle for mom, 2014 edition

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I'm back home this weekend to exercise my constitutional rights and fulfill my civic duties.  Yes, I flew back to Taiwan to vote in the elections today.  While mom was initially not hot on the idea of me making the trip back, I insisted that I would not give up on my rights.  My vote is just as important as anyone else's and I wouldn't dream of giving up my right to vote.

For a change, I asked the parental units to come and hang out at my place, since I wanted to cook dinner in my kitchen.  After last year's rather unsuccessful attempt to cook a decent dinner for mom, I was determined to try again.  Since it's white truffle season, again, I dropped by Neighborhood and asked David to sell me a little tuber that I could take home to mom.

This year I decided to do risotto instead.  Gary had just posted a mushroom risotto recipe on his blog recently, so I figured I'd try it out.  I knew I didn't have time to shop for ingredients in Taipei, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to find everything I needed, anyway... so I brought a bunch of key ingredients with me from Hong Kong.

It's been a few years since I cooked my last risotto, and that attempt didn't end well.  So this year I decided to take things a little slower... making sure it was medium to medium low heat, and adding my stock in one ladle at a time per Gary's instructions.  I probably could have prepped a little better, and didn't exactly get my mis en place all done before firing up the stove, but it went fairly smoothly. Although I did scramble a little while trying to sauté my shimeji mushrooms (しめじ茸) and stir the risotto at the same time.  And mom helped by dicing the rehydrated porcini for me.

Shimeji and porcini mushroom risotto - this was one of the better risottos I have ever cooked, despite being woefully out of practice.  I think it was partly because I used a large frying pan instead of a stock pot as I used to, and partly because I was really adding stock very slowly over medium low heat.  Texture-wise it wasn't perfectly al dente, because I didn't turn off the heat quickly enough, but there was still some firmness in the middle, and the rice was far from mushy.  If only I added a little more stock before serving... since it was clearly not wet enough.

I do have to say that this was pretty tasty.  Of course the chicken stock and the onions provided the backbone, but the liquid from rehydrating the porcini didn't hurt, and it's nice to have the mushrooms, too.  The only regret I have is that I forgot to sauté the rehydrated porcini to really bring out the flavors... and just mixed them into the rice.  I think mom would have been happy to make the chicken stock for me, but she was thankful that the bouillon cubes I used were at least made by "lao wai" and didn't have any MSG...

But I couldn't just serve the risotto on its own!  We had to have white truffle, and I wrapped the paper towel around this 91-gram tuber and showed mom.  A 40-gram piece had broken off before I bought it, and I decided that we didn't need the whole 130 grams for the three of us.

There was plenty of truffle to go around, so I wasn't exactly stingy when shaving it.  The idiotic rookie mistake I made?  Not cleaning the truffle with a brush before serving.  Mom took a bite and realized there was still sand on the exterior, so I stopped shaving and went back to the kitchen sink to clean the truffle.  Much less sand on the plates afterwards...  Sorry, mom!

Mom always demands lots of veggies for her meals, so she prepared these sautéed vegetables for us.

For dessert, I grabbed a pint of Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream from 7-11 next door, and then just shaved the rest of the white truffle on top - like I've been doing at Neighborhood a lot lately.  Mom thought it was decadent when there was more truffle than ice cream in her bowl which, of course, was an exaggeration.  Dad, on the other hand, ended up having more ice cream than I've ever seen him eat, as he kept spooning it to balance out the truffle in his bowl.  We also ended up grating the last bits of truffle for a completely different texture, and mom preferred it this way with ice cream.

I wasn't planning on drinking a bottle of white with dinner, but since I had to opened up a bottle to cook the risotto - which I swiped from the parental units - we might as well drink some from that bottle.

2005 Robert Mondavi Chardonnay Napa Valley - ripe on the palate as expected, with classic lemon citrus.

A pretty happy dinner... not least of all because I didn't fuck up the risotto.  Hooray!  I'm glad I got to deliver a much better white truffle this year, and hopefully I can do a bit better next year.

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