Cooking From Memory ~ A Recipe Journal

‘Valentine’ by Carol Ann Duffy

Posted in Kitchen Wisdom,Vegetables by Paul Gauche on July 11, 2009

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.




Tips For Making Perfect Risotto

Posted in Kitchen Wisdom by Paul Gauche on July 11, 2009

(Photo Credit: Romulo Yanes,

Have all the ingredients at room temperature or warmed before you start cooking. If the ingredients are cold, it shocks the rice and causes it to stay hard at the core. It also slows down the process and inhibits the release of the essential starch. The finished risotto is sensitive to timing. It should be served immediately, not partially cooked and then finished just before serving.


Sauté the onion:

In a wide, heavy saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil and/or butter. Add the onion and sauté until softened. (Sometimes green onions or leeks are used in place of the onion.) Be sure the onion does not over brown; just cook it enough to soften and introduce its flavor subtly to the dish.     


Coat the rice:

Add the rice to the pan with the onion. Stir until the grains are well coated with oil and/or butter and are translucent with a white dot in the center, about 3 minutes. Lightly toasting the rice in fat tempers the protein coating and coats the grains with the fat, a liquid-resistant substance that will inhibit overly rapid absorption of the cooking liquid. This allows even release of the starch for a more consistent creaminess in the risotto. Never allow the rice to brown. A splash of wine is often added at this point to deglaze the pan, loosening any cooked bits stuck to the bottom. Stir until the wine is completely absorbed.     


Add the stock:

Add gently simmering stock to the rice, a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently after each addition. Adjust the heat so the rice cooks briskly but not so quickly that the grains start to fall apart. Keep the grains bagnato, (soaked) bathed in broth, so they don’t dry out, but wait until the stock is nearly fully absorbed (but the rice is never dry on top) before adding the next ladleful.

The slow addition of the liquid controls the release of starch; what isn’t absorbed evaporates. Keep stirring frequently, which helps the fat and starch join and keeps the rice from scorching. Rice continues to cook even after being placed in a serving dish and continues to release starch and absorb liquid, so reserve about 1/4 cup stock to add at the end.     


Stir in the final ingredients:

The rice is done when it is tender to the bite but slightly firm in the center and looks creamy; this takes about 20 minutes. At this point, add any reserved vegetables or other ingredients called for. Cook to heat through, remove from the heat and add a tablespoon of butter, freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (if using) and the reserved 1/4 cup stock. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Searing (Browning) Meats

Posted in Kitchen Wisdom by Paul Gauche on July 11, 2009

Searing Meat


Searing meat is the process for caramelizing the sugars and browning the proteins present in meat, creating more color and flavor, as well as an appealing crust, on the surface.

 1.  There are a few pre-cooking tips that will help make the most of your sear:

  • Remove the meat from the refrigerator and set it out at room temperature for a short while before cooking it. This lets the meat to relax, allowing the meat’s natural moisture to reabsorb into the muscle, rather than staying trapped between the meat’s fibers.
  • Make sure the pan that will be used for searing is hot, hot, hot!

 2.  Once the meat has been allowed to sit at room temperature for a short while, season it with salt (and pepper, if desired). The seasoning will stick to the moist surface of the meat and as it cooks it will form a flavorful seared crust. The salt will also permeate the surface of the meat, flavoring the meat’s interior.

3.  If you have chosen to marinate the meat in a salty mixture, like soy sauce or a salty brine, there is no need to add extra salt and moisture. If you chose to marinate the meat in a sweet or sugary solution, be careful when searing because the added sugars could burn quickly, ruining the taste of your meat.

4.  Depending on the type of meat and amount of fat that has been trimmed off of the meat, it may not be necessary to add fat to the pan. The pork we are using does not need added fat because there is enough fat on the meat to sear it properly. However, if you decide that your meat will not render enough oil to sear the meat properly, add vegetable or peanut oil to the heating pan and watch for the oil to ripple. When the oil ripples, the pan is hot enough to add the meat. If you are not using added oil, be sure to heat the pan to a very high heat before adding the meat.

5.  If the pan is not hot enough when the meat is added, the meat will stick and tear when turned. When the pan is hot enough the sugar on the meat’s surface will immediately crystallize, making it a simple task to flip the meat over. Meat seared at a correct temperature will leave flavor crystals (known as fond ) on the bottom of the pan, which can later be removed (for later use) from the pan by using a technique known as deglazing . When the pan is very hot, add the meat to the pan by placing the fattiest side down.

6.  Watch for coloration to take place, it will happen quickly. When one side of the meat is seared, turn it to allow a fresh side of meat the opportunity to brown. Searing calls for constant attention because it takes place so quickly. If attention is averted, it is easy to burn the meat.

7.  On occasion, the meat will attempt to return to the position it was originally placed in rather than stay turned to the side that needs searing. To avert this problem, arrange the meat with the desired-side down, and lean it against the edge of the pan. The pan will, in essence, act as a support or prop.

8.  If you subscribe to the “more seared the better” mode of thinking, treat yourself by searing the meat’s tips by balancing it against the edge of the pan. Be careful when doing this as the pan will be screaming hot and contain very hot oil. If the meat were to fall over, it could send a splatter of hot grease around the kitchen.

9.  Keep in mind that the inner core of the seared meat is most likely raw and will need to be cooked further.