Merry Christmas everyone! Following a lovely Christmas Eve dinner last night, we're now headed down south to spend a few days at the beach in Phuket and Khao Lak. It might seem an odd way to celebrate the holidays, but trust me, the Christmas spirit is alive and well here in Bangkok and Thailand in general! Despite it being a Buddhist country, Christmas lights, trees and music are everywhere. With the local penchant for anything bling, parts of the city look positively like Times Square, and the malls all seem to be packed with holiday shoppers and parents bringing their little ones to see Santa Claus. All that's missing is the snow (although last night it was almost chilly at 20C/68F), hot chocolate and chestnuts roasting on an open fire!
|Scenes from our Christmas Eve dinner|
Over the last few days, I've been cooking up a storm. I suppose partially to make up for a couple of months during which I didn't cook much, but also because I've been brimming with culinary inspiration recently! Actually that's pretty much a permanent condition here, as all of the amazing food that we try in the restaurants and streets of Bangkok always have me wanting to come home and replicate ASAP! And it's not just Thai food, mind you, but all kinds of international and fusion cuisine as well. Case in point: Gossip, a gorgeous and trendy new restaurant that opened recently in our (Thonglor) neighborhood. The kitchen mixes French, Italian, Japanese and Thai influences and turns out some amazing dishes. Case in point: the morel and cep risotto with comté cheese and a port wine reduction that I had for dinner the first time that we visited. The creamy risotto mixed with the salty tang of the comté and the sweet port reduction was amazing...so much so that I vowed to replicate it at home as soon as I could!
Both port and comté are hard to find, or rather quite expensive, here in Bangkok. Luckily some friends of ours happened to have brought us some port for our recent Thanksgiving dinner fiesta. Port, or porto as it is known in its native Portugal, hails from the beautiful city of Porto (duh!), which is a charming place that we visited almost 5 years ago. Porto is a sweet red wine that is typically considered a dessert wine. Comté is a hard, unpasteurized cow's milk cheese from the Franche-Comté region of France and is one of my favorite French cheeses. A friend of ours sent me some via Luis when he was recently in Paris. What nice friends we have indeed! The result? Not exactly like the version at Gossip, but absolutely delicious and too good not to share. The comté cream, by the way, is in reality just a mornay sauce, or a béchamel sauce with grated cheese mixed in. Creamy, cheesy sauce topping an already creamy risotto, with the port reduction giving a bit of sweetness...pure bliss!
WILD MUSHROOM RISOTTO WITH COMTE CREAM AND PORT WINE REDUCTION
Port Wine Reduction
2 cups tawny (or other) port
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Dash of freshly ground pepper
1. In a small saucepan, combine the port, sugar and pepper. Simmer over low heat for about an hour.
2. Remove from heat and cool for at least an hour for the reduction to thicken. No problem to make this in advance and refrigerate (bring to room temperature before using/plating).
Wild Mushroom Risotto
60 grams (2 ounces) dried shitake mushrooms
6 cups (1 1/2 liters) boiling water or mushroom/vegetable stock
2 mushroom or vegetable stock cubes (if using water rather than mushroom/vegetable stock)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 large cloves garlic, grated
125 grams (4.5 ounces) oyster or other wild mushrooms of your choice, chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio or Japanese sushi rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
Additional water (if need be)
Generous knob of butter
2 tablespoons grated parmesan or comté cheese
1. Put the dried shitakes in a large bowl and pour the boiling water on top, weighting the mushrooms down with a large spoon or two. Let them soak and reconstitute for at least 20 minutes.
2. In a large saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, followed by the garlic, and saute until translucent.
3. While the onions are sauteing, drain the shitakes (reserving the water or broth). Crumble the stock cubes into the liquid if you are using water.
4. Squeeze the water out of the shitakes and finely chop. Add them and the other mushrooms and stir well. Saute until they are cooked down a bit, about 5 minutes.
5. Add the rice and stir well. After a couple of minutes, pour in the white wine and stir well.
6. Once the wine has evaporated, add the mushroom-infused water or broth about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well and frequently after each addition until the liquid evaporates. Keep doing this until you have used all of the liquid and the rice is cooked, which should take about 25 minutes. Add additional water if necessary.
7. Stir in a knob of butter and the grated cheese and mix well. Set aside for 5 minutes, during which you can make the comté cream.
1 1/4 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
50-60 grams (2 ounces) grated comté cheese
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Over low heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour, mixing well to avoid clumping.
2. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly.
3. Once the mixture is thoroughly warmed, add the cheese, salt and pepper. Stir well.
4. Once the cheese has melted and incorporated into the sauce, remove from heat. Drizzle a little bit of this and the port reduction over the risotto.