There are things in this gastronomic world that are meant to coexist to create a lovely harmony. Goat cheese and honey, for instance, compliment other’s strengths – with the sweet drops of syrup gently balancing out the subtle tanginess of the cheese and its grainy texture. And the golden brown honey drizzled playfully over the ivory bar of goat cheese is like having Jackson Pollock’s artwork on a plate (or a kid’s doodle, you be the judge).
Another match I adore is spinach and bacon, where the sizzling, crispy bacon wilts the leaves on contact, creating the soft – but not mushy – texture good enough to eat at a kitchen counter, never making it to the dining room.
Others, however, are quite contradicting in theory, like chocolate and chili (wtf!) but it somehow works like magic. For me, green tea ice cream ranks as one of the most bizarre creations. No reasonable Japanese would have ever imagined putting sweet confection in green tea, as the drink is something to be enjoyed straight, sans sugar and milk unlike its British cousins. But tradition takes the back seat to the out-of-the-box imagination, especially when the result is a specutacular success. The combination of the slighty grassy bitterness of the tea leaves and the silky, luscious mixture of vanilla, cream and sugar, is a true culinary masterpiece (yatta!).
But above all that, my all-time favorite duo is combining cheesy with cheesy – and I’m not talking about piling four kinds of cheese on a dough to create a perfect slice of pizza.
The cheese I’m referring to here is Women’s Murder Club, author James Patterson‘s popular, best-selling series. Yep, books. I admit that I am addicted, although the series is one of those real corny thrillers where you know the murderer before the murder is committed. The characters are also quite predictable. I picked up the book as a way to kill time during my frequent business travel and I would have never picked up this genre of books otherwise, but there’s something very soothing about mindless, effortless read (this is somewhat reminiscent of the time I secretly watched the endless reruns of embarrasingly plotless, severely nutrient deficient Saved By the Bell although I didn’t dare tell anyone about my sickening behavior … oh god, please forgive me). So, when I learned that this book was turning into a television series on ABC, I had to make sure that I make this momentous Friday night a very special one for the series premier.
To celebrate the cheesiness of it all, I’ve decided on cooking mushroom risotto with lots of freshly graded Parmesan cheese — my first attempt on creating this Italian staple.
(Note: This is a quick and less sophisticated version of the real deal, which usually calls for more bourgeois ingredients such as truffles. We’re talking cheesy paperback thriller and not the work of Fitzgerald here, so this will do. Also, I’m notorious for not following a recipe so this is completely my own creation. Therefore, there’s no guarantee of success if you follow this poorly written instruction).
Ingredients: Pancetta or bacon (1/4 cup), Portobello mushroom (2 cups), garlic (1 clove), onion (1/2 of large or one medium), green peas (defrosted, 1 cup), arborio rice (2 cups), chicken broth (6 cups, unsalted, heated), dry white wine (1/2 cup), Parmesan cheese (bring that sucker on!), Italian parsley for garnish, salt, pepper and olive oil.
1. Begin by sautéing diced pancetta with a teaspoon of olive oil, then add minced garlic, onion and sliced Portobello mushroom in a large saucepan. Add salt and pepper to taste. I know I’m supposed to also add dried mushroom for more robust flavor but I couldn’t find it at Trader Joe’s (shucks).
2. Once the mixture is cooked all the way through (about 5-7 minutes), put aside half of the mixture. With the remaining mixture in a pan, stir in and cook Arborio rice until each grain changes color to slightly clear. Add the dry white wine and cook until the alcohol evaporates but still retaining the flavor.
3. Begin adding the heated chicken broth to the rice mixture, one cup at a time and stir, stir, stir, stir … darn, my arm hurts!
4. Once the rice is almost cooked, add the mixture you put aside earlier back in the pan, and stir again. Add a handful of green peas for color and lovely sweetness.
5. Add grated Parmesan cheese and top it with chopped Italian parsley. Add loads and loads of cheese, as this is the tribute to something cheeeeeeeeesy.
6. Pour the remaining white wine in the glass and make yourself comfortable in front of your television. But if you’re like me, you might have to grab another bottle because all the wine was consumed during cooking.
7. Put your feet up and enjoy a relaxing Friday night with delicious wine, cozy plate of risotto and indulge in the guilty pleasure of cheesy television. However, when Monday rolls around and your friends ask you what you did on the weekend, politely smile and walk away. Afterall, you still have to maintain your image and what’s left of your reputation.