Archive | November, 2011

My mom says the secret of Porcini mushroom risotto is to stir it like crazy

30 Nov

Risotto is one of those things I never make because I think it’s going to be too hard. Except, it’s not. It’s easy, and it just TASTES like it was really difficult to make. My mom says the secret is that you just have to stir it, a lot.

So I made this the other night after I tracked her to down to ask how much broth you need to add. (Her answer, as usual, was “as much as it takes” so I’m estimating that here.)

What you will need:

A large sautee pan, kind of like this:


Serves 4:

1 cup arborio rice

5 cloves fresh garlic

1 onion

1 cup dried porcini mushrooms or 2 cups fresh, can also use crimini or button mushrooms

Chicken broth, probably 3 cups

White wine, 1/4 a cup

About 24 jumbo fresh or thawed shrimp, cleaned, tails off  (depending on how hungry you and people are)



Olive oil

Fresh grated parmesan cheese, about three handfuls

Fresh parsley, chopped

If you have dried mushrooms, put them into about a cup of boiling water and let sit while you do this other stuff. If you have fresh mushrooms, cut them up and stand by.

Dice the onion, mince the garlic.  Put about 3/4 the garlic aside for the shrimp.

Throw some olive oil in the pan, enough to thinly cover the bottom. Medium heat, toss the onion and garlic in.

When the onion is translucent, toss the rice in, folding the olive oil and onion, garlic in.  Cook another five minutes, then remove the mushrooms from the water, set them aside and toss mushroom-y water in, or  use a cup of chicken or vegetable broth and stir, stir, stir. Reduce heat.

Fresh mushroom peoples: In another pan, saute the mushrooms with a little olive oil, salt and pepper until they reduce down, then set them aside.

Continue to stir the rice until the broth is near gone, then add 1/4 cup of white wine and stir some more. Salt and pepper it.

As the rice boils down, it gets a sort of creamy consistency. Continue to add broth after the liquid reduces down until the rice looks translucent. That’s about 35 minutes. You can add a little more wine too if it needs more of a kick.

If it looks like this, then it’s not done yet:

At the 25 minute mark, or so, fold the mushrooms in to the risotto.

Taste it! Is it crunchy? If so, it needs more time and more broth or wine. If it’s not crunchy, it’s done. Add about three handfuls of grated cheese.

Let it sit.

Meanwhile, heat up a second pan and toss in the rest of the garlic, parsley and more olive oil. Saute the shrimps until they’re pink and feel fleshy instead of mushy. That takes very little time, about 10 minutes.

And here it is:

Thanksgiving sideshow: Cranberry deliciousness

24 Nov

Here’s a recipe for super easy, super fast, super delicious cranberries. Eat them for Thanksgiving or for a snack.

What you will need:

1 package of fresh cranberries
2 seedless juicing oranges
2 granny smith apples
1 cup of suger
Put the raw cranberries in the food processor,
Cut the apples from the core and slice up the oranges, including the rinds.
Toss everything into the food processor
Add cup of sugar (more to taste if need be)
And blend blend blend until it’s a relish.
It’s so good, you won’t believe. And really easy.
Toss in the fridge and you’re ready to go!

Turkey brining 101

24 Nov


So, I realize it’s Thanksgiving and so this may not be so useful today but hopefully for the future, or for some other fowl. We decided to brine the turkey this year, well Andrew did really, I am a turkey purist but I was semi-willing to try something new. Mom’s store was busy  — she sells Ho-Ka Farms fresh turkeys and they are delicious in case anyone wants to buy one next year, as well as every side imaginable. But she took the call anyway, and here’s what we decided on the brine.

What you will need:

1 cup of kosher salt

1 cup sugar

1 cup dried herbs of your choosing (we used dried parsley, rosemary, thyme, and garlic)

1/4 cup peppercorns

Peel of two lemons

1.5 gallons of water

Boil about half the water with the salt and sugar so that it dissolves. Combine the rest of the water and the herbs, add ice or let it sit.


IMPORTANT: Don’t put hot water on your turkey! It will be bad times.

Let the solution cool. Put the turkey in a bag and dump the solution in. The turkey should be submerged. If it’s not, add more water.


Let the turkey sit in the brine, 1 hour per pound. We let ours go a little longer since we put it in the night before and I’m hoping it’s not too salty. I’m just cooking a small guy this year, 8 pounds.
Take the turkey out, rinse it off, pat it down and voila! Ready for stuffing.


Spaghetti Supper pasta sauce

10 Nov

Fifty years ago today, my grandmother, Antoinette Reardon, started a fundraiser at our grade school called the Spaghetti Supper. She made a pot of our family recipe red sauce and fed a roomful of people who had donated money. (That actually describes my childhood, but without the donation part.)  The fundraiser made us feel like famous people in our tiny town of Crown Point, Ind., and people still talk of my grandma in these revered tones and marvel at how great the food was. So in honor of her, my mom, Maureen, cooked a big batch of sauce for her store Dunning’s Market before heading over to the supper with her brothers and sisters. By the way, mom is one of 11.

Here’s my mom’s take on the sauce, from her own mouth:

In honor of the 50th anniversary of St.Marys Spaghetti Supper (which my mom started) I made “quick” spaghetti. It makes about 8 quarts, cut it in half if you want less.
Here is what you will need:

2 pounds ground chuck
1 pound chunk of pork (pork shoulder)
2 cups fine  grated picorino romano cheese
2 small onions diced
8 cloves garlic chopped
1 cup fine chopped flat parsley
3 cans imported tomato puree (2.2 pounds)
1 can imported whole tomato (2.2 pounds)
1 cup fresh basil leaves (stack on one another and roll then slice”chiffionad”)
1 tsp sea salt (fine)
olive oil (extra virgin)
heat pan with 3-4tbsp oil and sautee onions until transluscent
push to the side and add pork ..brown on all sides.
add chuck and garlic and brown thru
add parsley and basil
add tomatos(crush whole tomatos with hands )
add 1 1/2 cup water
add salt
bring to boil the turn down to low simmer and cook for 4 hours stirring frequently.
stir in one cup grated cheese reserve the rest for the table
cook pasta of your choice (we like a small penne or thin spaghetti) drain and
top with sauce and serve
be sure the onions are translucent. if not they will taste burnt and you can taste them in the sauce
and then you will have to start all over. That is what happened to me today but since I was making it for my sibilings I was certian they would be able to taste it and totally call me out.  I could not take that chance of family humiliation so…..I made the recipie twice!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

6 Nov

O.K. I know this site is technically about my mom’s cooking advice, but when you need baking help, the truth is, it’s really my grandma – my dad’s mom – who knows best. Mom’s side of the family is more about cooking from your gut, grandma likes specifics. The woman is a baking genius, and she has piles and piles of recipes she’s collected and perfected. Her Christmas cookies are legendary, just wait for those.

So anyway, here we are: I needed a recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies, and I called her. She dug around, called me back and said: “Now, these are really, really good. There are  few simpler recipes I pulled out in case, but these are the ones I always make.” I jotted down a few notes and behold! Grandma Long’s oatmeal raisin cookies.

What you will need:

Oven on to 375 degrees

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup regular sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp nutmeg ground

3 cups uncooked oats

1 cup raisins

Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, the sugar, butter, egg and vanilla in the other.

Combine them and add the raisins.

Bake for 8-9 minutes for chewier cookies

Bake 10-11 for crispier cookies

FYI, my grandma likes chewier cookies.


Hello world!

4 Nov

I call my mom almost every week to ask her how to cook something, and whether it’s hot chocolate or stew or scallops she always knows. Maureen, that’s my mom, owns a food store on the south side of Chicago. But more, we come from a family who knows how to eat. We talk about it all all the time, we cherish it,we relish it. We have recipes handed down generation to generation, from her great grandmother and down on to me.

The other day as I was dialing the phone to ask mom whether I could use white wine instead of red to braise beef, (the answer is yes, but also throw in a little balsamic vinegar) I started to wonder whether other daughters and moms did this too, in this time where it a lot of women my age don’t knowhow to cook. Or they consider it a hassle and not a thrill.

At any rate, the blog was born. I’ll be listing the things I call mom for and then adding the recipes as I go, and I’d love to hear from anyone who does this as well. What do you make? What do you love that your mom makes?