Thursday, September 23, 2010

Doing the Wave

It's time for another episode of Shameful Kitchen Secrets, where I have to 'fess up to a transgression of the Ten Commandments for Foodies.

What is it this time, you ask?

The food gods have a special chair in a hot corner of foodie hell for those of us who use that appliance called a microwave. The mere mention of it in polite company has brought a gasp, with an accompanying look of consternation, from a dinner guest, as if I'd just admitted to letting the dogs lick the plates before setting the table.

I might be slapped lightly on the wrist and made to write "I promise not to use Satan's oven" 100 times if I only used it for heating the odd cup of lukewarm coffee or thawing the dogs' ground chicken when I forget to pull it out of the freezer in time for their dinner. But no, my sin is much greater, much more of the spend-eternity-cleaning-behind-the-oven-with-a-toothbrush kind of thing.

It is that…please don't be too shocked…I make risotto in the microwave.

There. I've said it. Are you still with me?

My excuse is that when I inherited the appliance from my mother, rather than taking it straight to Goodwill I made the mistake of plugging it in to see if it worked. And it did. Rather well. Plus I'd had a copy of Barbara Kafka's "Microwave Gourmet"moldering in the back of my cookbook shelf for years, and pulled it out to see what laughable wisdom she might have to impart. That's when I saw a section on risottos, one of my favorite comfort foods ever.

That Satan is a very sneaky character, no?

From there…well…from there it was a slippery slope to the chair in hell mentioned previously. The risotto turned out creamy with an ever-so-slight tooth to the rice, just like it should. And, while my brother would (and still does) disagree, I consider it a perfectly acceptable, not to mention quick and easy, alternative to the classic ladle stock, stir, ladle stock, stir ad infinitum method.

So now you know. I hope my confession has elicited pity more than condemnation. I do still make risotto the classic way when we have guests, since goodness knows I don't want them to know my dirty little secret and the damn dinging of the timer is a dead giveaway. But if you want to prove me wrong, to show me the error of my ways, I'm including a recipe below. Have fun (if you can handle the guilt)!

Spinach and Bacon Risotto

A couple of caveats about microwave cooking. Timing can vary depending on how powerful your oven is. It might be helpful to consult the book that came with your appliance for guidelines. My mother's oven is fairly old (mid-90s) but pretty powerful; experimentation is encouraged. Also, ingredients can vary widely…I've made a paella version with seafood and saffron and, god help me, it turned out great.

6 slices bacon, cut in 1" pieces
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 red or yellow onion, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. arborio rice
5 c. chicken stock (or 4 c. stock, 1 c. dry white wine)
1 bunch spinach, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 c. parmesan, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the bacon in a frying pan until the fat is rendered but it is still tender. Set aside.

Combine butter and oil in large microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 1 minute on high or until melted and quite warm. Stir in onion and garlic, coating with the butter and oil, and heat for 2 min. on high. Stir in the rice. Heat for 2 min. on high. Add the bacon, bacon fat, stock and wine (if using) and stir to combine. Heat for 10 min. on high. Add spinach and stir, cooking for another 10 minutes or until the rice has absorbed most of the stock but is still creamy. Add tomatoes and 1/2 c. of the parmesan and combine, adding salt and pepper to taste. Cook longer if it is still too soupy or add liquid if it is too dry…the rice should be very slightly al dente, not mushy. Serve with remaining parmesan.


Biblioholicbeth said...

Me, too! I love using the microwave for risotto - it's so much easier! No shame here ;)

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence. When it comes right down to it, I'm fairly unrepentant, myself.

pdxknitterati/MicheleLB said...


No pity, nor consternation from this quarter. I've never made risotto because I don't want to babysit it. Now you've tempted me to try my hand at Satan's oven. Temptress!

Thanks for the recipe!

Kathleen Bauer said...

As a lapsed Episcopalian, your comment comes uncomfortably close to that portion of the Lord's prayer that goes "Lead me not into temptation…" But they didn't know about microwaves back then, did they?

Zawacki said...

I just love reading your blog!
Thank you for a wonderful idea and a hilarious read ;)