Preparing the Hoppin John Risotto

New Years’ Day – let’s kick off this cooking blog.  Hoppin’ John, a dish of black eyed peas and rice is a traditional New Years’ dish, usually accompanied by collard greens, symbolizing folding money.  Will it provide good luck and prosperity in 2010? Dunno, but it’s tasty!

We had some arborio rice so we made it risotto style, based on the recipe here by Bobby Flay, but cut in half as we’re only two people.  First, some black eyed peas were soaked overnight, then simmered with just enough water to cover and half the bacon for about 45 minutes until cooked through.  You’re supposed to use a ham hock to prepare the peas, but the bacon worked fine.  Next we browned the rest of the bacon, reserved it, then used the pan to make a risotto, flavored with chicken stock and some of the bacon grease and bits left over in the pan.  You have to stir a risotto constantly, adding a little stock and white wine at a time until it reduces into a creamy consistency.

On the side we had some collard greens leftover from last night, which were already cooked, so we just heated them through in a pan with a little chicken stock.

Hoppin John Risotto

The finished product

Towards the end of the risotto preparation, we added the black-eyed peas back in, salt and pepper, and plated it with the bacon crumbled on top and a little parmigiano cheese.  For the drink alongside, I could have gone with the Riesling we used to make the risotto but I had a Ommegang Hennepin farmhouse ale alongside it.

So who are Burke & Wells, anyways?  We’re a couple of food fans in Brooklyn, New York and a love of neo-traditional cooking.  Despite being long time foodies, with a lot of world class restaurant visits under our large belts, we’ve decided to learn to cook.  Really learn to cook, from scratch, the old classic recipes, given an updated spin here and there.   We’re going to be as seasonal and local as we can. What excites me the most is classic dishes from American or Canadian heritage, and country cooking from around the world – food made with love and respect for the seasons and for heritage.

Welcome to our blog, hope you enjoy your stay.

Carbonnad Flamande

Belgian beef stew

Tonight’s dish was a Belgian beer-based stew called Carbonnade Flamande. I adore all things Belgian and this was a spectacular dish. We used Daniel Boulud’s recipe in the excellent book Braise, which involved beef shoulder, onions, bacon, Belgian Trappist abbey beer (we used Chimay), a little mustard and orange marmalade, and oddly enough crumbled gingerbread. The gingerbread dissolved entirely during the 2 hours plus in the oven and was a flavoring agent. Usually carbonnade is a stew, with the beef cut up into chunks but we braised one big chunk of beef instead and cut it up later. The sauce was a blend of creme fraiche and mustard. The whole sauce was stellar, very medieval in character with a sweet and sour note from the beer and various spices. It felt like an old recipe and it is – carbonnade flamande is something the monks in the Trappist abbeys eat, the recipe goes back hundreds of years.

Our execution of this meal had two minor flaws: one the meat was a little dry in the center. We could have pulled it out maybe twenty minutes earlier and it would have been perfect. And the pie crust was a little tough, but I know why that happened too – excessive kneading of the dough beforehand.

Pommes Puree

Pommes Puree

This whole meal’s preparation took probably an hour’s work of chopping and browning the meat and so forth, and another few hours of waiting while it cooked. This was not counting the time spent making the gingerbread, but that was as an ingredient and conveniently gave us a dessert.

A good mise en place, setting up everything beforehand with all the ingredients measured out in little dishes, and cleaning as you go, make these sort of operations a pleasure. This was a lot of work but a great deal of fun.

We’re just getting this underway.  More to come soon!