May it Please the Palate ...

“So Easy Even A Lawyer Can Do It”

By Nick Roumel

OK I bit. The title was “12 Recipes That Sound Difficult But Are Surprisingly Easy.” What could these possibly be, I wondered? Have I ever tried making them myself? Would I agree?

No. I would not, and I did not agree. These recipes “sound difficult” because, well, they ARE difficult. Fancy stuff like risotto, falafel, ceviche, chicken liver pate, vichyssoise, paella, crab cakes, tiramisu, chocolate mousse – c’mon, Huff Post, I’ve spent all day on some of these things. What do you have that I don’t?

(Well for starters, Huff Post has almost 3 and a half million Facebook followers; I don’t. They’re owned by AOL; I’m not. They’ve won a Pulitzer Prize; I’ve never even been nominated. But we do have one thing in common: we were both founded by Greeks – Huff Post by Arianna Huffington, and me, by my parents :-)

Another thing Huff Post apparently has that I don’t is access to a rich variety of fresh ingredients that don’t require shopping, cleaning, OR preparing. Take the “Chorizo Paella,” for example. The recipe provided says “45 minutes total, 0 minutes prep.” Huh? Then how did those two cups chopped onion magically appear? The three thinly sliced cloves of garlic? Both of these bulbs require some hands-on work: cut off the little knobby ends, peel off the skin, then decide whether you want to haul out the food processor (and end up filling half your dishwasher) or finely dice those things by hand.

Then there’s the matter of the wine – the paella recipe calls for one cup. What the heck am I supposed to do with the rest of the bottle? You think it’s going to be easy cooking this recipe when I’m half in the bag?

The one that really got me, though, was the “surprisingly easy” Chanterelle Mushroom & Caramelized Shallot Risotto. Coincidentally, my mushroom-hunting friend Ben invited me over tonight to try some freshly hunted bounty. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it, or I would have suggested this nonsensically facile risotto dish, with the tagline: “have the patience to stir consecutively for about thirty minutes.”

Still trusting, I clicked on the link. The recipe began with foraging for wild chanterelles in the Pacific Northwest. This involved the blogger’s Theio Niko (well, that’s a good sign), waterproof pants, and a GPS that only had to be synced with the satellite once.

Once you get the chanterelles home – in a plastic bucket from Home Depot, no less – you must spritz them off with the kitchen nozzle for exactly one second, then dry them for two hours in the sun. (If it’s cloudy, I guess you go hungry.)

Now you can start the recipe - assuming you have the other 14 ingredients. Otherwise you’ll have to squeeze a shopping trip into that 0 minute prep time (nudge nudge wink wink). Then once home, after sorting everything, you’ll have to thinly slice 5 shallots and mince 4 garlic cloves. You’ll also need to have both grated parmesan and gruyere cheese. I’ve yet to find Kraft grated gruyere, so there’s another decision: box grater, or shredder component to the food processor?

I’ve been shopping and prepping for an hour, and I haven’t yet started my half hour of consecutive stirring! That’s because this ridiculously easy recipe first calls for 40 minutes of caramelizing the shallots¸ then ten more minutes with the garlic and mushrooms, before you even begin to cook the rice!

All told, I calculate 2 hours of prep and cooking not counting the foraging, washing, drying, and shopping. There is only one saving grace – this is another recipe that calls for only 1 cup of wine. Now, what do I do with the rest of that bottle?

Chanterelle Mushroom & Caramelized Shallot Risotto

5 shallots, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chopped chanterelles (can substitute button mushrooms)
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup white wine
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2/3 cup cream
1/3 cup grated parmesan
2/3 cup grated gruyere
1 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

First caramelize the shallots. Melt the butter in a medium-sized frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and stir to coat in the butter. Reduce the heat to low. Continue cooking them until they turn golden brown, (about 40 minutes), stirring every 10 minutes and more frequently towards the end of cooking to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the rice and stir constantly for 2 minutes, then add the wine and 2 cups of the stock. Continue cooking and stirring until most of the stock is absorbed, then add another cup of stock and keep stirring until it is mostly absorbed. Repeat this process until you have used all the stock. Once the risotto is thick and creamy, add the caramelized shallots, cream, cheeses, herbs, and spices and stir until incorporated and all the cheese has melted. Remove from heat and taste, add more salt if necessary.

The recipe ends with “Serve immediately.” Just remember to awaken your guests first.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.