06 June 2013

Birthday Week! Red Wine Risotto & Peanut Butter Pup Cake

The first week in June is very important in our household.  After Thanksgiving and Christmas, it's the most anticipated week of the year.  It's Birthday Week!  On the first we celebrate our pups, while the fifth is devoted to the hubs.  I love this week....probably more than my own birthday.  I get to bake both dog and people treats to share with the two most important little creatures in my life.  So it's only fitting that I take a post to stop and reminisce in this year's celebrations.

The pups turned two this year meaning that she is officially a dog!  (Our baby is growing up...*tear*.)  We had a fun-filled day which included running a 5K, chasing bunnies in the woods, a walk to the pet store and far too many pets than she knew what to do with.  She tore through her heavy-chewer dog toy within 20 minutes, liberating the squeakers from their fox-shaped prison.  And of course, she had a pup cake.  I used this easy and nutritious recipe that I found online and tweaked slightly to her pupple preferences.  I used both shredded zucchini and carrots in the batter rather than straight carrots, and substituted bacon fat for oil...just in case all the peanut butter wasn't enough.  Needless to say, she utterly destroyed it.  

Pretty much the cutest dog ever.  Yep...love the pup.

Now moving on to the fifth!  Besides being able to celebrate my wonderful husband, I have a selfish reason for so enjoying this day.  For the next two months, he is officially unable to call me a cougar.  I revel in the opportunity to joke about how old he's getting and reminding him that he's no longer with an older woman.  But this year I more than made up for any laughing in his face jesting remarks by gifting him a lovely tooting gerbil card along with a bottle of 12 year-old Macallan single malt scotch.  He was pleased, but even more pleased when the time came for dinner.

The protein that the hubs missed the most during Meatless May was scallops.  Therefore, we had to have them for his birthday.  I went to our local seafood distributor and bought eight of the biggest, freshest U-10 scallops they had.  Those are the big ol' boys, as clearly seen above.  I just knew they'd go perfectly with this delicious Cheesy Red Wine Risotto.  I've been making risotto with red wine for years, and love the unique pungent flavor a good merlot lends to the creamy rice.  

When I found a semi-firm goat cheese that had been cured in red wine, it just screamed "make me risotto!"  So naturally, I yielded to the cheese.  After dinner last night, I happened to find a nearly identical recipe out there which called for goat cheese, so I'm sharing my basic version and leaving the cheese up to you.  Other fabulous dairy products that I enjoy in this dish are smoked gouda, extra sharp cheddar or creamy havarti.  But play around the red wine risotto if for nothing other than the color alone.  It's truly beautiful on a plate.

I consider my mission accomplished for birthday week.  Now I'm off to remind my hubs that he's an old man.....

Cheesy Red Wine Risotto (2-3 servings)
  • 1/2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil, divided (or for the hubs, black truffle)
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2/3 c arborio rice
  • 1 c good red wine
  • 1 1/2 c chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 oz cheese, crumbled or shredded
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
Place a large pot over medium heat and add the butter and 1/2 tablespoon of the oil.  Heat, swirling the pot occasionally, until the butter is completely melted.  Add the garlic and cook for about 20-30 seconds, until fragrant.  Add the rice and stir together until all the grains are well coated.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until the rice begins to smell toasty, then add 1/2 cup of the red wine.  Let the mixture come to a simmer, then continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.  Repeat with the remaining wine, and then with the broth.  The after all the liquid is absorbed, taste the rice to see if it is cooked to your liking.  If you find it needs more time, add another half cup of broth and cook until absorbed.  

Remove the pot from heat.  Season with salt and pepper, remembering that you will be adding salty cheese.  Add all but about two tablespoons of the cheese to the risotto, then stir together until completely melted.  Serve by garnishing with the reserved cheese and a drizzle of the remaining oil.  The dish is very rich, so I recommend serving with a light salad and protein choice, such as seared scallops or white fish.

Favorite variations:
  • goat cheese & caramelized mushroom (pictured above)
  • smoked gouda & slivered almonds
  • havarti & peas
  • I'll let you know how brie & pear turns out!

And for those of you who can't get over those scallops, here's my favorite recipe as barely adapted from Alton Brown....

Seared Scallops (serves 2-3)

  • 8-10 U-10 scallops (about 1 pound)
  • 2 tsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp black truffle oil
  • fresh ground salt & pepper
Line a small plate with a paper towel.  Gently wash the scallops under cold water to remove any sediment.  Dry the scallops well with another paper towel (this ensures a good sear) and set on the prepared plate.  Sprinkle the tops with salt and pepper, then set aside.

Place a large, flat-bottomed non-stick pan over high heat.  When the pan is very hot, lift off of the heat and add the butter and oil.  Swirl together until the butter has completely melted and the liquid is smoking.  Place back on the heat and add the scallops.  Cook for 1 1/2 minutes on each side until the scallop is nicely seared on both ends and slightly opaque in the middle.  Serve immediately.

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