Mushroom Risotto in the Pressure Cooker

We were having company over for dinner last weekend; Carla and I thought, let’s make something easy yet tasty in the pressure cooker. We looked at each other and said “Mushroom Risotto!”  I cooked this and blogged about it in January 2016; just goes to show you: this is great comfort food for cold winter days.  Winter is still hanging on here in Portland – in fact we are getting hammered with snow as I write this.

We had our taste bud set for this then I looked at the recipe. Yeah – it’s a pressure cooker recipe but it isn’t a dump-and-cook pressure cooker recipe. Cooking takes about 45 minutes and the pressure cooking takes up only about 10 minutes of that – counting the time to pressurize the pot. Not to worry; I got everything prepped and was able to visit with our guests as I sautéed  and stirred and added stuff.   I used this recipe from Serious Eats – a great web site.

The prep doesn’t have to be this laborious – I just took my time and decided to take some pictures along the way. First I got everything out

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20170218    Mushroom Risotto FE 24 70mm F4 ZA OSS HWT00056Then I portioned it all out so it would be super simple to put together while visiting (oops – the quart of chicken stock was playing hooky when I took the picture)

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This recipe calls for a pound and a half of fresh mushrooms – trimmed and sliced. That’s a lot of mushrooms – will it fit? Take a look at the first three photos in the sequence below to view how the mushrooms cook down. The Serious Eats recipe says it takes eight minutes to drive the liquid off and brown them. Um, no – it took about 15 minutes. But the transformation is amazing.

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The last photo in the sequence is after the pressure cooking is complete and the cream and cheese have been stirred in.

Dinner was served

20170218 Mushroom Risotto FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS HWT00101My camera has a touch screen; sometimes when I put the view finder up to my eye, my nose touches the screen on the upper left hand side and moves the focus point. I think that happened here. That salad is really sharp. Here is a little clearer picture of the risotto by itself.

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We had a nice time at dinner – as we always do with this group. We watched the Olympics (I AM SO IN LOVE WITH THE OLYMPICS THIS WINTER) while we ate some apple pie our guests brought.

RATING: ★★★★  Almost a full 5 stars.
My copy of the recipe can be found here.

[Blogging Note. I’ve been trying out Mars Edit for my posts – as you can see here. I was not happy with the results here. For some reason it changed the fonts everywhere so when I made changes on the WordPress web site I ended up with a jumbled mess of fonts and font sizes. I had to go into the HTML editor and remove a bunch of <span style…> tags. Mars Edit may not be a great tool for me]

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Chili Verde for Superbowl

February 4, 2018

I got sick the week before Christmas and have been fighting back for the past 6 or so weeks. As a result the only blog posts I’ve written have been about my reading – which is about all I’ve been up to doing.

But now I’m feeling better so we hosted our annual Super Bowl party with the group of couples we’ve celebrated with for almost 10 years I think. Usually I make my El Cid Chili (spoiler alert: use top sirloin instead of chuck roast) but I thought I’d mix it up this year and do a green chili.

I made this last winter but wasn’t thrilled with it; I experimented later with chicken and loved it; so I brought those adjustments back to this recipe and it turned out pretty darned well if I do say so myself. As a bonus, it’s relatively quick and easy to prepare – as opposed to the El Cid which takes most of the day. This recipe comes from Serious Eats – one of my favorite cooking blogs. I haven’t made my own copy of this recipe for sharing because it would be 90% the same as the original. The takeaway is that this is one of the rare dump-and-cook recipes that really works; no searing the meat ahead of time and no charring the chilis in advance.

We start with the vegetables; anaheim, poblano, jalapeño, and serrano chilis, tomatillos, onion, and garlic. Roughly chop the chilis and onion; husk and quarter the tomatillos, and remove the papery skin from the garlic.

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Then trim the excess fat from four pounds of  pork shoulder and cut into large – 2-inch pieces. If you are feeling fancy, toast some whole cumin seeds and grind with a mortar and pestle;

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otherwise, use pre-ground cumin.

Toss everything in the pressure cooker with the tomatillos and chilis on the bottom; Turn the pressure cooker onto high and listen for the sizzle – stir a few times and the liquid will start to express. Notice there is no added liquid in this recipe – the tomatillos and chilis will give up enough liquid to allow the cooker to come up to pressure.

Add a hefty pinch of salt, the cumin, – and a bit of soy sauce if you are me.

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Closes the lid and cook under high pressure for 30 minutes; followed by a quick pressure release.

At the end of cooking, remove the pieces of pork to a bowl and cutting board; maybe cut or shred some of the larger pieces. Add a bit of cilantro and a tablespoon of fish sauce – it isn’t fishy; it adds umami flavor – and blend the liquid with an immersion blender or in a kitchen blender – be careful it is HOT.

Look how much liquid you have! This is after blending the liquid and re-adding the pork.

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Taste for flavor and add a bit more salt or whatever.

Dish up a bowl and eat up.

[EDIT: Feburary 7, 2018] I removed a picture of the chili in a bowl for serving. The picture just didn’t work. I took a few different photos but none of them did the dish justice. I’ll leave you with the final picture in the pressure cooker (above).

 

I  removed the seeds from the jalapeños and Serrano so this was very mild. If you like hot, try the method used in El Cid chili. Instead of removing stems and seeds from one of the jalapeños, leave one intact and slice it vertically 3 times from below the stem to the end of the chili; put in the pot and cook. I haven’t tried this but I bet it would definitely bring the heat.

Oh my we had so much good food – as usual. Mark made some tasty/spicy buffalo chicken meatballs; and the nachos you’d swear you’d never eat but that are SO good. Christie made a tangy veggie dip. Herb brought his wings; and Dianne brought home made cookies. This crowd knows how to cook. We missed Norm and Kim – Norm is a professor at the OSU Cascades campus in Bend. He has an 8:00 class on Mondays and it is a bit too far to drive home to after the game. We got to see them at the Christmas dinner and ornament exchange this group has every December.

Bonus: The Philadelphia Eagles hung on to defeat the New England Patriots. For the first time in a few years we were all rooting for one team.

RATING; ★★★★

I think this is a great meal for company.

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Reading: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

 

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. Book Cover

Rating ★★★★

Finished: January 27, 2018

 

 

As in Little Fires Everywhere the driving event of the novel is on the first page:

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.”[p 1]

Lydia is a high school teen who is caught in the web of conflicting expectations. Her family is the only Asian town in their midwest community; her mother has put her own lapsed dreams onto Lydia; and her father has done the same – hoping Lydia will be popular.

“And Lydia herself – the reluctant center of their universe – every day, she held the world together. She absorbed her parents’ dreams, quieting the reluctance that bubbled within.”[p 160]

Yet this is so much more than a novel about a teen’s death. We see the dynamics between the mother and father, the three siblings, and the neighbor, Jack. The pressures of life can bring families together or break them apart. And though family members share a lot with one another, it just isn’t everything. This novel explores the pressures, consequences, and efforts of the family. It is a detailed and nuanced look into their lives.

It’s fun reading two novels from the same author back-to-back – even though I read them in reverse order of their publication. There are common themes; primarily parents pushing their kids because of their own frustrations. There are common structures – notably starting the story with the climax then circling back from the beginning. But we also get to enjoy the differences and Celeste Ng’s beautiful prose style.

I’ve read a few books about teen deaths the past couple of years – most notably “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold. I have four friends from my high school and college days who have suffered through their childrens’ deaths. I can sympathize but I can’t understand what it is like. So, I can’t know how true this novel is. Nevertheless, it is gripping and – to this outsider – feels like it is sympathetic and well thought out.

 

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Reading: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little FiresEverywhere_by_CelesteNg_Cover

Finished: January 21, 2018

Rating: ★★★★

 

 

 

An intricate story about mother and daughter relationships and the tension between following rules or dreams. As the story opens we see the Richardson’s house is burning down.

“Every bedroom was empty except for the smell of gasoline and a small crackling fire set directly in the middle of each bed, as if a demented Girl Scout had been camping there” [p 3]

The family is safe but they are all sure Izzy Richardson set the fire. The other siblings watch the fire:

“Beside them they felt the hole that Izzy, the freshman, the black sheep, the wild card, had left behind – though they were still certain, all of them, that this hole would be temporary” [p 5]

We then drop back a year – with side trips even earlier – to watch what led up to the fire. Izzy had health problems when she was born and her mother – usually referred to in the book as Mrs. Richardson in the story rather than by here given name of Elena – focused on Izzy with intense passion. “As time went on, the concern unhooked itself from the fear and took on a life of its own.” [p 110]
Mrs. Richardson is a rule follower; if you learn and follow the rules good things will happen.

“Rules existed for a reason: if you followed them, you would succeed; if you didn’t, you might burn the world to the ground.” [p 161]

She is confronted by another mother/child of Mia – an artist – and her daughter Pearl who challenge this view. The tension in this dynamic is the driving energy of the novel. It is riveting to read how Izzy sees another way to live. But there are other mother/daughter relationships at play. Mia and her daughter, Pearl. Mia and her mother; Mia’s work friend Bebe and her daughter. Mrs. McCullough and her adopted baby. I especially like chapters 8 and 9 about a Madonna and child image in a museum which is affects those relationships.
Although I wanted to dismiss Mrs. Richardson’s pressure on Izzy as terrible; it is also understandable. Mrs. Richardson never saw the poster on the hospital wall that says “Anger is Fear’s Bodyguard.” [p 110] As a parent I know that anger and fear.
Finally, the art work Mia leaves for the Richardson family is beautiful and meaningful to each in a personal way.
I always enjoy reading some beautiful turns of phrase; and this book has plenty of them.

“Half an hour later, the dancing and the liquor and the sweet, heady rush of being eighteen had filled them both with a feverish flush” [p 44]
“The silence seemed to stretch itself out like taffy” [p 87]
“Beauty rolled off her in waves, like heat” [p 94]
“The roots of her irritation were long and many branched and deep.” [p 107]
“She had seen Pearl watching Tripp for months, like a mouse watching a cat, longing to be eaten.” [p 317]

Celeste Ng masterfully weaves the many story lines and the associated themes into a wonderful story.

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Reading: The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson

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Rating:★★★★

Finished: January 15, 2018

 

In early November 2017 I read a New York Times article of a new translation of The Odyssey – the first English translation by a woman.(NY Times “The First Woman to Translate the ‘Odyssey’ into English” November 2) That got my attention – I never really thought about the fact that it has been a man’s world up to now. I was then grabbed by her account of struggling with the fifth word of the poem – “polytropos”. That word gets to the heart of describing the hero. It can be translated as either the ‘much turning’ or ‘much turned’ (NY Times November 2, 2017). “Much turning” reveals the wily side of Odysseus; the man who cleverly disguises himself and lies in order to prevail. “Much turned” describes his plight in being pursued and helped by the gods Poseidon and Athena. Wilson settles on

“Tell me about a complicated man” (1:1)

I had also heard that this translation is translated into a more modern meter to make sense to our modern ears. Even though I had read the Robert Fagles translation in 2010, I knew I’d have to read this one.

Emily Wilson is breaking new ground here; I love her unapologetic take on this work:

“It is traditional in statements like this Translator’s Note to bewail one’s own inadequacy when trying to be faithful to the original. Like many contemporary translation theorists, I believe that we need to rethink the terms in which we talk about translation. My translation is, like all translations, an entirely different text from the original poem. Translation always, necessarily, involves interpretation; there is no such thing as a translation that provides anything like a transparent window through which a reader can see the original” [p 86]

This thought struck me back in the 1970’s when I studied literature and could not figure why in the world Alexander Pope would translate it into rhyming couplets. That was definitely a reflection of the times when this form was considered the way to bring order and control to the world.

This is definitely a translation for our times – it is quick-paced and clear. That being said, I understand why so many people have terrible memories of reading The Odyssey in high school. The story is quite convoluted. We get many stories within stories. In fact, the scenes we are so familiar with – the cyclops, the Lotus Eaters, the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, are short and not described in the normal sequence of events; but are told my Odysseus in hindsight. Because Odysseus has to carefully consider his words and actions in order to get home safely, we see him taking on other names and retelling parts of the story from that point of view. Wilson’s  translation helps break down some of those barriers.

Regardless, the pace is quick and I could see how it could be turned into a modern day action movie. When he throws off his last disguise to battle the suitors we get graphic descriptions of him shooting an arrow through one man’s throat and just above another man’s nipple. The violence is sometimes quite graphic. In describing the the cyclops killing his men we read:

“…, he reached his hands toward my men,
seized tow, and kocked them hard against the groiund
like puppies, and the floor was wet with brains.” [9: 288-290]

then later as the drunk monster slept

“… All-conquering sleep
took him. In drunken heaviness, he spewed
wine from his throat, and chunks of human flesh.” [9:372-374]

It totally sucks for Odysseus that Polyphemus is related to Poseidon who plagues the city-sacker for many years.

Even though Wilson does away with the repeated phrases describing people and gods (a method for oral reciters to keep the listeners in the loop) she does a great job showing us who he is.

“Odysseus, with careful calculation said” [p 215]

“Odysseus, the city-sacker” [p 220]

“the clever mastermind of many schemes” [p 236]

“Wily Odysseus, the lord of lies, …” [p240]

“Odysseus, adept survivor” [p 282]

“Unflappable Odysseus” [p 395]

“Odysseus, the master of every cunning scheme.” [p493]

“Lying Odysseus” [p 516]

Wilson has much more to say about the clash of cultures, the plight of slaves, women, and the like. Reading her introduction provides wonderful insight into the ancient culture and her and understanding her word choice. I’m no scholar; I suspect many experts of the Ancient Greek stories will take issue with Wilson. But I loved it.

 

[EDIT: January 22, 2018] Can you believe it? I got the author’s name wrong. It is Emily Wilson, not Emily Watson. Geesh! I apologize for the mistake

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2017 Reading Summary

January is always a little exciting for me since it gives me a chance to review my year of reading. I set a lot of goals for my 2016 year of reading  – both numbers and types of books too read. These goals led me to read when I could have been enjoying life in other ways. As a result I set no formal goals for 2017.

Nevertheless, there is a theme to a subset of the non-fiction works. Like many I was gobsmacked by  Trump’s election. Obviously I had been living in a bubble (may still be) so I wanted to see if I could understand what his base and the Tea Party  is thinking. I don’t pretend this is a thorough study of the issue; but it served as  a starting point for me.

To that end I read:

  • Thank You For Being Late. Thomas Friedman describes the three disruptive forces that are making things worse for the unprepared: climate change, global markets, and increasingly advance computerization and networking. My take is that Trump’s base is trying to stop those changes – that will not work. As Friedman says: you can’t build a wall to stop a hurricane; you need to get in the eye.
  • Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic. I don’t think Trump followers are on drugs; but having heard Sam Quinones on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, I knew he had a lot to say on middle America culture
  • Hillbilly Elegy – J.D. Vance lived that working poor life in Ohio. He escaped that life through the U.S. Marines and law school. He doesn’t think the liberal solutions are effective. If you want a shorthand version of his story and viewpoint; listen to the June 29, 2016 podcast from On Point Radio (WBUR Boston) entitled “Poverty, Religion, and American Frustration”
  • Strangers In Their Own Land. Arlie Russell Hothschild looks at the issue through the “keyhole” topic of pollution in Louisiana. Even though pollution is ruining the state, the loyalists, cowboys, and religious don’t want to turn agains the industries that provide the jobs; even though the jobs are increasingly being automated.

The biggest reading joy came from Eventide by Kent Haruf; the middle book of the Plainsong series. It’s the most touching book I’ve read since Terms of Endearment back in the 1980s. The McPheron bachelor farmer brothers are given a chance at love and make the most of it.

Links in the table go to my blog post of the book.

2017 Reading List
Count Title Author Rating Type
1 Thank You For Being Late Thomas L. Friedman ★★★★★ Non Fiction
2 Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic Sam Quinones ★★★★ Non Fiction
3 All That’s Left to Tell Daniel Lowe ★★ Fiction
4 Michael Bloomfield: The Rise and Fall of an American Guitar Hero Ed Ward ★★★ Biography
5 Anything is Possible Elizabeth Strout ★★★ Fiction
6 Hillbilly Elegy J.D. Vance ★★★★ Non Fiction
7 How the Bible Came to Be John Barton ★★★ Non Fiction
8 Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War Mary Roach ★★★★ Non Fiction
9 Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam Mark Bowden ★★★★ Non Fiction
10 Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right Arlie Russell Hochschild ★★★★★ Non Fiction
11 The Code of the Woosters P.G. Wodehouse ★★★★★ Fiction
12 Trajectory Richard Russo ★★★★ Fiction
13 Plainsong Kent Haruf ★★★★★ Fiction
14 The Ninth Hour Alice McDermott ★★★★ Fiction
15 The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History John M. Barry ★★★★ Non Fiction
16 Manhattan Beach Jennifer Egan ★★★★ Fiction
17 Eventide Kent Haruf ★★★★★ Fiction
18 Benediction Kent Haruf ★★★★ Fiction
19 A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens ★★★★ Fiction
Average ★★★★

I’m excited about the books I have lined up now for 2018. Before I started the Kent Haruf “PlainSong” series I thought I had run out of the motherlode of reading. Then I found Haruf and a bunch of other authors. After starting the year with a new translation of “The Odyssey, I’m enjoying Celeste Ng’s “Little Fires Everywhere”.

If you’ve followed my blog – especially my year-end reading posts – you know I have struggled with the best way to format the summary table; most years, I’ve contented myself with taking a screen shot of a summary sheet in my reading Google Sheet. Back in November I switched to MarsEdit 4 as my editor and tried again. I still can’t figure out how to do it natively in Mars Edit – there is no “Create Table Option”. I copied the cells from my worksheet and pasted it into Tableiizer, to create the HTML table. Then I used the Mars Edit plain text editor to paste it. It’s better and definitely serviceable . I don’t have gridlines but I can add HTML links to the titles; so that’s a start.

Post Script: after reviewing the posted entry; the table is not as nice looking. I got back some of the cell borders but I’m not crazy about the large font. A good project when I’m re-retired.

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Reading: Benediction by Kent Haruf

BenedictionBenediction by Kent Haruf

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finished: December 23, 2017

In the first page “Dad” Lewis learns his cancer can’t be stopped. We watch him reflect on some key relationships as he fades. Although there is death and broken relationships in the first two books of the Plain Song trilogy, this last book is the darkest.

“By the beginning of September the dirt would be piled over what was leftof him out at the cemetery three miles east of town, Someone would cut his name into the face of a tombstone and it would be as if he nevel was.” [p 5]

In Plainsong and Eventide we mostly see people who have chances at relationship with others and take them – or at least move toward the new. Dad won’t be able to do that. His one true love, his wife was his luck and allowed him to build a better life after leaving an abusive home as a young teen. The husband and wife relationship is all we expect from the Kent Haruf novels. Even though she ends up in the hospital with exhaustion, she walks away and miles back home to take care of her dying husband.

Although everyone calls him “Dad” he hasn’t always been the loving dad – but more the stern dad. Talking with his daughter, Lorraine we see the situation in a nutshell.

You know how much they think of you.
Well, I think a lot of them too. But they never say much, do they, They never say much to me.
You don’t let people, Daddy. You never have.
You think that’s what it is?
Yes, I do. [p 160]

Like the other two books in the series we also get looks into the lives of other inhabitants of Holt, Colorado; many of whom have parallel struggles: mother and daughter Alene; the little girl Alice across the street, and the the new minister and his troubled family. Some take the opportunity for relationship regardless of the cost; others pass.

In the three novels, Haruf urges us to take chances on opening our hearts with other people. In the two earlier stories the McPheron brothers opened their lives to Victoria and her daughter; later Raymond McPheron finds romantic love. Dad Lewis found love and luck with his wife but unfortunately not in some of the other big relationship events in his life. We do see him trying to change; which is hopeful.

Benediction is a nice counterpoint to the other two novels. I don’t recommend starting here; work your way through the series from the start.

View all my reviews

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