Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blessed Serendipity

Tonight I had planned that we would have baked potatoes for dinner.  However, when I pulled the bag of potatoes out of my dark-corner-cabinet where I keep them, I saw that the last 4 potatoes had eyes all over them and a couple had actually begun to get furry, if you know what I mean.  It wasn't like they had been in there for a long time - we just had potatoes last week.
This left me scratching my head as to what to do for dinner because the veggie drawer is looking a little empty.  I opened it up looking for inspiration and found exactly one head of broccoli, one yellow onion, two small white potatoes and two kinds of mushrooms.  Hmm.  There was not much inspiration in the rest of the fridge and I was left to wonder why I've been collecting tubs of hummus and sour cream (my grocery list of basic "essentials" is very long at the moment, and gets longer every day when I think of something else to add).
Crimini mushrooms would be my inspiration.  I decided to google mushroom recipes just to see what popped up.  The second one I looked at was for a pseudo-risotto using orzo instead of rice.  Orzo, for those of you who've never cooked with it, is pasta that is actually shaped like a grain of rice (see picture) and can either be boiled like noodles or cooked with measured liquid like rice.  It's fantastic stuff and very versatile.  I remembered that I had just bought some when I was aimlessly browsing the bulk food aisle at Whole Foods (ouch).  I decided this looked like an alright choice for dinner and that I would put my own spin on it.  After all, my favorite combination in the world is italian sausage and mushrooms.  Lucky me I had half a pound of ground sausage in the freezer. The result was perhaps one of the best meals I've ever cooked.  EVER.
So, without further ado...

Danielle's Mushroom Sausage Pseudo-Risotto
2-3 tbls olive oil
1 medium yellow onion diced
3-4 cups sliced mushrooms (I used half crimini, half white)
1/2 lb ground Italian sausage (mild or spicy as you prefer)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup orzo
2 cups chicken broth
1/4-1/2 cup hot water
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh parmesan

In a small pan, brown Italian sausage, set aside.   In a large non-stick frying pan, add olive oil, heat to medium.  Add onion and mushrooms, saute for about 3-4 minutes until they begin to soften and brown.  Add wine, turn up heat to medium-high until about half the liquid evaporates.  Reduce heat back to medium and add orzo.  Stir orzo around and let it soak up remaining liquid.  Add about 1/3 of the chicken broth and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed (around 5 minutes), repeat two more times until most of the broth has been absorbed.  Taste a couple grains of risotto to see if they are done.  Add 1/4-1/2 cup of hot water as necessary for risotto to finish cooking to an al dente consistency.  When the water has been absorbed, stir in the sausage.  Salt and pepper to taste (I didn't add any salt, I didn't think it needed any).  Stir in 1/2 fresh parmesan cheese.  Serve!  Makes 3-4 adult-sized servings depending on how hungry everyone is.  My husband and I couldn't stop eating it.

I love it when good things come out of thin air!  It makes me grateful for a fairly well-stocked kitchen so that even when my fridge seems a little bare, I can usually come up with something and it might even be from scratch!  I might need to go to the store tomorrow, though...

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