I belong to this group of food lovers who, when they go to a restaurant they like, they cannot help it: after tasting a dish they like, and making sure they have inquired and received answers to their subtle questions–because of course, we would not steal the chef’s secrets–, they go home, quickly, actually as quickly as possible, taking mental notes and not hearing conversations around them until they are safely home, ready to put themselves to work. The goal is to make again something they do not want to forget.
For me, it once happened in Montréal.
There are great things about living on the East coast of the US, in Boston. Certainly not summery humid days or freezing below- zero winter nights, but the fact that, when we want, we can spontaneously hop in the car, and 5 hours later, we are in Montréal, Québec. C’est le fun! (that was me training my French Canadian).
There is also one hobby we have developed every time we go. It involves looking for any possible place where we can eat great food (not poutine, thank you!). So at each trip, there is more talk about food, what we will eat, when (very important too) and where. But we are people of habits, already, so although we keep promising to ourselves that this new time, yes, no questions about going to the same place, we ought to try a new place, we eventually find ourselves once more, in the old part of town, la vieille ville (and really, this is not a bad place to be in). So what do we find there?
A haven of food pleasure. That one place we love. It is called Chez l’Epicier.
I discovered this place on a business trip to Montréal, and ever since I have gone back, I always make sure to book a table in this restaurant for my hubbie and I. Not only that, if friends tell us that they are going to Montréal, we send them there. The décor is fun, with a large blackboard where the menu is hand-written, a lively turquoise colour painted on the walls, and as its name says, next to the restaurant room, you can also find a display of produits d’épicerie fine that can be purchased.
So you see, you can do two in one, your own shopping and eat. What a plan!
But let’s get back to what intrigued me and inspired me. Here is a list of the samples tasted in Montréal over a Thanksgiving trip :
Carpacio d’huîtres avec pomme séchée et mayonnaise au gingembre (Oysters Carpacio with dried apple and ginger mayonnaise)
Petite lasagne d’aubergines (Eggplant Lasagna)
Cassolette de crevettes (Shrimp cassolette)
Confit de canard, foie gras poêlé, risotto à la truffe et ses asperges (Duck confit, fried-pan foie gras, risotto with truffle and asparagus)
So amongst those, my attention was caught by the beet risotto (as I love beets and I was then in a risotto phase).
Here is my recipe
-1 1/2 cups Arborio risotto
-1 quart chicken broth
-5 tbsp extra dry white vermouth
-1 cup of cooked beetroots (cut in small squares), about 3 whole beetroots
-1 cup fresh spinach
-1 tblsp parsley
-1 tblsp chopped ginger
-3 garlic cloves
-1 yellow onion (or 3 shallots)
-Zest of a lemon + 3 tblsp lemon juice
-3/4 cup grated Fontina cheese
-Salt and pepper
To do it:
-Start by heating the broth and cooking the beetroots.
-Take a large pot, fill with hot water and add the whole washed beetroots. Cook until tender. Let cool off and then peel before cutting in small squares. Set aside.
-Chop thinly the leeks. Set aside.
-Chop all the spices, garlic, ginger and onions.
-Take the zest of the lemon. Squeeze the juice that you will use later.
-Take a large pot and add 2 to 3 tbsp olive oil. Heat up and then add the garlic, ginger and onions. Cook until softer (2 to 3 mns).
-Add the dry rice and let coat for 2 mns, without letting it turn brown.
-Add the lemon zest. Cook for 1 mn, then start to add the broth, one cup at a time. Cook until it is all absorbed. You will then add a cup of broth at a time to the rice, waiting for all of the liquid to be absorbed each time. Mix continuously to prevent the rice to stick to the bottom of the pot.
-Half way through, add the leeks.
-Continue with the broth. When you only have one cup of broth left to add, add the beetroots and washed spinach leaves. Mix well. Add the last cup of broth. Mix well.
-Add the grated cheese and half of the parsley chopped. Add salt and freshly cracked pepper, the dry vermouth and cook for 1 extra mn then cover, turn of the heat and let sit for about 3 to 4 mns.
You are now ready to serve your risotto. Take nice large warmed plates. Place a spoonful of risotto in the middle, decorate with parsley and serve on the side the radish or celeriac salad.
Enjoy the dish!
And when I think that once, in my home village, a friend of my dad had told me that beets were only food for cows…sigh…but that was a long time ago, of course.
So we made the beetroot risotto, but in the first instance added a tiny bit of homegrown chilli instead of ginger. Used some finely chopped roast chicken instead of cheese. And it was UNBELIEVABLE. It was SO good that we didn’t have the apple crumble planned for dessert so that if we died in our sleep it was our last meal. Thank you so much, I would never have put beetroot and leek together in a risotto. Wow