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Fantastic Restaurant Meal? How About Cooking It At Home?
Have you ever gone out for a meal that was really… supreme? You know, the kind of dishes that make you really annoyed if anyone in your party won’t stop talking to you. They should just shut the heck up and let you concentrate on the food! What is wrong with these people!
A meal like that can be memorable enough to endure in your brain for years after the actual consumption of an example of the culinary artist's work. But true cheffy brilliance tends to come at a steep price. It's not a price you can afford to be paying every night of the week, at least if you're on a salary like most of the rest of us!
So what's the alternative? If you're hungering, maybe even slavering for a rerun of the most heavenly meal you've ever tasted, but paying through the nose for the real thing isn't an option (or at least not on a semi-regular basis), then just what do you do?
Well, if you're anything like me, then you get cracking with the detective work and the cookery books, of course! Some of us have better palates than others, it's true. But even so, it's not that hard to settle down with a cup of coffee, a notebook and a pen, and try to mentally evaluate the different tastes, odours and ingredients that go to make up a truly superlative dish. No, honestly, it isn't! If I can do it then anyone can!
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The particular dish I have in mind, I originally tasted – okay, devoured – at the Italian restaurant Est Est Est in Leeds, UK. It really was sublime: sardine and hot tomato salsa crostini, followed by smoked haddock risotto. Oh! Oh my! There is no exquisite satisfaction that life can offer that can compare with Est Est Est's smoked haddock risotto! (Yes, I solemnly swear this to you. This is despite the unfortunate fact that they appear to have deleted it from their menu.)
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When I got home from the works' night out where I experienced this immortal taste sensation, I took about twenty-four hours to take a break and recover. And then the first thing I did was to get a hold of my notebook and begin to plot, determine, analyze and calculate...
First off I abandoned even the attempt at the fresh sardine with hot salsa crostini. Sardines and other oily fish are stupendously delicious if super, super fresh. Other than tinned, they're barely worth eating if not. So unless you live in a fishing port... well, in my personal opinion it's just a waste of time cooking with 'fresh' oily fish.
White (or smoked) fish is another matter, though. The smoked haddock risotto was fair game! From memory, I analysed the contents of the dish as far as my palate could make them out, and came up with; smoked haddock; aborio rice; crème fraiche or sour cream; parmesan; chives.
Now, it may be an aberration in terms of true Italian cooking, but for a risotto I really don't care for arborio rice. True, at Est Est Est they managed to make the dish truly awesomely moreish despite it, but given the option I just vastly prefer basmati, whether white or brown, for savoury dishes. Arborio rice = milk pudding rice, I don't care what anyone says to the contrary! So what the heck, that's what I used, along with the rest of my intuited ingredients.
And the results? Well, it didn't quite hit the heights of the original – but it came pretty damn close! Yay for my Sherlock Holmes tastebuds! Are you thinking of trying to replicate your best-ever restaurant meal and wondering if the end result will be worth the effort? Go for it – what do you have to lose? (And you can invite me along for a tasting if you like...)