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We’re moving out in a few days, and have no more dinners at home, thanks to friends.  Peter and I packed all day, off and on, while listening to a random college-vintage shuffle.  All but the dinner dishes, cereal bowls, silverware, and a few other things from the kitchen were packed by 5.  And yet.  We had one last dinner party at 220 Cove Court!  Chantel brought the salad, but it was an impressive performance, I have to say.

I went to the meats lab soon after opening time, at 2 p.m., and it was really difficult not to stock up.  I knew I only needed two steaks at most, to supplement the ones Reuben was bringing.  But the eggs were so cheap and abundant!  The pork sausage so spicy! The steaks so beautifully thick and red.  I held back though, and went on to Kroger, where I got olives, some Toad Hollow Paso Robles “proprietary”—i.e. mystery—blend, which turned out to be delicious (I’m still sipping it now), some Terrapin India-style brown ale, a shallot, and pistachios.

Earlier in the day, I’d contemplated the pantry.  What would I do with these random bulk baggies?  The answer came in with style.  Arborio rice, dried porcinis, just a few sundried tomatoes.  Risotto.  Midway through the day, I threw together some brownies.  The menu was set: steaks—both rib eye and strip, which Reuben and I rubbed enthusiastically while in enthusiastic conversation about meat, with crushed garlic cloves—a little dried out—freshly snipped rosemary, olive oil, salt, and pepper; porcini-spiked risotto (as if it weren’t hot enough already); Chantel’s green bean salad; brownies; red wine, after a thirst quenching beer.

The occasion originated with the grill giveaway.  There’s no way that gas grill, which I bought on special last fall at K-mart for $65 and Peter assembled, was going to fit into our storage unit.  So we called Reuben, who said he’d take it, but only after bringing over some steaks to throw on it.  It was also a great pantry- and freezer-emptying event. (We gave Reuben the frozen ground beef.) Most of the time, my pantry is so full of stuff, it doesn’t set off any sparks in my mind.  So there’s something nice about thinning, weeding, giving away.  I haven’t made risotto for ages, and have had those porcinis for just as long.  There’s also something nice about uncomplicated cooking.  The only things I used for cooking were a knife for the shallot, a little bamboo cheese board, a wooden spoon (for both brownies and rice), a pot, a glass baking dish, tongs, and the tea kettle.  And, of course, the grill. Simplicity.  The pleasure of a pantry.

Porcini Risotto

Soak porcini in a bowl of hot hot water until they soften.  Slice porcini into bits and save water to use in risotto.

Pour 1 c. Arborio rice into a moderately hot saucepan with a melted nob of butter in it.  Stir the rice until it gains translucence around the edges of the grains.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Gradually stir in 1/2 c. white wine until absorbed.  Pour in mushroom soaking liquid. Add a bit of minced fresh thyme. Keep stirring as you gradually pour in about 3 cups of warm stock, over the course of 25 minutes or so.  Keep stirring and pouring until it has that silky soft risotto feel in your mouth.  Add 2 more tbs. or so of butter and 1/2 c. grated parmesan.  Serve immediately.

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