There are a few seasons in a person’s life when people rise up around them. When a community of people who enjoy loving in ways they can feel with their hands gather around to make life a little easier for you. Deaths, tragedies or illnesses often rally women to fill up tin foil pans with cheesy potatoes, casseroles or muffins.
I love the scene in Steel Magnolias when Ouiser and Clairee are shopping for M’Lynn’s husband while she goes into the hospital to undergo surgery give her daughter a kidney. One of them is filling a cart with pork and beans because she says that Drum eats them with everything. Then Annabelle is trying to fix something that freezes beautifully.
But to me, the most fun time to take someone a meal is when they are celebrating the birth of a new baby. Bringing a meal in the midst of so much joy is a completely different experience. I remember so dearly the many, many meals that friends brought to us when we had our little ones. When we lived in Seattle, we were especially bombarded with food. The meals that came and came made us feel so loved and lifted up.
There is nothing like the days immediately following a birth. Those seasons of staying in bed and just soaking in every minute of holding a tiny one to whom I had just given birth are so precious to me. Meals arriving without any effort on my part just blessed that time even more. I was free to just relax and enjoy. And, of course, to sleep.
I felt that familiar little ache this week when I went to hold our sweet friends’ new baby boy this week. He is so precious. So beautiful.
Now I’ve certainly delivered my share of meals that freeze beautifully, chicken pot pies and freezer enchiladas. But since Taido works with Bobby (and Amy), he got involved this time and made his risotto. It is my very most favorite thing he makes. It’s so super yummy. He makes it with so much care. He won’t even let me help chop the mushrooms because he wants them just so. So I let him do his thing while I put together the embellishments and in the end we were both very excited about our meal on wheels: sausage mushroom risotto, yummy salad, a baguette and brie, and iced sugar cookies!
In fact, I might be willing to give birth again just to have this delivered to me. Well, not really. And fortunately, I don’t have to. Being married to the chef and all.
Sausage Mushroom Risotto
4-6 cups Homemade Chicken Stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
¾ pound Italian sausage (we use turkey sausage)
1 lb assorted fresh mushrooms (nice to have some wild mushrooms mixed in, but not necessary)
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for grating or shaving
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat stock in pan over medium heat. Keep stock at a simmer over medium heat.
Brown sausage in a large heavy bottomed frying pan. Set aside.
Remove stems from mushrooms; thick slice mushrooms. In the same frying pan that the sausage was cooked in, heat 2 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add mushroom caps; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and soft, about 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl. To pan, add remaining 4 tablespoons oil and shallots. Cook, stirring, until translucent. Add rice; cook, stirring, until rice begins to sound like glass beads, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add wine. Cook, stirring, until wine is absorbed by rice. Using a ladle, add 3/4 cup hot stock to rice. Using a wooden spoon, stir rice occassionally. When rice has absorbed most but not all of liquid and mixture is just thick enough to leave a clear wake behind the spoon when stirring, add another 3/4 cup stock.
Continue adding stock in this manner, stirring occasionally, until rice is mostly translucent but still opaque in center. Continue cooking until rice is al dente, but not crunchy. As rice nears doneness, watch carefully; add smaller amounts of liquid. The mixture should be thick enough that grains are suspended in liquid the consistency of heavy cream. The risotto will thicken slightly when removed from heat.
Add mushrooms and sausage; warm over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Divide among four bowls; grate Parmesan over risotto. Serve immediately.
Walnut, Pear and Blue Cheese Salad
4-6 cups mixed baby greens
2-4 tablespoons blue cheese crumbles
1 pear, sliced
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
Assemble salad. Blend dressing ingredients with an immersion blender or whisk. Toss salad with dressing just before serving.
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. Use an electric mixer to cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs. Add flour mixture, and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Stir in vanilla or lemon juice and zest. Wrap dough in plastic; chill for about 30 minutes. Heat oven to 325°. On a floured surface, roll dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheets; refrigerate until firm, 15 minutes. Bake until edges just start to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks; decorate as desired.