Taste is not just a matter of taste. It is not just a personal thing, but heavily based on culture and geography. There is much to appreciate and learn from such differences. I am nevertheless at times amazed, at what this things are, but especially at what some of them are called.
Many years ago I was in Cologne at an exhibition opening in the space of one of my gallerists, when I perceived a wonderful smell from pipe smoking. It did not take me long to find the smoker. It was the exhibiting Austrian painter Helmut Schober (*1947) and he told me the name of the mixture was “Early Morning” from Dunhill. A few days later I had bought this mixture and was happy to stuff one of my pipes with it. It took just one initial drag and I was in shock – my body along with my mouth.
Early Morning is the freshness of a new day, sun rays still weak, the language of busy birds, perhaps some church bells, the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the soft and distinctive smell of morning dew. For some it is also a chicken soup, bacon and eggs, the matching Dunhill mixture in their palate or a beer glass filled with stout.
In Michigan, a State I connected neither with beer, nor with tough guys, is the home of the “Founders Breakfast Stout”, and their audacity lets them decorate the bottle with a toddler eating his morning porridge with a large spoon and a face of serious delight.
Double chocolate, coffee and oatmeal, reads the old fashion label. Yes, something perfect for the early morning, especially when found all diluted in darkest beer.
It was not morning when I opened the bottle and I did not drink much of it, for my intention was to prepare my newest risotto idea.
About the beer I shall talk another day, but the risotto was with certainty one of my better risotto inspirations ever and I have worked on no less than 15 variations in the last decade.
At this point some minds will be wondering about my intention here, starting with my amazement of different tastes and then suggesting a risotto with its almost compulsory Parmesan, olive oil and onion, then the particular addition of stout, coffee, chocolate and oatmeal. Well, trust me and let your palate be the judge. You just might be eating this thing until early morning.
250 gm arborio rice
some olive oil
some fresh garlic
1 large onion
about 70 gm butter
about 120 gm Parmesan
1.5 liter chicken broth
5 gm finely ground coffee (espresso roast)
1/4 liter Founders Breakfast Stout
2 large carrots
2 chicken legs or about 200 gm chicken breast
Long ago I started with my first risotto tries, based on the book of Valentina Harris. While on the road I suddenly had a risotto desire but no book with me. It was then when I dared to do it on my own and do it without it ever since. Hence, you should feel free to consult a recipe if you do not feel 100% sure with my instructions. But be aware, there is not one single way of cooking risotto.
In about 50 gm of melted butter, let the chopped onion turn shinny. Add the chicken (including bones) and shortly after, the carrots and the garlic. When they are well mixed and crispy (dry) – but not brown – add the stout and the coffee. Once the fluid has been absorbed, start the gradual addition of broth. Use a single ladle of broth at the time and let each time the broth be absorbed, before adding more broth. Stir most of the time. Risotto cooking is not for the inpatient soul. Take your time and stay with it.
When you are peeling potatoes, peel potatoes, as the Zen Buddhist cook Edward Espé Brown suggests.