Friday, August 10, 2012

Food, Family, Friday: Musing on Millet

Husband screw-ups are a special category of mistake.  No doubt there are infinite variations, but they all have at least two qualities in common: 1) they begin with a sense of triumph quickly dashed (think of the DIY husband who declares the kitchen faucet fixed right before the geyser erupts and a thunderous voice instructs him to build an ark); and 2) they somehow have lasting effects, even if it is just a bit of family folklore Mom enjoys telling (“Kids, remember the time Dad stapled himself to the UPS truck and ended up in Nebraska?”). 

A few months ago, I was walking to the car after a furious bout of grocery shopping.  My phone rang and it was BMW wondering when I’d be home. 

“Just heading to the car,” I said.  “And don’t worry, I got your millet.” 

Yup, that exotic grain she wanted took me a while to find, but a trained hunter like this Chef Dad could stalk his prey in any grocery store.  Her man was up to the challenge.

“My what?” BMW asked.

“Your millet.  The grain you wanted for baking.”

“I wanted bulgur,” she said.  “What’s millet?”

A husband can get whiplash from triumph turning to defeat so quickly.

“How much did you buy?” she asked with an entirely unwarranted alarm in her voice.

“A pound and a half.”

Since this is a family blog I will simply say that she expressed a certain dissatisfaction with that data point.

“I wanted to make sure you had enough,” I protested.

“I didn’t want ANY!”

So, not only did I have to go back inside to buy bulgur, the mistake just keeps on giving.  I have been working for the past several weeks to do things with millet.  It’s gone into soups and stirfries and you should see the fashionable millet and duct tape shoes the kids are wearing.

However, the millet odyssey came to a close recently thanks to inspiration from this millet risotto recipe on Cookstr. As you can see from the picture, millet is a tiny – almost seed-like – grain that you can use like rice.  You can pretty much substitute it for rice in many recipes, but it will not plump up the way rice will.  It has a nutty consistency when cooked and offers plenty of al dente bite.    

I seldom follow any recipe to the letter, so here I stir fried the zucchini until it had some color and then removed it from the pan.  Then, some butter went into the pan, followed shortly by a whole large onion, chopped.  In the meantime, about three bulbs of garlic were roasting in the oven.

Take a look at this post for a better primer on risotto, but once the onion softens the millet goes in and gets a little stir fry of its own to coat it with the fat and the sugars from the onion and even toast a bit, maybe two minutes.  Throw in a cup of white wine and simmer until it is absorbed.  I had leftover chicken broth from some poached chicken breast (another blog post) and added it a half cup at a time until the millet was cooked.

A bit of half and half to add creaminess.  About three quarters of a cup of parmigiano-reggiano added in roughly thirds.  Last thing you do is add back the zukes and the roasted garlic. 

Once she tasted it, BMW said, “I guess we need millet, huh?”

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