Madeline and i first met when i was working at the BALSAM FARM STAND last summer. Balsam is one of the only organic vegetable stands in the Hamptons and attracts a lot of local chefs and business owners, Madeline included. After a year of saying hi and engaging in idle chit chat at the stand we eventually took our relationship to the next level and met for a glass of wine. Which turned into two (well maybe 3, we lost count). Which turned into a friendship. Aww. We bonded over the love of France (Mads lived in Paris for a while and speaks fluent French, i've visited Paris many times and speak terrible French), skiing (Mads used to be an alpine ski racer, i like to ski fast down the mountain) and food (Mads is a chef, i like to eat).
Madeline runs the very successful MADELINE PICNIC CO., a company that specializes in customizable picnic baskets that include gourmet sandwiches and salads that are ready for you to pick up as soon as you hit the outdoors, though she actually comes from a completely different background in fine arts... So why picnics?
"When I first moved to the East End to manage a contemporary art gallery, my boyfriend and I joined a CSA with Amber Waves. I was so inspired by the farm land and the farmers who were working so hard to activate a new wave of farming and community that it really got me thinking. I began to think more and more about food start-up ideas (and less and less about art!). The grab-and-go picnic idea worked with both the constraints and strengths of the Hamptons area. I began to think about picnics as a means for a cooperative structure whereby providing goods from the farms and independent purveyors, customers of the East End would be supporting these people and our land (rather than large grocery store chains). Plus I wanted to provide the public with a meal that allowed them to still enjoy the outdoors and the unique beauty we have here."
Madeline is a huge fan of supporting local business and has popped into THE TREEHOUSE as a guest chef a couple of times this year, cooking up a storm for our guests. Earlier in the Spring she whipped up a delicious "Spring Pea Risotto" made with in season garlic scapes, microgreens and snap peas so i challenged her to come up with an equally delicious "Fall risotto". And on one very stormy fall afternoon with a glass of red wine in hand, here's what she came up with... and yes, i had a glass of wine (or 2) too!
5 minutes with Madeline:
What are the Hamptons to you? To me the Hamptons are heritage. I always think of the early settlers, colonists, whalers, fishermen, artists and farmers that have preceded us and flocked to the area for decades – you can feel it in the land and atmosphere here when you pay attention.
3 words that are important to you around food? Whole. Fresh. Happy.
Weirdest thing you've ever cooked? I don't know if I am far enough along in my career yet...!
Winter or Summer? This one is really hard for me because of where I grew up (Colorado), so the answer is winter if I'm in Colorado and Summer if I'm in the Hamptons.
Sweet or Savory? SAVORY!
Red, white or rose? I think red because it's evocative of so much.
Go-to comfort food? oh man, I think a really beautiful cheese board with all the accoutrements and freshly baked bread!
What would your last meal be? Cooking all afternoon together with my family, drinking really great wine and making a super slow roasted, on-the-bone piece of meat and all kinds of sides.
Favourite travel experience? oh wow, this is so tough!...traveling from Leh, Ladakh (India)into the Nubra Valley on the back of a motorcycle. We had do go over Khardung La (the highest drivable pass in the world - 17,582 ft). The whole trip - the mountains, the valleys, the temples - was so immense.
And finally, in your spare (!) time you work as a private chef, can you share a funny story? It's funny to me when people want to pay for a private chef to cut carrot sticks, make green juices and cut tiny pieces of bread for their children to feed to the ducks. Yes, I've had a job like that.
FALL MUSHROOM RISOTTO WITH PARSNIP CHIPS
2 C Short grain brown rice (or classically, Arborio white rice)
1 quart fresh vegetable stock + 4C water, on low heat in a medium-large sauce pan
2 large parsnips, washed, sliced paper thin with a Mandoline (or Japanese hand Mandoline)
1 ½ large leeks, well rinsed and minced
½ lb mixed oyster mushrooms and cremini mushrooms (if you want to splurge, use any kind of forest mushroom, like Morel, Black Trumpet or Chanterelle mushrooms), roughly chopped
1 package of dried Porcini mushrooms (found in specialty grocery stores, try Whole Foods), soaking in 4C of boiling water to reconstitute
1 C grated truffle Pecorino cheese (we used Moliterno)
1 bunch fresh tarragon, minced
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
Kosher salt and ground white pepper (black pepper is also fine)
EVOO on hand
4 cups high heat oil like grape seed oil, vegetable oil or canola oil
dry white wine on hand
You will want a small stainless steel skimmer on hand for the parsnip chips
For the risotto, you will need one large sauté pan (with rounded walls if possible) and a latex spatula
TO MAKE THE PARSNIP CHIPS:
In a small sauce pan, bring the 4C of high heat oil to temperature on medium heat. Test the oil’s temperature by placing one parsnip slice in the oil – if it bubbles right away, the oil is to temperature, if it doesn’t wait until the temp comes up and test again until it is. In manageable batches, fry parsnip slices in the hot oil, constantly stirring them in the oil so they evenly brown. On a pile of dry paper towels, skim off the browned parsnip chips and let cool, slightly sprinkling them with kosher salt. You want them to be the color of caramel and no lighter, otherwise they will not be crisp. Do them all and set aside.
TO MAKE THE RISOTTO:
- After soaking the dried porcini mushrooms for 20 minutes or so, reserve the mushroom stock that you’ve made by soaking the mushrooms in hot water. Roughly chop the now constituted mushrooms and set aside with the other mushrooms.
- In your large sauté pan heat a ¼ C EVOO then add the minced leeks on medium heat. Begin to sweat the leeks for 2 minutes and then add your chopped mushrooms with another drizzle of olive oil. Add a sprinkle of salt to help the mushrooms to sweat and cook another 4 minutes. Set a little less than half the mushrooms aside in a small bowl.
- Pour your rice into the pan and stir everything together as to coat the rice with the leeks and mushrooms. Spread all the rice out evenly on the bottom of the pan, scraping down the sides of the pan, on medium–high heat. Add the white wine just so it covers the rice by a half inch. Let the wine come to a simmer, meanwhile slowly folding the rice from the bottom of the pan. Note: folding the rice is more effective; stirring the rice too rapidly breaks apart the rice grains and makes it “gluey”. Make sure to always scrape from the bottom of the pan so the rice does not stick!
- Allow the wine to almost completely simmer off, but do not wait until the rice is completely dry again, add the stock with a ladle the same way as the wine, just until it covers the rice. Allow to simmer but meanwhile folding constantly. Check your heat, it may need to come back to medium. Continue to fold the rice with the liquid at a steady pace, making sure to scrape any grains of rice from the sides of the pan. Add ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp ground pepper.
- Once the liquid begins to soak in so much that when you scrape the rice from the bottom of the pan and it shows no liquid, repeat the above step, alternating with the veg stock and the mushroom stock: Add stock, stir until it cooks into the rice. Repeat this step until the risotto becomes thick and almost doubles in size. You want to stop adding stock when the rice is soft but still has a little structure to it. Turn the heat off. Note: you may not have needed all of the stock liquid, or you may have needed more liquid (you can use water!), this is just fine.
- Fold in the cheese and salt and pepper to taste from here.
I love using a wide bowl for risotto. You’ll want to make sure to split the risotto up evenly to serve. From here, using a micro-plane, zest the lemon onto each serving of risotto. Then you’ll top each with your parsnip chips, heaping them on top of the risotto and some around the bowl. Finish with a sprinkle of tarragon, parsley leaves and a drizzle of good EVOO (or truffle oil!).
Note from Heather: Don't forget the wine! hehehe
shot at The Treehouse by Timothy Howard