Friday, May 30, 2008

Risotto

Tonight was probably not the best night for us to have risotto. My sister lives a couple miles away from us, and we've arranged to do some baby-trading on the weekends. Tonight we took her 2 kids, a first for us since she had her newest son 3 months ago. While I attempted to wrangle a chunky lump of newborn deliciousness and two cranky toddlers (who like to stake out territory), my husband managed to whip out this ABSOLUTELY TO DIE FOR risotto- a huge accomplishment, in my book.

Now, a disclaimer. I've never cooked risotto before! This is all second-hand, guys. (Although, now that my husband has shared with me his secrets, I feel ready to give it a go for next time.) That said, here's my husband's "recipe" (he won't admit to having a recipe for anything) for risotto:

risotto

You'll need:
4 cloves garlic
1 large shallot
2 big handfuls of chopped fresh tarragon & basil
1 bay leaf
White pepper
Saffron
1 cup grated parmesan

3 small portobello mushrooms (the bells were about palm-sized)
1 1/2 cups of arborio (risotto) rice (ding ding ding! my husband said he "guesses" this is how much he used. sorry. he's an eyeballer.)
1/2 cup white wine
1 quart organic free range low sodium blah blah chicken broth
a pat of butter

1 large chicken breast
2 cups balsamic vinegar



risotto2

Hey, this is not a set it and forget it type of dish, dudes. You'll be at the stove the whole time for this one.

First things first- grab a small saucepot and dump 2 cups of balsamic vinegar in. Keep it on medium-low heat while you're cooking, so it can reduce into a syrup you can use as a delicious saucy garnish. This crap will burn your eyes, just so you know- don't try to give it a big ol' sniff.

Secondly- start a large pot with your quart of broth and add the bay leaf, a pinch of saffron, a generous pinch of white pepper, and a tiny bit of salt if you want. Keep this just below a boil until you need it.

Now, get a deep saute pan going with a bit of olive oil, your mushrooms, garlic, and shallot. Sweat until the shallots get glassy, then add your rice. Saute until the rice starts to toast up a little, then add 1/4 cup of the white wine. Stir it until it gets absorbed, then grab a ladle and begin adding your broth, same deal. Stir after each ladle gets absorbed (this is a lot of stirring, sorry) and then when you get to the last bit, just dump it in with the rest of the white wine, stir the hell out of it, and add in your cheese and your big handfuls of herbs. Stir to combine, then turn off the heat and cover for 10 minutes.

While your risotto is resting, get your chicken going in a different pan. (or omit the chicken if you want to go vegetarian. Just do all of the above but with vegetable broth.) Keep an eye on your balsamic reduction, while you're at it.

Check on your risotto and give it a bite. The rice should be sticky and rich, but each grain should still have an individual texture. Throw in your chicken, give it all a toss, and spoon onto a plate. Finish with a sprinkle of fresh herbs, grated parmesan, and a drizzle of the balsamic reduction around the sides.

risotto3

Some of my favorite foods are traditional dishes that lend themselves to interpretation, and that's why I like risotto. There's a basic structure of how to prepare it, and within that structure you can do whatever you want. Seafood, vegetarian, lean meats, whatever.

risotto4

I wouldn't call this an "easy" recipe, per se- it definitely takes some commitment and energy, but it's not "hard" either. Next time we have it, we'll definitely make sure to have a less stressful environment. I'm sad I had to wolf it down as fast as I did. I could have savored it all night.

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