The sequel to the last Sunday night dinner was a risotto. I have been wanting to make risotto for a while. Risottos are a little work intensive to prepare (a lot of stirring is involved) but it is the kind of work than allows one to relax and not think. It lets me clear my mind a little bit, as any repetitive motion would. Or is that just me?
Generally speaking, all risottos are made in the same way. The rice is first toasted in butter until it becomes translucent. Wine is commonly added, followed by a stock, chicken or otherwise. The key to risotto is adding the liquid in half cup increments, stirring the rice all the while and waiting until all the liquid is absorbed before adding more. The risotto accessories, such as leeks, cauliflower, or shrimp are added when the rice is almost finished cooking so as to avoid turning the added things into mush. The dish is finished with a little (or a lot) more butter and Parmesan.
Once the basic risotto-making technique is mastered, the combinations of flavors one can create are endless. One of my personal favorites is a risotto that Kanchan made a while ago - saffron, shrimp, and asparagus. I had my heart set on leeks this past Sunday, and so I set forth, with some help from a basic recipe on Epicurious.
This particular recipe called for Carnaroli rice instead of Arborio, the most common variety of Italian short grain rice used in risottos. Carnaroli has a higher starch content than Arborio which makes for a creamier risotto. I deviated from the recipe a little - it didn't call for any wine! I couldn't have that. And I do love those garnishes...
Adapted from Gourmet, 2003, as posted on Epicurious
1 medium leek (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch-wide florets
1/2 cups dry white wine
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup Carnaroli rice
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
parsley, to garnish
1) Blanch leek and cauliflower in salted, boiling water for about a minute.
2) Shock in cold water to stop the cooking and drain well.
3) Bring the chicken stock and water to a simmer.
4) Melt 2 tbsp butter in large pan over medium high heat. When the foam subsides, add the leek and cauliflower, saute for about 2 minutes.
5) Add the rice, stir until the rice becomes translucent, about 2 more minutes.
6) Add the wine, stir the rice until all liquid is absorbed.
7) Add the chicken stock/water mix in ½ cup increments, waiting for all the liquid to be absorbed before adding more.
8) Stir Stir Stir! It will take about 25 minutes for the rice to become soft and creamy - you can see the starch start to seep out of the rice after about 10 minutes: it looks shimmery. Very neat.
9) Add 1 tbsp butter and grated cheese, season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (I would recommend salting as you go as opposed to waiting till the end).
10) Garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately (ideally)... Or whenever the fish is done cooking, if you're me.
The rice was well cooked through - there was some resistance in the grains, but no crunch. The cheese added a lot of richness to the dish, making it even creamier and more velvety (is that a word?). I was happy to see that the cauliflower remained intact and did not turn to mush - I was surprised to see the recipe instruct me to add it at the beginning of the cooking process as opposed to the end. I was a little disappointed in the leek flavor - it was practically absent. Next time I make recipe, I will use 2 leeks instead of just one. The chicken flavor imparted by the stock was quite pronounced, which led me to all sorts of thoughts, such as infusing different stocks with different interesting things... Tarragon and rosemary spring to mind, and the ever-intriguing saffron. Will have to make time to play with risottos again sometime soon. Stay tuned for the conclusion of this Sunday Night Dinner. It will be thrilling, I promise.