Ahhh, Risotto. Who doesn’t love a rich, creamy risotto? Well, who doesn’t love a rich, creamy risotto outside of the one who’s cooking it? I think most agree that standing at the stove for 20 some odd minutes, ladling simmering stock into sauteed rice, and stirring until the rice absorbs it, then adding more, repetitively, could be called tedious. It’s like lather, rinse repeat until your head feels numb.
Let me make this clear, I’m not bashing risotto; I love it. I just love when someone else cooks it for me. It was fun the first 50 times I made it, but now it’s become somewhat of a “Ohhh..I really feel like risotto tonight, but the stock, the ladling, the stirring, my aching arms and feet!” dilemma. However, you have to do this if you want a perfectly silken, creamy risotto. All that stirring releases the lovely starch in the arborio rice (or whatever rice the risotto experts that be decide is better for risotto, but I’ll get to that later), resulting in the perfect risotto.
You can add cream and/or butter at the end to achieve that (sort of a cheat), but if done properly, you won’t need either, although it”s not like it’s a bad thing outside of adding to your waistline. Butter and cream are two of the most beautiful words in the culinary/pastry world, in my opinion, of course.
The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.
I had a lot of fun with this challenge; I went off the beaten path, then stepped back on it using the challenge recipe, then a few tiptoes off again. The first vision I had was some kind of parfait layered with a sweet risotto; basically a rice pudding made with arborio rice, accompanied by the tedious ladling of simmering milk in lieu of savory stock.
As I was surfing around, I came across a sweet risotto recipe at Food & Wine in which you add flour, eggs and baking powder to make risotto fritters! I made a few changes to the recipe with several additions, and a bit more sugar. This is a unique way to use risotto, since many take the arancini aka rice ball route. Nothing like a light, crispy fritter, similar to a zeppole, but filled with sweet, creamy rice. I could eat these once day..until I got sick of them.
My verrines were also a success. Not only did they turn out beautiful, albeit the mango gelee spilling out a few times while setting on an angle, but the taste and texture of this cup of surprise with every bite, is a flavor rave. When you first stick your spoon in, breaking through the crunchy pistachios, shaved white chocolate, and sweet mango cubes, it slides into creamy white chocolate risotto with crunchy, chopped pistachios, the tip of your spoon picking up the smooth mango gelee peppered with sweet mango cubes, beneath it. Each spoonful is an absolute delight!
After basking in luscious dessert risottos, I decided I really needed to make a nice, savory one using the master recipe given to us, almost verbatim. We were required to make our own stock from scratch, but I already had several quarts of homemade beef, chicken and roasted vegetable on hand. I always have stock in the freezer because it’s kinda become a must for me. I usually spend one week in the Fall making stocks and broths to freeze, and then repeat later on if necessary. If there’s no homemade stock in my freezer, I sort of feel naked.
At first, I was thinking of making this Lemony Ramp Risotto. Then I decided to keep it more homey and simple with a twist, (Umm, couldn’t find ramps) even though while perusing through the Daring Cooks completed challenge forum I nearly drowned in drool after seeing all the beautiful, creamy, and sometimes very unique twists on savory risotto. The bell peppers at the supermarket were huge, vibrant, and calling to me. I bought one of each color and then stood there stumped. I could do a vegetarian risotto, maybe roasted tomato with those gorgeous peppers?
After mulling over that temporary decision, I stopped at an Italian market to pick up some fresh mozzarella. Walking toward the cheese section, I was stopped in my tracks by a hunky looking log of sopressata that smelled wonderful. After the nice Italian mom and pop force fed (Ha..more like I kept begging for more) me some of this beautiful dried sausage/salami, or whichever you want to call it, the bells went off. A sausage and pepper risotto with a twist; the twist being the sopressata. I was set, well, set after I threw in a couple handfuls of sweet petit peas, just because I happened to have them on hand.
Now to my risotto rice beef. I always use Arborio. Arborio used to be (at least it seemed that way) THE rice you used for risotto. It had the monopoly on risotto! Then someone told me that Vialone Nano is even better, so I start using that. Then someone else told me that Carnaroli rice is really the best rice for risotto, so I start using that. OK, enough, I’m going back to Arborio because Arborio is my old friend, and it’s easier to find in the supermarket.
I fully expect a new “better for risotto” rice to pop up any day now, but I’m not budging!
This risotto sat out for an hour before I could take a photo (I fell asleep!). It was much creamier before it sat out that long, but I didn’t feel like dumping it back into the pan and ladling again for one photo. So.be.it.
Well, that’s the end of my fun-filled, month long, love affair with risotto. I just may call him again, but only if it’s OK with someone else ladling and stirring up its starchy goodness. With that said, I loved this challenge because it was so delicious, but it may be a few months before I tackle risotto again, says my aching arms. For the Master risotto recipe and tips, click HERE.
Risotto – Three Ways
- ¼ cup (2 fluid oz 60 ml )olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- half a small green bell pepper, diced
- half a small red bell pepper, diced
- half a small yellow bell pepper, diced
- half a small orange bell pepper, diced
- 2 cups (14 oz 400g) Arborio rice
- (Any type of risotto rice will do. I use Arborio but the recipe itself says Vialone Nano. Another to look for is Carnaroli.)
- ¼ cup (2 fl oz 60 ml) white wine
- 4 cups (2 pints or 1 liter) simmering chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup diced sopressata or your favorite type of cured sausage/salami, chopped
- a handful of petit peas, cooked (optional)
- kosher salt and fresh, ground pepper to taste
- shaved Parmesan cheese to top, if desired
- Heat oil in a pan and add diced onion, and all three diced bell peppers. Fry for a few minutes until the onion is soft and translucent, and the bell peppers have softened.
- Add the rice and stir for a few minutes to coat each grain of rice with oil and toast slightly.
- Add the wine and let it bubble away until evaporated.
- Add enough stock to cover the rice by a finger’s width (about an inch or two). Don’t actually stick your finger in, it will be hot. Just eye it off.
- Cook on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time, until most of the stock has been absorbed.
- Keep ladling ½ cupfuls of stock until the rice absorbs it, then adding another ½ cup, ad infinitum, until the stock is all used up and the risotto is creamy and slightly al dente. Stir in all the parmesan cheese, a tablespoon or two of butter, and the chopped sopressata. TIf using peas, add them too. Taste the risotto and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Top each serving with shaving or grating of fresh Parmesan (or your fave Italian hard grating cheese).
- Serve immediately.
Prep time does not include setting times for mango gelee.
- 2½ cups whole milk
- 1 split vanilla bean
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¾ cup arborio rice
- ¼ cup white wine or water
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 4 oz white chocolate, chopped and melted
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon orange zest (optional)
- 1¾ teaspoons unflavored gelatin (from a ¼-oz envelope)
- ¼ cup water
- 2 cups mango nectar or puree
- 1 medium mango, peeled and cubed,reserving some for the topping
- ½ cup roughly chopped pistachios, toasted
- grated, or shaved (with a vegetable peeler) or chopped white chocolate
- remaining mango cubes from mango chopped for gelee
- Melt the butter in a heavy, medium saucepan. Add the rice and stir over moderate heat until coated with the butter. Place the vanilla beans and scraped pod in a pot with the milk and bring to a simmer.
- Add the white wine or water to the rice and cook, stirring, until the white wine or water is completely absorbed. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon and stir. Remove the pod from the vanilla bean milk and add ½ cup of it to the rice, then cook, stirring constantly, until the milk is completely absorbed. Continue adding the vanilla milk,1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until it is absorbed before adding more. Cook until the risotto is creamy and porridge-like and the grains of rice are just tender.
- Stir in the melted white chocolate, sugar, vanilla and optional orange zest. Chill until ready to fill verrines or chill and serve as is.
- Sprinkle gelatin over water in a small saucepan and let stand 1 minute to soften. Cook over low heat, stirring, until gelatin is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 tablespoon mango nectar at a time until gelatin mixture is cool, then whisk in remaining nectar. Stir in cubed mango, setting some aside for the topping.
- Transfer to a metal bowl and set bowl into a larger bowl half-filled with ice and cold water. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until gelee is the consistency of raw egg white, 15 to 25 minutes.
- Divide an even amount of gelee, about ⅓-1/2 cup in each of 4 glasses, then tilt each glass about 45 degrees in an egg carton and let set in the fridge. When set, fill the empty space next to the gelee with the sweet risotto, even with the top of the gelee.
- Warm the remaining gelee (set aside about ¼ cup or whatever you have left after pouring the second layer, to top the verrines) to loosen it up, then pour another ⅓ - ½ cup of gelee and tilt again in the egg carton, but in the opposite direction of the first layer of gelee, letting it set. Take care to not let too much of the sweet risotto seep into the new gelee like mine did (notice the second layer of gelee is a little darker?).
- When the second layer of gelee is set, fill the rest of the glass with the white chocolate-pistachio risotto and top with remaining gelee (warm it up to loosen it, then just pour over the tops of the glasses, equally. This time, Let it set in the glasses upright to seal everything in.
- Top with chopped pistachios, white chocolate and mango cubes. Can be ser
ved chilled, if desired, just let it chill in the fridge before adding toppings.
- Full recipe for the Sweet (white chocolate) Risotto above, minus the melted white chocolate and toppings *
- 1 plump vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- small pinch of table salt
- 2 large egg whites, room temperature
- Peanut oil, for frying
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1½ cups quartered strawberries (halved if small), divided
- ½ cup water
- 1 teaspoon orange liqueur and/or orange zest (optional)
- Make the Creamy Sweet Risotto recipe, above, but Omit the melted white chocolate, pistachios. When all the milk is absorbed and the rice slightly al dente, stir in the vanilla beans scraings (place the empty, scraped pod in a canister with sugar for vanilla sugar!) transfer to a bowl and let cool,
- When cool, stir in the beaten egg, then stir in the flour and baking powder.
- In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir half of the beaten egg whites into the risotto, then fold in the rest.
- In a large, heavy saucepan, heat 2 inches of peanut oil to 350 degrees F. Position a wire rack on a baking sheet and cover the rack with paper towels. Scoop rounded tablespoons of the rice into the hot oil without crowding and fry until golden brown all over, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fritter balls to the rack to drain.
- Repeat to make the remaining fritter balls. Sprinkle the fritter balls with confectioners' sugar and serve warm, with the strawberry compote and warm chocolate sauce or ganache.
- Heat 1 cup quartered strawberries, sugar and water in medium saucepan over medium-high heat then bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, then remove from heat. .Give it a whirl in the food processor, blender or break it down with a stick blender until smooth.
- Stir in orange liqueur and/or zest, if using and let cool. Stir in remaining ½ cup quartered strawberries. Chill or serve at room temperature.