A Challenge to HG’s Risotto Supremacy

January 9th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Throughout the 54-year marriage of HG/BSK, it has been HG’s task to cook risotto. And, HG has relished this role. HG is not noted for patience, but HG becomes a paragon of this virtue when making this wonderful Italian rice dish. Yes, it takes time and attention. HG begins the procedure by cooking sliced onions in some olive oil (utilizing a heavy bottomed pot). Then, a cup of Arborio or Carnaroli rice is added and gently stirred until its color slightly darkens. Meanwhile, a pot of chicken broth is simmering on an adjacent stove top burner (HG/BSK like Trader Joe’s Free Range Chicken Broth). HG adds a ladle of hot broth to the rice and stirs until it’s absorbed. And, so on and so on. Ladle of broth. Stir. Stir. Minutes before the risotto hits the peak of creaminess and completion, HG adds a minimally cooked vegetable. Asparagus when in season. Chopped baby spinach. Sweet peas. Before it arrives at the table, the risotto gets a good hit of butter and grated parmesan. Voila!! Perfection. Big change last night. BSK made the risotto. Sautéed some onion and garlic plus sliced mushrooms in a deep saucepan. Riced one half a head of cauliflower in a food processor. Added the rice and cauliflower to pan, plus white wine and thyme (and some other herbs). After wine was absorbed, BSK added ladles of warm chicken stock and stirred and stirred. Parmesan cheese at the end. The result was a very comforting and lush dish. Much enjoyed. However, HG (a radical in politics but a conservative at the table) prefers HG’s traditional and time-tested method of risotto cooking.

HG’s State of the Art Risotto

March 3rd, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

HG has never had great Risotto in a restaurant. Okay, there’s an exception: Harry’s Bar in Venice. No place else. To make wondrous Risotto it is necessary to have a strong arm and lots of time. It is so labor intensive that restaurateurs have thought up many time saving techniques for making Risotto in a time-starved kitchen — the result is an inferior product. It should be removed from menus. But, apparently inferior Risotto has its fans. Must be the same folks who order their steaks “well done.” Though Spring hasn’t officially arrived, the sun is shining and the first happy yellow daffodils have poked their merry heads out of the earth. Indeed, HG/BSK live in The Land of Enchantment. Since nothing (except daffodils) heralds Spring like the first asparagus of the season, HG/BSK decided to have Asparagus Risotto for dinner. BSK did a masterful stir fry of the asparagus, crisp but cooked. HG had the more laborious job, making perfect Risotto. Here’s how HG did it. (HG modestly admits that HG Risotto is state of the art). HG started with excellent ingredients: Carnaroli rice (Italian import); Sicilian extra virgin olive oil; Kerrygold butter; Free Range Chicken Stock (HG likes Trader Joe’s); grated Italian Parmesan. Plus a sweet onion. BSK suggested that HG used a heavy, fairly deep Creuset pan. Round, enameled but with a cast iron interior. The Perfect pan (BSK is always right). HG heated a generous pour of olive oil and a bit of butter in the pan. Added a thinly sliced, roughly chopped half onion. When sufficiently softened, added a cup of rice. Stirred until rice was well covered with the oil-butter-onion mix. (Some recipes call for the reduction in the mix of a half-cup of white wine. HG skips it. Finds it adds nothing to the Risotto). Meanwhile, chicken stock heated on an adjacent burner. HG added a small ladleful of broth to the rice mix. Stirred in a soft, swirling movement until the broth was absorbed. This technique continued for some 20-25 minutes (it can’t be rushed) using almost two cartons of broth. When the Risotto was almost done (HG seeks a creamy firm-soft texture and tastes often until this ideal is reached), the asparagus is gently mixed into the rice. Right before serving, HG hits the dish with a chunk of butter and parmesan cheese. More parmesan on the table plus smoked black pepper. Granite Coast Pinot Noir from California. Heaven.

asparagus-risotto-horiz-a-1800

Risotto By The Master

May 5th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

HG has never had really good risotto in a restaurant. It figures. Risotto requires patience. Steaming chicken (or beef) broth has to be added to rice spoonful by spoonful. The liquid has to be absorbed before any additional liquid is added. HG, a risotto master, takes at least 20 minutes to a half hour to produce a pot of risotto that combines slightly al dente rice gilded by creamy starch and delicious fats. Can’t be pre-cooked. Can’t be reheated. HG/BSK eat it the moment the pot is removed from the range. Anyway, here’s a step by step recipe for the lush spinach risotto HG/BSK ate last night: First, start with Italian Carnaroli rice a.k.a. The King Of RIces (okay, in a pinch you can use Arborio). Best Carnaroli brand is Riso Bello. The process starts with gently cooking chopped onion in butter and olive oil. When the onion has softened, stir in a cup of rice. Stir for a few minutes over low heat allowing the fats to coat each grain. Add a half cup of white wine and turn up the heat until the wine is absorbed by the rice. Meanwhile heat chicken stock (Trader Joe’s Free Range is the best). Add the heated stock ladle by ladle. Don’t hurry. Add only when previous ladleful is absorbed. Meanwhile saute baby spinach leaves in oil and a bit of garlic until the spinach is just wilted. About three or four minutes before the rice is done, add the spinach to the pot and stir. (At this juncture, if HG has a chunk of left over Parmesan in the refrigerator, HG cuts it into slices and tosses it into the pot). Two minutes before serving, HG tosses some grated Parmesan into the pot with a big chunk of butter. It all gets a final stir before being placed on the table and spooned into heated bowls. Additional Grated Parmesan to taste, freshly ground pepper, Maldon Smoked Sea Salt Flakes, a crisp, tossed salad and abundant hearty red wine. That’s the meal, folks, HG/BSK’s definition of home comfort. Not to be found in a restaurant.

Spinach-Risotto