Saturday, November 28, 2009

Having to Risotto to a different kind of dining....

So I have to admit my experience in true fine dining is rather limited.  I think this is as much to do with my humble upbringing as to my own personal desire to enjoy food for foods sake, and not for the ambiance. 

Along those lines, I never enjoyed the pleasure of fine-dining-staple risotto until more recently.

Part of what drove me to make it is inspiration from being a rather fervent fan of the high-strung profanity-filled episodes of Hell's Kitchen.   Boot camp for the kitchen, I always think of it.  While he may come across as a complete and total git, he demands a certain level of excellence not found at just any place.  And big shock, I'm a fan of such things. :-)

One of the Ramsey restaurant regulars is risotto.  After finally having finally enjoyed it a time or two in various settings, I decided that I must try it.

Generally speaking, Risotto is a very simple dish.  A good starter or a really yummy starch side to go with roasted meats or fish. Basically you brown the onion, fry the rice, de-glaze with wine, let it absorb, and then continue to feed it stock until it's creamy and wonderful.  Some risottos don't even have rice!

There are lots of schools of thought on how risotto comes together, and I find myself trying different techniques as I go.  Some chefs add all the stock all at once.  Some live by the as-it-soaks-it-in method.   Some recommend near constant stirring, and others let it simmer on its own.  Some take out the extras after you fry them, and some leave them in.

So really, it's whatever you feel like experimenting with.  I'd recommend finding a recipe and working with it for a while.  Then find other recipes and compare. 

Something I make regularly with baked fish in our household is a mushroom risotto flavored with lemon.

It starts with heating up stock to a simmer in a saucepan on a separate burner from where you'll make the risotto.  Hot stock is needed so that as you add it to the dish while you cook, it doesn't "shock" the rice.  Doing so changes the way the rice absorbs liquid and makes it more difficult if not impossible to cook. How much stock you need is really dependent on a few things.  First, the absorption ability of the rice (you'll have to try it out a few times to get a feel).  And also how high you have the heat set.  Part of the struggle is learning where the balance lay.  I tend to work with about 3 cups of stock, but your mileage may very. Shoot for more rather than less so you don't have to hurry to heat up another portion if you need it.  Eventually you'll get a feel for how much you need.

Next, a shallot minced finely, and lightly cooked in a large pan in about a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  Heat until the shallot turns translucent.  Then pour in a cup of short grain rice (short grain is best, and most recipes go with Italian Arborio rice, but it tends to be kinda pricey.  Long grain rice will not work.) and stir and make sure each grain is well coated in oil.  Continue stirring and allow rice to fry for 5-10 minutes.

Pour in about a cup of dry white wine and bring everything up to a slow bubbling simmer.  Stir regularly and allow the wine to cook into the rice.  When the wine is used up, stir in about a cup of the heated stock.  Let it simmer until it soaks in, stirring occasionally.

If you decide to use dried mushrooms, reconstitute them in a cup of boiling water.  Incorporate the mushrooms and the water into the risotto.  Fresh mushrooms can instead be chopped and added with the subsequent cup of stock.

Add another cup of the stock..  Continue stirring occasionally until soaked up.  Keep this up until the rice is just al dente.  At that point, take it off the heat.

What i do different at this point is instead of mixing in about 2 tablespoons of butter, I mix in 2 tablespoons of a garlic lemon dressing I make with olive oil, minced garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt and paper.  Gives the dish a nice zing.

Then I stir in the traditional quarter cup of Parmigiano Regianno.

Serve hot with a baked fish fillet. 

It is the Yum!

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