Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Let's be outrageous

If Captain Hammer is Dr. Evil's nemesis, than risotto is definitely mine. The first time I made risotto it was creamy, it was perfect, it left me feeling like I was on top of the world. I grew confident. I felt I could do anything. I started building a pair of wings so that I could soar over rooftops and laugh at the mere mortals below me who were risotto impaired.

Does anyone remember the story of Icarus? The next time I went to make risotto all the wax melted off my wings. I came crashing to the ground, a tumble of limbs and crunchy rice. Why was the rice so crispy and hard in the middle? Probably because I didn't cook it enough. It was obviously undercooked. Content with this revelation, the next time I attempted risotto I cooked it for waaaaaaaay longer. Years longer. I knit a sweater with one hand and stirred with the other. Still, I ended up with a soft exterior and hard interior. Okay, so they obviously weren't undercooked. I experimented with more liquid to no avail. Members of the cooking community reached out to me and were equally stumped. I threw my hands in the air, my apron on a shelf and declared that from now on when we wanted risotto, we were going out to eat.

So you can imagine my trepidation when I saw that the second recipe in Garlic and Sapphires was for risotto. I gave myself a lot of time and figured the worst case scenario is that we'd have leftovers if this turned out inedible. However, I have determined that I am not the problem when it comes to risotto - it is quite obviously the fault of the recipe because this risotto, this risotto, came out perfectly. Textbook perfect. I didn't change the recipe, I didn't do anything different and yet perfectly creamy risotto with bite and no crunch. In fact, this is definitely the best risotto I have ever eaten in my entire life. I made it while Thatboy was out waiting at UPS to pick up a package, and it finished before he got home, so I had to keep checking on it every 2 minutes while I waited for him to hurry up and get back. When he got back I proudly informed him that this was the best risotto he would ever eat. He raised an eyebrow as I moaned after every bite. Every. bite. By the third or fourth bite he declared this to be the best risotto he had ever had too. It just gets better and better as you eat it.

The recipe is inspired by the lobster risotto Reichl had at Le Cirque, but she definitely brings her own flair to the table. First she omits the lobster (which is kind on the wallet since this wasn't the cheapest meal I've ever made - saffron is pricey! And while normally I would order it somewhere cheap, I didn't have a lot of options on my way home from work). Then she adds the saffron, which gives a beautiful color and flavor. I cut the recipe in half, since we really don't need leftovers this month (although seriously, thinking of this dish is making my stomach growl so maybe I should have made the full recipe. Tell you what YOU make the full recipe. No halvsies. Trust me on this one.) I also left out the asparagus because I don't like asparagus. I was tempted to do my regular trick of subbing in broccoli, but decided just to skip it altogether. It wasn't missed.

Risotto Primavera

½ pound asparagus
5-6 cups homemade chicken stock
½ teaspoon saffron strands, crumbled
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
1 smallish carrot, diced
2 small zucchini, diced
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup thawed frozen peas
½ cup Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for the table
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut off the tips of the asparagus and set them aside. Dice the top half of the stalks (discard the rest), and set the diced asparagus aside.
Bring the stock to a steady simmer in a saucepan. Remove ¼ cup of the stock. Add saffron and set aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the onion and cook for about 6 minutes, until its golden.
Add the carrot and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the zucchini, diced asparagus, and ½ teaspoon salt, and cook for about 5 minutes more.
Add the rice and stir until it is coated with the oil. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Now slowly add enough simmering stock to cover the rice, and cook, stirring, until it has evaporated. Keep adding, stirring, and evaporating for about 20 minutes, until the rice is soft on the outside and still has a bit of a bite at the center. Add a few more spoonfuls of stock, remove the pan from the heat, and add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the cheese. Taste for salt and pepper, and serve with extra cheese for people to add to their own taste.

Serves 4.
Each serving has:
Calories 503.9
Total Fat 23.7 g
Saturated Fat 9.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat 10.6 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 43.1 mg
Sodium 1,029.3 mg
Potassium 570.2 mg
Total Carbohydrate 45.6 g
Dietary Fiber 1.7 g
Sugars 6.7 g
Protein 17.4 g

*Also - do you REALLY not want me to post nutritional info about the really bad foods? If I don't post the info is that enough of a clue that "you don't want to know?" Is it just desserts? Leave me a comment and let me know - I have a separate place where I keep track for myself - this if for y'all!


  1. What perfect risotto! Making risotto is definitely a test of patience and sometimes an art to get it just right. Looks like yours hit the mark!

  2. oh yum. that looks divine. i've used giada's recipes in the past, and they turned out great.

  3. I think its great to post nutritional info. Ive never tried making risotto before. It looks a little tricky to make. your risotto looks so yum!

  4. I think its great to post nutritional info. Ive never tried making risotto before. It looks a little tricky to make. your risotto looks so yum!

  5. Oh yum! This reminds me that it's been awhile since I've made risotto. By the way, I love the nutritional information for all of your recipes!

  6. Mmmm.I am loving the Reichl recipes - you're encouraging me to try some, too. I tried one from another of her books...Comfort Me with Apples maybe?

    Also, thanks for making me laugh because my day today sucketh and the sweater knitting comment killed me.

    Also part deux, I like the nutritional info. Saves me from having to do it :)

  7. I like nutritional info, but only if it makes me feel good. ;)

    I am saving this recipe, looks delicious!!

  8. You know my vote on the nutritional info. :) Risotto scares me. I'm almost positive I'd eff that up.

  9. mmmmm.. That looks awesome. I love rice with peas in any form, but that looks really good.

  10. so pretty.

    i just recently re-discovered the library and that book is definitely going on my 'must-read' list.

  11. I absolutely adore "Garlic and Sapphires"...and her other books as well! Great job on the looks fantastic.

  12. I just love your writing style... it's just so funny and brings a smile to my days. The risotto looks fantastic.I am glad you did not give up.

  13. i like nutritional info in everything :)

    great job on the risotto! now you can work for gordon ramsey.