Thursday, September 1, 2011

Risotto del vino rosso

The greatest thing about risotto is how you can create an amazing dish that will impress the highest level of foodie with a simple set of ingredients. It’s funny how so many people fret the idea of making a risotto, but the fact is that once you understand the basic principals, the rest is easy.

Each risotto follows the same basic set of steps and ingredients. If you have rice, stock, onion (shallot), butter and cheese (Parmigiano or Grana Padano), then you have the makings of a cheese risotto. In my house, these ingredients are almost always on hand. A common fear people have is the making of the stock; however, when you make stock, you should always make a large quantity because it freezes well. If you choose to buy stock, then you can easily keep a good amount in your pantry.

At this point you can decide if you want to take it to the next level or not. If it will it be asparagus, then buy a bunch. When it’s time to make the risotto, give it a quick bath in the warm stock (5 minutes) and then place them into an ice bath to stabilize the color. Cut off the tips for garnish and chop the rest. Toss the chopped pieces in the risotto when it’s a minute or two away from completion. Douse the tips with some more warm stock before plating and place them on top of the risotto on the plate. If you want to give it more color, toss some toasted almond slivers on top. It’s really that easy.

Before you know it, you’ll be making up your own risotto recipes. This is very much the way I started out.

Recently I was testing a new line of cookware from Emile Henry and it gave me a really good reason to test out and improve some recipes. I found myself in a very similar situation, of wanting to make risotto but having nothing very special to dress it with. A quick tour of the kitchen gave me all the inspiration I needed. A bottle of red wine, a left over piece of pancetta, some carrots, and a bag of red grapes – Risotto del vino rosso (Red Wine Risotto).

Much of my inspiration came from the wine. Keep in mind that with this recipe, the wine pairing is obvious; simply pour the same wine that you used in the risotto and you have a match made in heaven. During a visit to a local shop, I was given a taste of a surprisingly affordable bottle of Merlot from Friuli Italy. For those who don’t know yet, Friuli is not only about white wine these days. In fact, Merlot from Friuli has been garnering some pretty high praise over the last decade, and now quality-minded producers are starting to turn out bottles that won’t break the bank.

2007 Tenuta di Blasig Merlot – On the nose, it showed a floral perfume with lush red and blue fruits; a bit rustic but only enough to be true to its Italian roots. On the palate, it showed sweet wild berries and spice, with vibrant acidity and an elegant, long finish. (90 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher!

Did I mention that it only cost $12.99?

Red Wine Risotto with Roasted Red Grapes

This dish is all about exciting flavors that come together in perfect unity to please the senses. Sweet meets salty meets acidity on the palate and leaves you wanting for another bite. This is the crowd pleaser and the showstopper.

5 Tbls. butter
1-½ quarts of chicken stock
2 cups risotto rice (Arborio, Cannaroli or Vialone nano)
½ red onion (small dice)
1 ¼ cups Italian Red Wine (Don’t go with anything too modern (nothing heavily oaked).)
3 Tbls of pancetta or prosciutto (small dice)
1 carrot (fine dice)
1 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Gana Padano
2 tsp fresh chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish with roasted red seedless grapes

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and spread out one cup of small, red seedless grapes. Place them in the oven and allow to roast for 1 ½ hours. When they are done, move to an area to cool completely.

Place the stock in a pot over a low flame and allow it to come to a simmer.

In a sauté pan, add 3 tbls of butter and place over a medium flame. Once the butter has melted, add the small dice of pancetta. Allow the pancetta to cook for five minutes, or until crispy, and then remove the pancetta and set on the side for later. Add the carrots and cook in the butter and reduced fat from the pancetta. After about two minutes, add the onions. Allow the mixture to sweat in the butter until the onions become translucent. Next, add the rice. Stir to assure that the rice is coated in the butter and allow it to toast slightly but do not allow it to take on any color.

Add the red wine to the pan and increase the flame to medium high. Set a timer for 19 minutes as a guide. Stirring constantly, allow the red wine to cook down until it has cooked down by half.

Next, reduce the heat back to medium and add a ladle of stock while constantly stirring. Each time the stock cooks down to the point where the rice begins to form trails in the pan as the spoon stirs it, add another ladle of stock. When there is about 10 minutes left on the timer, sprinkle a small pinch of salt into the risotto.

Continue stirring and adding stock as needed until the timer reads three minutes remaining. Add 2/3 of the pancetta back into the pan and stir to combine. It is at this time that you should taste for seasoning and doneness. A proper al dente should have a very slight crunch to it at its core. Be careful, at this time, that you don’t add too much stock, but also keep in mind that the 19-minute timer is only a guide and that it’s taste that will really tell you when it’s done.

When the risotto is al dente, remove it from the heat. Add the last two tbls. of butter and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a few cracks of fresh pepper, and stir to combine.

When you are ready to plate, if the rice is too thick, you can add a small ladle of stock, to liven it up. Plate the risotto into small heated bowls, sprinkle with parsley, the remaining pancetta, and spread out some of the roasted grapes on top. Serve.


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