Monday, April 11, 2011

Short-grain vs. cereal grain and the quest for the perfect risotto

             I like rice. I like rice more than most, so much so that I once told someone during our first date when probed that my favorite food is rice. Admittedly not exactly your run of the mill answer, and yet in the rice’s defense, it’s not exactly your everyday starch either. I still taste the subtle hint of light cream and crisp, fruit-focused Château St. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc pairing from tonight’s risotto romance.
             In the living room of my aunt’s house not too long ago, TV’s Lidia Bastianich hosted an episode on her show Lidia’s Italy in which she substituted Arborio rice for barley. Food writer extraordinaire Tenaya Darlington and I discuss over cappuccino on a Saturday the difference in consistency Lidia’s dish proposes.
            Madame Fromage, suggests that barley possesses a flavorful characteristic worth advocating in favor of. After poking around certain websites, I find out that barley isn't all bad. For one, it containts eight essential amino acids, even if it does goes against a "foodie's" predisposed disposition to cook up a delicate risotto with minced onion prepared to an al dente perfection.

            Tonight I chicken out of my willingness to substitute my beloved rice. With chicken broth and dry white wine, I execute a recipe I know all too well with a little help from my friends Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman, whose cookbook Risotto: more than 120 recipes for the classic dish of northern italy, has become a staple in my Hoboken nook.

            The recipe Risotto con piselli, masterfully mingles sweet and dry so that your palette experiences a kind of comfort food conveyed through the creamy finish - compliments of the recipe’s inclusion of light cream. Tonight my fork nestles in my bowl, just as eager as I to put away this rice’s, firm, creamy, and chewy texture due to the higher amylopectin starch content.

Perhaps in the near future I will abandon my apprehension for barley and give it a go Tenaya!

Risotto con piselli

condimenti: 1 tbsp unsalted butter
                      1 cup of defrosted peas, not cooked
                      1/4 cup of light cream
                      1/3 cup of grated parmesan

brodo:          5 cups basic broth
                     1/2 cup of dry white wine

soffritto:       2 tbsp unsalted butter
                     1 tbsp oil
                     1/3 cup of minced onion
                     1 celery rib, finely minced

riso:             1 1/2 cups of arborio rice

- heat the butter in a small skillet over moderate heat. when it
begins to foam, add the peas and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring
occasionally. turn off heath and set aside.

- bring the broth to a steady boil.

- heat the butter and oil in a heavy 4-quart casserole dish over
moderate heat. add the onion and celery and saute for 1 to 2min, until
the onion begins to soften, being careful not to brown it.

- add the rice to the soffritto; using a wooden spoon, stir for 1min.
add the wine and stir until completely absorbed. begin to add the
simmering broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently. wait until
each addition is completely absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup,
reserving about 1/4 cup to add at the end. ***
stir frequently to prevent sticking ***.

- after approx. 15min, when the rice is tender but still firm, add the
reserved broth and condimenti - peas,  cream, and parmesan, and stir
vigorously to combine with the rice.

- serve immediately* serves 4.

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