Tuesday, March 31, 2009
I have always found Risotto to be the most sensuous of foods; smooth, creamy and luxurious. It can be flavored for any taste: cheese, seafood, vegetable even sweet vanilla or chocolate. Stirring it and watching it as it changes from individual grains of rice to one thick, fragrant pudding-like dish is watching magic happen before one’s very eyes.
A truly quintessentially Italian dish, risotto was traditionally a poor man`s food, a first course, “il primo”, filling up tummies before the more expensive and thus scarcer meat course. Yet now it is served up as such a luxurious, rich, romantic meal in itself, gorgeous snow-white rice all dressed up with deep red Speck or chunks of lobster or shavings of truffle served with a bottle of excellent wine. Or a simple, rustic family dinner studded with inexpensive seasonal vegetables or dusted in freshly grated Parmesan.
I mastered Risotto after several years living in Italy, learning from the best of the best; technique and recipes from Anna Del Conte`s fabulous cookbook I Risotti, the love, care and special Italian touch that goes into and transforms a list of ingredients into the perfect Risotto from our neighbor in Italy, Nonna Anna.
And how often do I make Risotto, whether Saffron or Parmesan, mushroom in winter or Risi e Bisi (Rice and Kisses) with fresh, delicate, sweet summer peas? So often and so beautifully that I have been dubbed (or crowned?) the Risotto Queen.
Zorra of Kochtopf has proposed a Lemon Day, a gathering of all of our favorite lemon recipes. And what timing! Little does she know, but Lemon Risotto is our family favorite. Beautiful in the winter, smooth and warming reminding us of sunnier days, perfect in summer, that tangy lemon flavor tickling the tastebuds, oh so clean and bright, accompanied simply by a cool, crisp salad dressed in a tart vinaigrette.
Zorra, here is a fabulous Lemon Recipe for you!
RISOTTO AL LIMONE
From Anna Del Conte’s Italian Kitchen I RISOTTI
Serves 4 – 6 as a first course or side dish or 4 as a main dish served with a mixed green salad tossed with a Balsamic vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette.
2 pints (1.25 litres) light chicken or vegetable stock, homemade if possible, or if not…. I use 2 broth cubes
2 oz/4 Tbs (60 g) unsalted butter
1 Tbs olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 branch celery, finely chopped
10 oz (300 g) rice for risotto (arborio or carnaroli)
½ unwaxed, untreated lemon
5 or 6 fresh sage leaves or 1 tsp dried sage
Leaves from a small sprig of fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried rosemary
1 egg yolk
4 Tbs freshly grated Parmesan
4 Tbs heavy or light cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring the stock to a boil and remove from heat. Some recipes say to leave it on a low simmer during the preparation of the risotto, but I never do.
Heat half of the butter and the olive oil in a large skillet, pot or terra cotta risotto dish. Add the chopped shallots and celery – what the Italians call the soffritto - and gently cook for a few minutes until translucent and soft.
Add the rice and stir to coat all of the rice well with the butter/oil. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes until the rice is translucent.
Pour a ladleful of the hot broth or stock over the rice, stir and allow to gently boil until the liquid is almost completely absorbed by the rice.
Continue to add the broth, ladleful by ladleful, or two at the most, over the course of the cooking period, stirring constantly, allowing each addition of broth to be almost completely absorbed by the rice before adding more liquid.
Meanwhile, grate the zest from the half a lemon and mix it into the finely chopped fresh sage and rosemary or with the dried herbs. Mix this into the rice halfway (about 10 – 12 minutes into the cooking.
Continue until the rice is meltingly tender to the bite and the risotto is thick and creamy. This should take more or less 20 minutes. Do not worry if you do not need all of the broth. Or if you do not have enough broth then add water at the end.
Squeeze the juice from the half lemon. In a small bowl, combine and whisk together the egg yolk, the grated Parmesan, the cream, the lemon juice and a generous grinding of black pepper.
When the risotto is cooked and the rice is very tender, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the egg, cream and Parmesan mixture along with the remaining butter. Cover the pan and allow to rest off the heat for 2 minutes before giving the risotto an energetic stir until well combined. Serve at once.
I usually serve this Risotto al Limone simply with a large, tossed salad dressed with a clean, tangy vinaigrette made with Balsamic vinegar and a good quality extra-virgin Italian olive oil. Add a loaf of fresh bread and maybe a plate of Italian cheeses or cold cuts and it is the perfect meal. Especially wonderful in the summer for some reason, maybe the tanginess and beautiful lemon flavor.