Wednesday, June 3, 2009

You Say Risotto, I Say Risotto

Yesterday evening I was feeling mighty peckish and racked my mind and stomach to figure out what I wanted to eat. I try to make risotto a couple times a month because it is easy and affordable as well as delicious. Another plus is that risotto is incredibly versatile; you can literally throw anything you want in there with almost any liquids. Let’s face it, nowadays anyone with a suitable pot and some Italian rice can whip up a tasty risotto. It really is an uncomplicated technique to learn and master. All it takes is constant supervision coupled with a strong arm for the continuous stirring and ladling required. Aside from risotto I was similarly craving cauliflower, the oft-neglected redheaded stepchild of the vegetal realm. I happen to love its slightly bitter, milky, and nutty flavor and will gladly have it raw or cooked. After much internal negotiation in the produce aisle of the gourmet grocer I opted to cook a bacon and cauliflower risotto. The tastes of all three elementary components were superbly represented; the creamy rice just barely cooked through, the content in this case cauliflower florets, and the rich homemade vegetable stock and dry Pinot Grigio that were my liquids. The dish was exquisite, to shed my usual modesty and humble nature, full of contrasting textures and flavors that made every forkful interesting. A bite of smoky bacon here, a smooth hit of cauliflower there, with omnipresent creamy rice running the show. The spiced breadcrumb topping was the icing on the cake which provided a nice crunch and complex spice all their own. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

And Cauliflower Risotto
Serves 4

4 Strips of Bacon
2 Tsp. Olive Oil
1 Yellow Onion, chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 Bay Leaf
1 Large Cauliflower, stalk removed and florets separated
1 C. Carnaroli Rice
1/2 C. White Wine
2 1/2 C. Stock
2 Pieces of Stale Bread
1/4 Tsp. Paprika
1/8 Tsp. Red Chili Flakes
1/4 C. Grated Parmesan
1 Tbs. Ricotta
1 Tbs. Fresh Parsley
Salt & Pepper

1. Render the bacon over medium heat in a large pot or Dutch oven until browned. Set aside. Add a teaspoon of oil and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the minced garlic, bay leaf, and cauliflower florets. Cook for 3-4 minutes then add the rice. Cook the rice, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or so until the kernels brown slightly, shell their outer hull, and crackle in the pot. Bring the stock to a simmer in a separate pot.

2. Add the wine to deglaze and stir it into the rice. Wait for the wine to cook off and be completely absorbed. Ladle in half a cup of stock or so to the rice and wait for it to be absorbed. Add more stock and repeat the process, stirring frequently, until the rice has become tender though slightly firm or al dente.

3. While the risotto is cooking chop the bread into small pieces and pulse it several times in a food processor. Toss the breadcrumbs with a teaspoon of olive oil, paprika, and red chili flakes. Toast them for 4-5 minutes in a skillet over medium heat until they have browned but not burned. Set aside.

4. Crumble the bacon into small bits and add it to the risotto 2 minutes before it as finished cooking along with the parmesan, ricotta, and parsley. Stir in all the ingredients and adjust seasoning. Top with the spiced breadcrumb mixture and serve immediately.

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