Wednesday, March 4, 2015

easy risotto (i promise!)

I tend to stay away from complicated dishes and anything that takes too much attention. I get too distracted by a glass of wine and five other things going on in the kitchen to stir one pot for 30 minutes.

Risotto always seemed like one of those dishes that I would eat at a restaurant but avoid ever cooking for myself. The constant stirring, the ease of turning it to mush or making it too al dente--it all sounds so stressful and not what I want in my kitchen.

Then Valentines Day rolled around. Mike makes an early or day after reservation to avoid the crowds and overpriced food and I cook the day of. Last year I made his fave: bbq chicken pizza, the first dish I had ever cooked for him. But this year I wanted to step it up and make him something I had never made before.

Enter: risotto. "Why not?" I asked myself. I found a few ideas online that I pieced together into my own take and the cooking method seemed so easy. It cooks in the oven for crying out loud. So no constant stirring?! I was in.

I customized a bit by adding white wine even though the recipe didn't call for it (my motto: add wine whenever possible), and changed the ingredients to crispy pancetta and asparagus. Here is the original recipe and my take is below:

asparagus and crispy pancetta risotto
serves 2 (with a bit leftover for the next day :)

5-8 stalks of asparagus (depending on how thick they are), diced into bite-sized pieces
half pound of pancetta, diced (you can get the pre-sliced or just get a chunk of it and dice it yourself)
1 cup arborio rice
1 carrot, chopped finely
1 parsnip peeled and diced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup of white wine--pick a dry one like pinot grigio
2 cups of low sodium chicken broth
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2-1 cup of pecorino romano cheese--or any parm you have (amount depends on how much you like cheese--this also helps add a creamy feel to the dish)
salt and pepper for seasoning

  • preheat oven to 450
  • preheat an oven safe pot on the stove top on medium heat and toss in the diced pancetta, cook until crispy
  • scoop out cooked pancetta onto a paper towel using a slotted spoon, add 1 tbsp butter and asparagus
  • sauté until asparagus is slightly softened but not limp--about 5-8 minutes, tossing frequently
  • scoop the asparagus out, set aside, add carrots and parsnips. after about 3 minutes, add shallot and then add garlic 5 minutes later. season with salt and pepper
  • let sauté until shallots become soft and stir frequently to prevent garlic from burning
tip: you want to cook vegetables longer based on their firmness and also size. carrots and parsnips take longer to soften and cook down, whereas garlic will burn if you add it at the beginning.

  • stir in arborio rice, add liquids and remaining butter
  • cover with lid and place in oven for 20-25 minutes-risotto will be creamy when done. taste test to ensure its not too al dente and add more liquid a quarter cup at a time if it needs to cook a bit longer
  • add lemon juice, pecorino, asparagus and pancetta, stir together and serve
This recipe is so versatile--add an extra cup of chicken broth in place of the wine (if you must!), and sub in any protein or veggie. One day I will get Mike to eat shrimp and try that...

Let me know how it comes out--I have a feeling this will change your view on risotto.

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