Today I made a risotto. I have always contemplated making this dish as I peruse the grocery aisles and then ‘incorrectly’ remind myself that this dish should only be made by a seasoned chef. Abandoning this superstition that I had created in my own mind, I tossed the Arborio rice box in to my shopping cart. We were going to eat risotto con pancetta e gorgonzola….che buono!!
Cooking Arborio rice requires labor of love and so any desire I had of roasting and boiling carcasses for the stock were sharply dismissed. So, what was my next stop at the grocery store? Correct indeed, it was the organic premade stock section. I like organic chicken stock because the bouillon cubes have a synthetic flavor and exaggerate the taste of chicken not to mention the high sodium content. By contrast, the organic chicken stock cartons have a more subtle flavor and are correctly balanced with minimal salt.
I have an association from my wonderful months spent in Florence of any creamy preparations of pasta and rice with pancetta. Creaminess was definitely on this menu given the blend of gorgonzola and the starch from the Arborio rice and so, the next call to action was: Pancetta. Pancetta is similar to bacon but stronger in flavor. For this dish, the pancetta serves primarily to lace the oil with it’s deep and smoky aroma. And now, for the gorgonzola, I selected this cheese as it is ‘illustrious’ and since risotto has been on a pedestal in my mind for many years, it deserved nothing less. Gorgonzola is an Italian blue cheese and is pungent in flavor when consumed at room temperature, however, when it is cooked in a dish, the flavor mellows and it shows it’s ‘kinder side’, not dominating the dish it is somewhat of an equal participant. Furthermore, I have picked a Dolce gorgonzola which is younger and creamier and can even be spread on a toast in place of butter.
I would like to acknowledge that there will be several moments you will wish to ditch your risotto thinking that it will never soften no matter how much broth you use…believe me, I did. My advice to you is to ‘hang in there’ because, if it worked for me, it will work for you. It will show signs of reaching the desired state about 4 minutes before it is meant to be cooked. For this dish to work, ‘let go’ of your preconceived notions of rice, whether you are accustomed to cooking basmati or jasmine. For risotto, your role is to be calm, collected and fully engaged as you gently pour in the stock ladle by ladle. After 15 minutes of nurture and love, your dish is ready and you can now serve this plated decadence.
4 shallots finely diced
½ a cup of white wine
4 cups of organic chicken stock
2 cups of Arborio rice
1cup of Dolce Gorgonzola (this is a creamier and milder cheese compared to the crubly and aged gorgonzola)
fresh green herb (such as, parsley, chives, basil, any microgreen) or nuts (walnuts, pistachios, slivered almonds)
1) In a sauce pan heat up the chicken stock
2) Slice the pancetta in to small squares and sauté in olive oil on medium heat in a large pan
3) Add the shallots and sauté until the shallots soften (approx 3 minutes)
4) Toss the 2 cups of rice in the pan with the onions and pancetta and add the wine. Stir constantly to prevent the rice from sticking
5) Once the rice has absorbed the wine, add the chicken stock ½ a cup at a time and allow the rice to absorb the juices. After a couple of minutes, repeat this step by adding chicken stock ½ a cup at a time and allowing the rice to absorb the stock for 2 minutes. After approximately 20 minutes, your rice will be ready.
6) Season with salt and fresh pepper and stir in the gorgonzola.
7) Serve immediately and sprinkle with any fresh green herbs in your refrigerator for color or a few slices of pistachios
With a little green garnish and a knob of butter thrown on the top, this is a perfect standalone dish
Pearls of Wisdom
1) If you feel you rice is still undercooked, add another half cup of broth but it will not require more than this.
2) Serve immediately as this dish become stodgy very quickly.