Friday, September 7, 2007

And the winner is . . .

Carnaroli. Very few food blogs are without at least one risotto recipe, and why should The CFT be any different. This started with me running out of rice, and reading Janet Fletcher's Risotto Revelation in the San Francisco Chronicle's archives (linked below) before restocking. The article is great and seemingly as timely today as it was when written nearly four years ago. I had always used Arborio and never gave it too much thought. It worked well, and was always readily available. But the article sparked my interest, and I knew other varieties would be available at Urban Herbs, an herb/legume/spice mixture purveyor at the West Side Market.

After reading the article, I was ready to give Carnaroli a try. It was about 25% more expensive than the Arborio, but since I was only buying a pound of rice the actual dollar difference was not too significant. Inspired by a great picture of Milanese Risotto in The Silver Spoon Cookbook, the creeping fall weather, and a freezer bag full of over six months of chicken parts, it was time to put something together.

A quick word about the chicken parts. While I like the Carnaroli and believe it made a slightly better risotto than Arborio, I think the differences between the varieties of rice have a lot less to do with the quality of the end product than the cooking liquid. I made a quick, simple stock with my frozen chicken part cache. While well schooled chefs might cringe at the stock making method described below, it worked well and is much preferable to anything from a can or box.

- Chicken Parts (I had collected bones, ends of wings, backbones, necks, and even some leftovers in a freezer bag for a long time. There may have even been giblets and livers in the mix.)
- Onion, roughly chopped
- Bay Leaf (I highly recommend keeping a potted Bay Laurel plant for you Bay Leaf needs. I leave mine outside in the summer, and during the winter just forget about it in a barely lit part of the kitchen.)
- [Carrot and Celery chopped -- Bracketed because I was out of, and therefore omitted, them]
- Put the chicken parts and onion in a pot big enough to hold them comfortably and cover generously with water
- Bring pot with chicken parts, onion, and water to a boil
- Once everything is at a boil reduce heat to simmer everything
- Add more water to cover if necessary (You can always boil the stock down to concentrate the flavor, so there's no need to worry about too much water.)
- In about two hours you should have a decent stock
- Strain out chicken parts and onion, give pot a quick rinse, and return stock to pot
- Keep the stock hot

There are a lot of great risotto recipes and methods elsewhere on the web, so this is by no means definitive. It works, but it's worth taking a look around at some others.
- Risotto Rice (Besides Carnaroli or Arborio, Ming Tsai suggests using sushi rice,, and while I'm sure it works, there's something to be said about tradition. When Mario Batali,, recommends sushi rice, or if it's all I have around when craving risotto, I'll give it a try.)
- Onion, diced
- White Wine
- Butter
- Olive Oil
- Saffron (From the Spice Hound at the Coit Road Farmers Market, the great, but neglected, year round market in East Cleveland. Definitely optional.)
- Parmesan Cheese
- Salt and pepper
- Parsley, chopped
- Sweat onion in mixture of olive oil and butter
- Once onion is soft, add rice and stir well
- Cook like this until rice is well coated with the fats and the rice is clear with an opaque spot in the center (This was less pronounced with the Carnaroli than with the Arborio, but noticeable nonetheless. The opague spot has been referred to as the soul of the rice grain.)
- Now add a good glug of wine (White was used here, but red is good, especially if you want a reddish risotto, which looks nice with some meats.) and stir well
- Once the white wine is absorbed (and boiled off) add a good ladleful or two of hot stock and stir well
- After the rice has absorbed the stock (again, some of it's boiling off) repeat with one or two more ladlefuls of of stock, this time adding the saffron if you have it
- Keep repeating adding stock, stirring very regularly (If you are running out of stock get some hot water ready. The stock should be flavorful enough that adding some water towards the end shouldn't make too big a difference.)
- Keep tasting the rice to see where it's texture is and seasoning with salt and pepper
- When rice is just about getting there, add more stock, turn off the heat, and cover the pan for a few minutes
- Lift cover, add some butter, Parmesan cheese, and parsley and stir well (If the rice is too tight add some more stock.)
- Serve as a side or on it's own

Vegetables could be added, either cooked with the risotto or separately. Just about anything could work. Leftovers are nice formed into a patty, coated in bread crumbs, and sauteed in butter in a nonstick pan. Add a poached egg on top and it's a great breakfast.

Janet Fletcher, Risotto Revelation, SF Chronicle, Oct. 22, 2003:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the bol of worms look good to eat