Monday, May 12, 2008

Risotto in Two Acts

Risotto is really all about a method. One you've mastered it, you can play around with the ingredients. My favorite risotto is one I make at least twice a month, a version of this one from a restaurant issue of Gourmet magazine. I came across some vibrant radicchio the other day and decided to try a sausage and radicchio risotto. I was hoping for a nice pinkish color by using red wine, but unfortunately it came out brown, just like every other risotto I've ever made. Perhaps not the most photogenic dish, but one of my favorites.

Grilled Sausage and Radicchio Risotto

1 lb. continuous link freshly made italian sausage
1 head radicchio
olive oil

1 Tbsp butter
2 cups finely sliced leeks, whites and light green parts only
5 cups beef broth
2 Tbsp. italian seasoning

1 Tbsp butter
2 cups risotto rice
2/3 cup dry red wine
1 Tbsp. white truffle oil
1 Tbsp. chianti vinegar or other high quality red wine vinegar
1/2 cup grated parmiggiano reggiano
chopped parsley

Halve the radicchio, leaving all the leaves attached to the core so it stays together and brush it and the sausage with olive oil. Grill over high flames. Slice raddichio and cube sausage.

Melt butter in a 2 1/2 quart saucepan over medium heat. Saute leeks until slightly softened. Add beef broth and seasoning and heat to just below a simmer, holding it there.

Melt remaining butter in a large saucepan or stockpot (at least 3 quarts). Add rice and toast over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant. Stand back, remove from heat and add wine (be careful, it boils away very quickly. Adjust heat to medium. Add one 1/2 cup stock mixture and let cook, stirring constantly, until liquid has been absorbed (when you drag your wooden spoon along the bottom of the pot, the path is not filled in by the rice mixture) Repeat until all the liquid has been used. If you notice your rice is not cooking fast enough, but you are quickly running out of stock, lower the heat. If it seems to be almost cooked, but you have plenty of liquid left, you are cooking at too low a heat. The rice should be al dente when done, just a slight chew in the middle, creamy and rich on the outside. Stir in parmesan, truffle oil and vinegar to finish off. (The vinegar may seem odd, but it supplies some much needed contrast to this rich and otherwise heavy dish) Top with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.


Italians don't believe in reheating risotto. It has a tendency to get gluey and lose the al dente grains with a creamy texture. Instead, whip up some arancini. These little risotto balls have a melted mozzarella surprise inside. They're traditionally deep fried, but I panfried them this time.

3 oz. cubed mozzarella
2 1/2 cups leftover risotto
2/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

Olive oil

Form a ball of risotto in your palm. Push a chunk of mozzarella into the middle and make sure it's well covered. Dredge in breadcrumbs. Repeat with remainder of risotto. Heat 1/2 inch of olive oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Shallow fry the risotto balls until golden brown.

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