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Italian Rice RISOTTO and LEFTOVER creations


The Italian RISOTTO has become my teacher of lessons learned over the years.
Appreciating the pace of slowing down has served my speedy personality well.


Our winter not only brings on a time of reflection...
it reminds me to mellow out just a little...
especially with our winter wonderland.

Most times, I‘ll be preparing meals in no time at all. 
However, admiring the risotto come to life suits me strangely well. 


Italian rice...origins?
Before putting this post together...a curiosity had suddenly come about.  Did Italians meet the rice grain before their beloved pasta?  Admittedly, I would have guessed wrong.  It seems that rice was a close second to be discovered after pasta.  I was not displeased with that answer.  After all, I do pick a pasta dish before a risotto most times.  It may just have something to do with my mid-Southern Italian roots ;o)
Now, most northern Italians may just select a risotto dish over a pasta one.  Again, this brought on a little more curiosity?  It seems that during medieval times, while the Arabs were conquering parts of ancient Sicily, the Duke of Milan was busy appreciating the rice grain opportunity flourishing nearest to the city of Ferrara and throughout the northern Po river.  However, before his population would fully adopt this newly found grain, the Duke took advantage of spreading out the rice grains to be cultivated in different parts of Northern Italy.   A very profitable crop was born.  This somewhat explains why most of Italy’s north will pick risotto over pasta.    Milan not only became an important exporter of rice, but also one of the biggest risotto gourmets, especially with their popular recipe, simply made with a little saffron, butter and cheese of course.

***

Alright, although I can appreciate the origins of food...
I do admit, I've never been one to shine when it comes to extensive patience in the kitchen.
However, when it comes to making risotto...patience comes somehow naturally?!?


In fact, the acceptable reason for continually stirring a risotto is...
so that it gets cooked evenly without fail.
Either that...or an excuse to have someone else set the table while you dedicate yourself to stirring ;o)

As far as I’m concerned, time making risotto is time well spent.

A store-bought quality stock will put you in the running for making a tasty risotto.
Personally, I prefer homemade stock which I usually extract from my chicken or vegetable soup.

For those wanting to get a similar risotto without all that time spent stirring...
there is a simpler way to get similar results without too much disappointment.
Here's a practically 'No-stir' quick method to making Italian risotto.
. 3 Tbsps. (45ml) unsalted butter
. 3 Tbsps. (45ml)  e.v.Olive oil
. 1 medium, sweet onion, chopped small
. 1-1/2 cups (~330g) Italian rice
. 1/4 cup (60ml) liquor: fortified Sherry or Port *
. 4 cups (~900ml-1Litre) stock of choice
. Seasoning to taste: 
sprinkle of sea salt and granulated garlic.  
Some dried herbs: Basil, Marjoram, Tarragon
. 1/2 cup (40g) (plus for garnish) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
* Note:  liquor can be replaced with broth 

PREPARATION:
. Use a very wide, deep saute pan.
. On MED-HIGH, heat both the butter and the oil. 
. Add the chopped onion and cook until golden and translucent.
. Mix in the rice.  Stir for about 2 minutes until coated.  
Add the optional liquor and let it cook for about 1 minute.  
. Gradually pour about half the stock while stirring.  Lower the heat to MED-LOW.  
Cover the pan with its lid for 10 minutes undisturbed.
. Repeat with the second half of the stock and stir.  Cover again for another 10 minutes undisturbed.
. Uncover to check if the risotto is to your liking. The rice should have retained a creamy texture. 
. Season to taste and finally add the grated cheese.
. Serve immediately with...more cheese ;o)



Although, Italy cultivates several varieties of short grain rice perfectly suitable for making risotto...we mostly have access to only a few varieties.

Yes, the popular Arborio rice is a fair and inexpensive choice.  However, one of the reasons I let it go is because on many occasions, it had easily overcooked.  A mushy rice outcome is not what I prefer in my risotto.  When it cooks, the lack of structure in this short grain has the tendency to disappoint me.
On the other hand, the longer Carnaroli rice grain keeps its firmer texture intact and delivers the right consistency every time.  The lesser known and much smaller grain Vialone Nano looks similar to the Arborio and holds its texture like the Carnaroli and remains a good selection as well.  
Although a little more difficult to track down, and for some a little pricey...I've remained faithful to the longer and slightly more robust Carnaroli rice.



Bargain hunters...beware.
First, a little unpleasant experience I had with what I would somewhat describe as a counterfeit Italian rice.  I should have known something was wrong...especially since I had purchased this particular Carnaroli rice for quite a steal.  Thankfully, I didn’t get overly excited and only took a box to try first.  Well, on that count, I had thought well. This brand turned out an horrendous tasting risotto with an indescribable aftertaste.  At the time, I couldn't figure out what had gone wrong.  However, the more I tried eating what was on my plate, the more I sensed a food industry scam. 
  
Since, I still had another half package left, I made myself a mental note to investigate a little further.  Before this incident...I never, ever rinsed Italian rice grains.   After all, the starch coating is what makes the uniqueness of a risotto dish.
To my disgust...a sewage looking film floated above the rice every time I rinsed it. This seemingly never-ending rinse was not the starch...it most certainly looked like a herbicide of sorts.  Anyhow, although not absolutely certain of my conclusion, I vowed never to be fooled by this again.  Risotto is a true labour of love...and I'll be damned if the rice itself ruins my dish again.  If ever I'm not sure of a newer brand, I will certainly give a small portion the 'rinse test’ next time.  Buyer beware!

***

One of my go-to recipes is the usual mushroom based risotto...
however, I've made many more that rivaled this usually loved dish.  
In this post, I'll share two other favourites...
one of which will later divulge a presentable dish made from the leftovers from this next recipe.


Risotto 
Edamane beans with Chicken - Tomato stock 
(medium - creamy consistency)
Served as timbale creations
serves 4


INGREDIENTS:
(American / Metric measures)

.  2-1/2 cups (535g) Italian rice (Carnaroli preferred)
. 3 tbsp. (45ml) e.v. olive oil
. 3 tbsp. (45ml) unsalted butter
. 7 cups (1.75L) chicken - tomato flavoured stock 
. 1 large, sweet onion, chopped
. 2 medium garlic cloves, finely minced
. 1/2 cup (125ml) medium-dry Sherry (can be replaced with stock) 
. 1-1/2 cups (225g) Edamane beans (de-shelled frozen soybeans)
. seasoning to taste: sea salt and a few dried herbs of choice
. 1 cup (80g) Parmigiano Reggiano OR Asiago cheese, grated, packed 






PREPARATION:
1. In a medium pot, keep the chicken - tomato flavoured stock warm at a very low simmer.  Although, not an absolute step, it is my preferred way to proceed.
2. Use a very wide and shallow saucepan for even cooking of the rice.  
3. On medium heat, the butter and oil will bubble before adding the onions.  Sauté until golden and barely translucent.  Add the thawed Edamane beans.  Cook them a few minutes.
4. Add the rice grains to the onions and continue cooking and coating for a few minutes until a nutty aroma is released.
5. If choosing to blend in some liquor to the recipe, splash it onto the rice now.  Wait until the alcohol has mostly evaporated, about one minute will do.  
6. To the sizzling rice, add the finely minced garlic.  Stir a few seconds.   Afterwards, adjust the heat a little higher to then receive the first two ladles of the warm stock.  Stir until the stock is absorbed before adding yet another ladle.  Repeat until all liquid is used up.  The rice will have 'plumped' up nicely by this stage.
7. Lastly, lower the heat to a simmer.  Add and combine some seasoning to taste along with the grated cheese.  Serve immediately with yet more grated cheese.  Note: This particular serving was individually packed in small bowls, using a medium-creamy risotto consistency...creating timbale forms.  Buon appetito.


***
Any leftover risotto?
Unless, extra guests showed up at the table...
here are a few ideas as to what to do with the leftovers.



Several simple menus as well as a few other creations:


Soup easily made by adding risotto to any broth.

. Making a patted down layer in an oiled pie plate for a 'Quiche' crust

. Southern Italian 'Arancini' or the Northern 'Suppli' style cheese stuffed balls:
. Place a cube of mozzarella into a handful of leftover risotto.  Shape into balls. 
Dredge each ball into the flour...then into a beaten egg...lastly coated with bread crumbs.  

Refrigerate for one hour. 
Fry until lightly golden or bake at 375F for about 30 minutes.  Serve warm.


. Cabbage rolls:
with either a cheese béchamel style sauce or the usual tomato spread.

. Risotto stuffed vegetables: 
eggplants bell peppers, mushroom caps, zucchini or squash boats.

. Risotto 'al salto' (aka risotto pancakes):
...Add 1 egg for every packed cup of risotto and then dry bread coated...
afterwards, lightly pan fry the patties.
OR...create similar patties without the bread coating into
 Risotto style hash browns:



...Add 1 egg for every packed cup of risotto and then add...
some chopped parsley, roasted, crushed nuts, and grated Parmesan.  
Afterwards, gently shallow fry mounds of mix and lightly pat down.  
Flip over three times until crispy on the outside and moist on the inside ;o)

***

oven baked 
Risotto cheese melt squares
made from leftover...Risotto 




INGREDIENTS:
. approximately 3 cups (750ml) of cold leftover risotto.
. 12 large cut cubes of melting cheese (I used Havarti)

PREPARATION:
1. Spread and pat down the cold risotto onto a parchment lined shallow pan sized about 9x12 inch (23x30cm).
2. Score the squares about 3x3 inches (8x8cm).
3. Add your choice of large, cubed cheese (I used Havarti cheese).
4. Bake into a pre-heated oven set to 325F/160C/Gas3.  Position pan in the center of the oven.
5. Warm the risotto squares for about 15 minutes as well as making sure that the cheese is melted and not too browned.
6. Remove from the oven and gently re-score and pry out the squares to serve with your favourite salad or other side dish.  Buon appetito.


***

Risotto with...
Italian sausage and Broccoli
a creamy flowing ... Risotto
serves 4

INGREDIENTS:
(American / Metric measures)
.  2-1/2 cups (535g) Italian rice (Carnaroli preferred)
. 3 tbsp. (45ml) e.v. olive oil
. 3 tbsp. (45ml) unsalted butter
. 7 cups (1.75L) chicken or vegetable stock 
. 1 large, sweet onion, chopped
. 2 large, mild Italian sausages, de-cased
. 1 head of broccoli florets (I used frozen florets)
. 1/2 cup (125ml) medium-dry Sherry (can be replaced with stock) 
. seasoning to taste: sea salt and a few dried herbs of choice
. 1 cup (80g) Parmigiano Reggiano, OR Asiago cheese, grated, packed



PREPARATION:
1. In a medium pot, keep the chosen stock warm at a very low simmer.  Although, not an absolute step, it is my preferred way to proceed.
2. Use a very wide and shallow saucepan for even cooking of the rice.  
3. On medium heat, the butter and oil will bubble before adding the onions.  Sauté until golden and barely translucent.  Add the sausages and sear on both sides.  Take them out and reserve them covered in a separate bowl.  Set aside.  Do the same for the broccoli florets.  Cook them a few minutes until slightly tender.  Set aside and covered as well. 
4. Add the rice grains to the onions and continue cooking and coating for a few minutes until a nutty aroma is released.  If choosing to blend in some liquor to the recipe, splash it onto the rice now.  Wait until the alcohol has mostly evaporated, about one minute will do.  
5. Afterwards, adjust the heat a little higher to then add the first two ladles of the warm stock to the sizzling rice.  Stir until the stock is absorbed before adding yet another ladle.  Repeat until all liquid is used up.  The rice will have 'plumped' up nicely by this stage.
6. Add some seasoning to taste and top up risotto with the grated cheese.  Combine well while lowering the heat to a simmer.
7. At this point, the broccoli florets and sausages should be combined to this last liquid stage.  Keep cooking until risotto has reached your desired creamy stage.   
8. Lastly, add and combine the grated cheese.  Serve immediately with yet more grated cheese.  Buon appetito.





As this beautiful scenery indirectly shows us to appreciate the small moments...we somehow receive the messages whether we‘re paying attention or not.  
It may just be nature or the food in our saucepan that will remind us to take a step back and contemplate what’s important after all.

Have a peaceful week and remember to savour the significant moments...in this case...the tiny rice grains.

Flavourful wishes,
Foodessa


Comments or suggestions ... write me :o)
Claudia at:  foodessa [at] gmail [dot] com

Go HERE for more SAVOURY creations.





Please take note on how I bake and cook...
Here’s a 101 of sorts to make sure that there are no disappointments when trying my creations.  
Also...just so you know...feel free to increase the salt and sweet factor since I'm not high on either of them ;o)

. Use DRY cup measurements for...you guessed it...all DRY ingredients.
Anything DRY gets measured by spooning the overfilled ingredient (never shake the cup) and then level off with a flat edged tool.  Exception...Brown sugar should be packed in and leveled.
. Use LIQUID cup measurements for...all LIQUIDS that cannot be leveled like for example butter, yogurt...etc.  Measure the liquids at eye level to avoid overdoing what the recipe truly needs.
OVENS are unfortunately not created equal.  Mine is so old that it has reached many degrees off it's norm.  It's really worth investing a few dollars to test yours with an appropriate oven thermometer.  You'd be surprised how many ovens I've heard about not being where they should have been.  Before you lose any more ingredients and much time preparing a new recipe...run to the store...you'll thank me later.