December 5, 2010

Risotto with Peas

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A good friend of my husband’s and mine, Cristina, would always whip up risotto for us when we were guests in her home.  She’s Italian, so making risotto was something of a second nature to her.  Cristina is a wonderful cook of all things, but her risotto has always been the standout.  Years ago we went to stay with Cristina and her family at their home in Cape Cod during the winter holidays.  I was 4 months pregnant, it was bone-chilling cold outside, and nothing was more satisfying than a piping hot bowl of her risotto.  So satisfying that I asked for a tutorial.  Five years later I am still following her instructions.  I make it for my children all the time.  They like it made with peas and it is, hands down, one of their favorite meals.  We had a little kiddie pajama dinner party one evening for our kids and their friends.  My children requested Risotto with Peas to be served forth.  Surprisingly, it was well received by the group.  They all had a funny look on their faces when the steamy bowls of rice were placed in front of them.  In the end, each kid gave it a try and some of them even liked it.

This recipe is for Risotto with Peas, but can be substituted with most vegetables.  What is important is getting a feel for the actual making of the dish.  The items that embellish it are the easy part.

The most common rice for risotto available is Arborio, but if you have the opportunity to try Vialone or Carnaroli, you should.  All of these risotto rice options have one thing in common.  They are all plump, short to medium grains with a high content of starch called amylopectin which is what gives risotto it's creamy texture.  Carnaroli is probably the most popular risotto rice in most of Italy as it makes the creamiest risotto and still maintains a firmer al dente texture.  My research has shown that Vialone (Vialone Nano) is most popular in the Veneto region of Italy.  Vialone is able to absorb the most liquid of those available while still being creamy in texture.  The main reason I would always use Vialone  for rice pudding was because it absorbed the milk so well.

Risotto with Peas and White Truffle Oil
 
2 cups Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Rice
3 T olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1/2 cup white wine or dry vermouth
6-7 cups vegetable broth
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup almond, soy, or coconut milk (optional)
  salt and pepper
  white truffle oil, optional
 
Chop the onion.
Heat the vegetable stock in a saucepan or in the microwave and bring to a boil.
Heat a large saucepan over a medium flame. Add the oil. Add the chopped onion and sprinkle with salt. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Turn the heat down to low and cook for about 10 minutes or until the onions become translucent. If they happen to brown a little, don’t worry about it. The caramelization is far from a bad thing. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with the oil.
Turn the heat up a little and add the wine or vermouth. Stir the mixture until the liquid is completely absorbed.
While stirring constantly, begin to add the heated broth, one ladle full at a time. During this time when you are introducing the liquid to the mixture, the stirring is critical to develop the starches in the rice. This is what will make the risotto creamy. Allow the liquid to become fully absorbed before you add more. After you have gotten the risotto started and have put about 3 cups of broth into it, it is fine to leave it alone for a few minutes here and there. If you are not standing over it and stirring, be sure to leave about a cup of broth stirred in and to lower the heat a bit. Continue to add the broth as the rice absorbs it until it is fully cooked. This process of adding and incorporating the broth will take about 30-40 minutes. It is not difficult, but does require some patience. When it is about done, the rice will begin to stop absorbing the liquid and if you taste a grain, it will be cooked and a bit al dente. The grains should be just a little firm in the center.
Stir in the peas. If you are using the milk, add it now and stir to incorporate.
Spoon into bowls or plates. Serve immediately. I like it with freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of white truffle oil. This dish is so simple in flavor that the truffle oil is a perfect addition to take it to the next level.
Risotto is one dish that does not reheat well. If you have some left over, refrigerate it, make it into patties, and pan-fry them. If you are feeling industrious and want a delicious snack, form the leftover risotto into balls or press into cakes. Coat them in flour and saute or deep fry.

 

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Categories: Gluten Free, Grains, Pasta & Risotto, Spring & Summer, Vegan Entrees
 

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