Risotto is one of my favorite dishes, but I refrain from making it for dinner parties because it does require some loving attention. No way to entertain your guests when risotto is on the menu, unless they don’t mind standing next to the stove with you, sipping wine and watching the rice gently bubbling away.
I’ve read a few articles describing how restaurants do it, though. Obviously the customer cannot wait for 30 minutes as the kitchen staff prepares each plate to order, so they resort to a method said to work like a charm: the rice is cooked almost all the way through, then spread on a baking sheet to cool down. Once the order comes in, they spoon out a single serving, and finish it quickly on top of the stove.
I would be a bit insecure to try this approach for the first time on guests, but Phil and I were perfect guinea pigs for this experiment. I adapted a recipe for pea risotto from a recent issue of Food and Wine, and put the method to test.
TWO-STAGE PEA AND PROSCIUTTO RISOTTO
(adapted from Food and Wine, May 2011)
3 slices of prosciutto, cut in small pieces (use scissors)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 Tbs olive oil
1 small shallot, finely diced
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 – 5 cups chicken stock, warm (you won’t use it all)
1 Tbs butter
1/4 cup Parmiggiano cheese
salt and pepper to taste
a nice squeeze of lemon juice
1 cup pea shoots, very loosely packed
Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan, and keep on very low heat. Using a blender or the food processor, puree half the peas in 1/2 cup of chicken stock. Reserve. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, cook the prosciutto until it starts to get crisp. Remove the pieces and place over kitchen paper, reserve.
In the same skillet, cook the shallots seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, until soft and fragrant. If necessary, add a little more oil, then the rice and cook stirring often until all grains are well coated. Add the wine and simmer until absorbed, about 3 minutes.
Add enough hot chicken stock to cover the rice, and cook over medium heat, stirring often. Keep adding stock, one ladle at a time, until the rice is about 75% cooked through (taste it, it should feel still hard at the center; it took me about 25 minutes). Remove from the stove and immediately transfer it to a baking sheet in a layer. Place it in the fridge until time to serve the dish (several hours won’t harm it).
When it’s time to finish the risotto, heat 1 cup of the remaining chicken stock in the skillet, add the rice, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the reserved pea puree (warm it briefly in the microwave). When the rice is done, nicely al dente, add the peas, the prosciutto, the grated cheese, the butter, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper, add the pea shoots right before serving, and
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: This is definitely the solution to the “risotto for guests” puzzle. It tastes exactly as if it was prepared all the way through, and it takes literally minutes to serve. The other detail in this recipe that won me over: the pea puree. I’ve made plenty of pea risottos before, they are always delicious, but turning part of the pea in a puree raises the dish to a new high. I think many types of risotto will benefit from this approach, so that’s something to experiment with in the future. My husband suggested the addition of chevre cheese instead of Parmiggiano, and I bet it will be a delicious variation.
Remember: if you love risotto and want to include it in your next dinner party menu, don’t be afraid of the two-stage method!
ONE YEAR AGO: Life is a matter of taste (a small tribute to David Rosengarten)