TWO-STAGE RISOTTO

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

ENJOY!

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)

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MAHI-MAHI

I fall in love with words quite easily.  Mahi-mahi…. is just one of the many beautiful Hawaiian words.  When we visited Oahu I found it fascinating to  read the street names, which for the most part were quite hard for a foreigner to remember: Kamehameha, Mamalahoa, Kealakehe, Hualalai. They all seemed so…. musical!

It turns out that the Hawaiian alphabet lacks a few consonants:  C, J, Q, and X. It also makes no distinction between K and T.   When the complexity of a language decreases at one level, it often compensates on another.  The fewer consonants probably explains why so many Hawaiian words have duplicated syllables, giving the spoken language a playful component that’s quite pleasing.  But, I digress…  mahi-mahi (by the way, “mahi” means “strong”) is one of my favorite fish, at the top with striped sea bass.  It has a mild, but definitely not bland flavor, and a meaty texture that’s perfect for grilling, as this recipe (another gem I got from my friend Heather) will convince you.

GRILLED MAHI-MAHI WITH CITRUS MARINADE
(from  Heather’s kitchen)

2 filets of mahi-mahi (may substitute other firm-fleshed fish)
for the marinade:
2 T fresh lime juice
3 T rice vinegar
1 T finely chopped ginger
1 T finely chopped scallions
3 T mild vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
1 T soy sayce
1/2 t Asian chili sauce (optional)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Prepare a marinade by whisking all ingredients together. Marinate the fish for 30 minutes to 2 hours in the fridge.  Grill until cooked through. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was one of the tastiest dinners in the past few weeks.  A fish like mahi-mahi is delicious on its own, so the less you mess with it, the better it is.  This preparation was perfect: a hint of lemon,  a little heat, and nothing else.  No elaborate toppings, crusts, or sauces.  A simple, delicious meal, as healthy as it gets.

We loved it with roasted asparagus, and with a mixture of white rice and wheat berries that, all modesty aside, was a spur of the moment inspiration that had me patting myself on the back.   I spotted some white rice in the fridge and some cooked wheat berries that I was saving for a salad.   I just mixed them and warmed them in the microwave. It was an absolutely delicious combination that will be a regular production in the Bewitching Kitchen.

ONE YEAR AGO: Memories of Pasteis

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