Arborio, Baldo, Carnaroli, Vialone, so many choices! Which one?
I am a Taurus, ascendant Libra, and I am told that as you grow older, your ascendant takes precedence over your main astrological sign. So, despite a fair amount of I-do-things-fast-with-no-patience, I am also known for not being able to make decisions very fast. Indecision, hesitation, hesitation, je vous déteste ! (I hate you) For example, for a while, if finding myself in a store in front of a skirt I liked, and the skirt came in blue, black and green, I used to hesitate for an extremely long time, leave it, come back to it, question, try the skirts on, again and again, peut-être, ah non, je ne sais plus (maybe, ah no, I no longer know). My issue is now solved. I buy the skirt in the three colors.
So, I cannot believe that I am doing this. Without hesitation, I decided to cook Italian food for an Italian friend visiting and staying with us next week. I am really entering a dangerous ground as S. is not only very taquin (cheeky), critique (critical) — not a bad thing at all actually — , but really says what he thinks, sans prendre de gants ! (without wearing gloves). In short, I will either become a Goddess in his eyes after his first bite of my food, or else, I will become the victim of Did-you-really-think-that-this-was-risotto look for ever! At least he no longer lives in Italy, so I can always hope that he will have forgotten what real Italian flavors taste like. So what I do then is fairly simple. I rehearse, trying to perfect a recipe which I love in Italian cuisine: le risotto.
Whenever I try to improve a recipe, I usually try to cook it often within a short period of time. It is easy to see why. My memory is still fresh with the details, and it is as if I am getting into the recipe I want to create more and more. Just like with anything else, the more often you do something, the better you become at it. With risotto, the task is actually not difficult since I simply love to cook and eat it. Who can really resist a plate of moist hot risotto? Even if I was mad that you, Italians, won the Soccer World Cup, I love you! Your food is amazing.
My love for risotto actually started many years ago, when my mum introduced me to riz pilaf. Fair enough, risotto is a totally different story, but the two dishes, however, share similarities. One thing leading to another, from starting with riz pilaf, I migrated to learn to cook risotto.
Riz pilaf versus Risotto
In a nutshell…
Riz pilaf = a dish from Middle Eastern origin in which the rice is first cooked in oil or butter, before being cooked in a broth, with spices, vegetables and/or meat. As suggested in the meaning of the word, each grain of rice remains separate. To achieve this result, the rice is first usually soaked or washed to remove the starch.
Risotto = an Italian dish made with special types of rice such as Arborio, Vialone, Baldo or Carnaroli. It originated in rice-growing areas of North Italy, more particularly in Eastern Piedmont and Western Lombardy. Like with a pilaf rice, the rice is first coated before being cooked in a liquid such a broth, with other ingredients. Yet the cooking method is different.
When cooking risotto, I usually buy Carnaroli rice over the other possible rice choices. I like its taste better, and quality-wise, it always gives perfect results. Probably considered as a plat du pauvre (dish for the poor) many years ago, risotto is nowadays considered a delicate dish, the pasta of people in the North of Italy. It does require special attention, as to be right, it should neither be either too moist nor too dry. And, it has a consequential shortcoming, un problème. You think you have time to run the laundry before dinner and your risotto will wait? Ah mais non, pas du tout. A risotto does not offer you this option. It simply cannot wait, just like me as a matter of fact.
The recipe for this risotto is combining the flavor of saffron with tasty cherry tomatoes. Over white wine, I actually prefer to use White Vermouth, such as Noilly Prat, which I add at the end when cooking the rice instead of at the beginning. Add to this list freshly grated parmesan and basil, a little bit of red onion and you have a lovely satisfying dish. I simply love risotto.
Despite the success of this recipe — in my eyes at least — , I can feel the hesitation seizing me once more. After all, I might not serve the risotto to S. on Wednesday, as it is just too risky! Unless I serve a lot of wine first, with l’apéritif. In fact, I would rather see that S. went back to L.A. thinking: “Yum, this risotto was good!” instead of “What a joke!” We shall see… le temps me le dira (time will tell me). Let’s just hope that on Wednesday, the planets will be in my favor and I will simply be under a good star. Une bonne étoîle !
- 1 1/2 cups Carnaroli (or any other risotto rice such as Arborio) rice
- 14.5 oz cherry tomatoes (skinned and seeded, then diced)
- 4 cups (1 quart) chicken broth
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp saffron (0.008 oz), soaked in some warm broth
- 9 Tbsp White Vermouth
- 3 oz grated parmesan
- Fresh basil
- Wash the tomatoes and boil them for 30 s. Skin, seed and dice them. Keep them on the side.
- Dice your onion thinly.
- Heat the broth and keep it warm.
- Melt 2 Tbsp butter + 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot (I use an All Clad pot for example) and cook the onion for 10 mns, until tender.
- Add the rice and coat it well away from the heat for 1 mn, then add the tomatoes. Stir well.
- Cover the rice with enough broth to get hardly to the surface of the rice. Add the soaked saffron.
- Cook your risotto on medium to low heat, keep stirring but not too vigourously (so that you do disturb the gluten). Add more broth progressively, one ladleful at a time (wait each time that all the liquid is absorbed before adding a new ladleful).
- Just before the end, add the Vermouth with 2 Tbsp butter, the grated parmesan and chopped basil, away from heat. Stir gently and serve immediately. Your risotto should not be too dry but very moist, and has to be eaten right away, to be enjoyed best.
- 300 g de riz Carnaroli (ou un autre riz de risotto comme Arborio)
- 400 g tomates cerises
- 946 ml de bouillon de volaille
- 1/2 oignon rouge
- 60 g de beurre
- 2 càs d’huile d’olive
- 1/2 càc de safran (0.25 g), mis à tremper dans du bouillon chaud
- 12,5 cl de Vermouth blanc
- 75 g de parmesan râpé
- Basilic frais
- Lavez les tomates et ébouillantez-les pendant 30 s. Pelez-les, épépinnez-les avant de les concasser. Mettez-les de côté.
- Hachez l’oignon finement.
- Faites chauffer le bouillon et gardez-le au chaud.
- Faites fondre 30 g de beurre avec 2 càs d’huile d’olive dans une casserole à fond épais et faites revenir l’oignon sur feux moyen à doux, pendant 10 à 15 mns, jusqu’à ce qu’il soit tendre.
- Ajoutez alors le riz et enrobez-le pendant 1 mn, à l’écart de la source de chaleur avant d’ajouter les tomates. Mélangez bien et remettez sur le feu.
- Versez du bouillon jusqu’à hauteur du riz. Ajoutez le safran dilué.
- Cuisez le risotto sur feu moyen à doux, en remuant constamment (mais pas de trop pour éviter de perturber le gluten). Ajoutez une louche après l’autre, en prêtant attention à ce que tout le liquide soit absorbé avant d’en ajouter une autre.
- Juste avant la fin, hors du feu, ajoutez le Vermouth avec 30 g de beurre, le parmesan râpé, et le basilic. Mélangez délicatement et servez sans attendre. Votre risotto ne doit être ni trop mouillé, ni trop sec, et doit être mangé de suite pour être mieux apprécié.