Gourmandistan is planning to temporarily plant its flag in a new land this Fall, inside the province of Padua in northeastern Italy. We’ve begun preparing for our trip already—Michelle furiously researching the sites, transportation options and cultural habits of the Veneto; Steve rambling around Google Earth looking for towns named for sausages and cheeses he’s heard of. In addition, we’ve predictably started exploring Italian recipes.
We’re not huge fans of risotto-making here in Gourmandistan. Steve’s weak wrists and fidgetiness resent preparations requiring constant stirring, and Michelle found available Arborio rice unsatisfying. However, we noticed some Fox & Obel Arborio in the pantry, had a new batch of chicken stock to use and decided it was past time to try risotto again. We made a version including peas, a specialty of Venice supposedly served to the doges on Saint Mark’s Day (April 25). While Michelle has learned that Italians would only serve it as a primo or small first course, on a cold Winter evening with little else in the larder, it made a satisfying main.
One of the advantages of risotto is the leftovers, which can be used to make arancini, or risotto balls. The Internet indicates that arancini (“little oranges” in Italian) originated in Arab-held Sicily around the 10th century, but obviously the other Italian fiefdoms knew a good way to use leftover rice when they saw one, so the practice quickly spread up the peninsula, and now risotto-recycling recipes come in many forms across many cookbooks.
Rather than “little oranges,” we opted for risotto cakes to serve as a base for fried eggs for breakfast the following day. Michelle didn’t have much luck with the first recipe she consulted, which called for frying uncoated cakes. They crumbled apart in hot olive oil, making a greasy mess. The solution was dipping the patties in beaten egg, then rolling in bread crumbs—hopefully only the first tasty steps on the road to Teolo.
RISOTTO WITH ONION, PEAS AND PARMESAN
(adapted from Mark Peel & Nancy Silverton’s The Food of Campanile) (Serves 6)
- 3 TB olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and finely diced
- 1 lb. (2 c.) Arborio rice
- 1 c. dry white wine
- Kosher salt
- 1 TB finely chopped garlic
- 6-1/4 c. chicken stock
- 4 TB unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
- 1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 c. peas (fresh or frozen)
Heat chicken stock in a saucepan, and keep at a simmer.
Heat 1 TB olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion for a couple of minutes until it becomes translucent.
Add remaining olive oil, then the rice. Coat the rice well, stirring with a wooden spoon. Stir continuously for about 5 minutes, until rice begins to smell nutty and looks opaque. Do not let rice brown.
Add white wine and 1 tsp. of kosher salt. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until wine is absorbed.
Stir in garlic and 1 cup of stock. Cook for several minutes, stirring, until stock is almost absorbed.
Continue adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until about a cup of stock remains. This should take about 15-20 minutes. Season to taste with about 2 more tsp. of salt. Continue adding stock, stirring until absorbed. Add peas with the last portion of stock.
Stir in butter and Parmesan cheese. Add pepper, if desired. Serve immediately.
Refrigerate leftover risotto overnight. Form the cold risotto into cakes, about the size of small hamburger patties. Dip patties in beaten egg, then roll in seasoned breadcrumbs. Sauté patties in a mix of olive and vegetable oil until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve alone, or with a fried egg on top.