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Red wine risotto - Cooking with Sean
January 15th, 2010
10:09 pm
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Red wine risotto

Risotto can be made with red wine, but it does take a bit more care than making risotto with white wine. The challenge is balance. White wine mostly disappears into the other flavors, while red wine is just as assertive after twenty minutes of simmering as it is straight out of the bottle. Taming the beast requires a flavor into which the red wine can blend, like bitter vegetables or rich cheese. For example...

My recipe was borrowed from Urban Italian. In a pot, make a standard risotto using red wine in place of white wine. I've gotten great results from bold Italian and Spanish reds (and lousy results from a watery $4 Trader Joe's special). In a skillet, sauté chopped greens (Carmellini told me to use radicchio; you definitely want something bitter for this dish) in oil until wilted and then braise in either Port or, in a pinch, sweetened red wine. The greens only take about 10 minutes to braise, at which point they are set aside. Sweet wine is used here to counteract the bitterness of the greens without otherwise impairing their flavor.

The flavors really take shape when a large helping of smoked mozzarella (alongside thyme and the standard hit of parmigiano-reggiano) is melted into the risotto. The richness of the cheese balances the astringency of the wine and the smokiness rounds out the flavors. The greens go in last, and are mixed just long enough to bring them up to temperature.

Risotto already says "winter!" no matter what is in it, and this risotto says "wow, it must be really shitty outside".

To make a three-pot affair even more complicated, I decided to try the recipe with a mixture of root vegetables after eating something similar at Orso in Anchorage (that recipe was served alongside elk scaloppine, something not carried at Metropolitan Market). Slices of turnip and rutabega got 25 minutes at 350 degrees to make them tender but maintain a bit of resistance. I then added them to the risotto when I threw in the kale I used in place of radicchio. Between the rice, dense vegetables and kale, I was able to get a surprising amount of textural contrast out of a bowl of risotto. The kale maintains a bit of bite even after 10 minutes of braising, and the soft vegetables are distinct in what would otherwise be a homogeneous mass.

I should put together a risotto cookbook. If nothing else, it will give me an excuse to try even more crazy combinations. The chorizo isn't going to eat itself...

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