Friday, September 16, 2011

one last taste of summer

Spring Pea Risotto with Poached Egg and Basil
Summertime is blissful: long lazy nights, dips in the ocean, guilt-free monstrous consumption of Blue Bell ice cream, air conditioning.  But don't tell summer, fall's my favorite season: cooler temperatures that make walks outside bearable, hearty food, cinnamon in my coffee, that scent in the air, curling up with a wee cuppa.  Before that autumnal elation begins, I thought I'd have one last hurrah to summer with this risotto.  I adore risotto (and once butternut squash starts appearing, you'll have my favorite risotto recipe).  Risotto tends to intimidate folks, but it's really not difficult.  And there's something cathartic about the process of making it, stirring it gently until it turns creamy and tossing in whatever strikes your fancy.  
Finely chop one onion and two cloves of garlic.  Risotto always begins with onion and garlic, sauteed in olive oil and butter (just 1 tablespoon) in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan.  As always, season the onions and garlic with a little s&p.

You can't make risotto with any old rice: you'll need Arborio rice.  You can find it in any grocery store.  It's Italian short-grained rice (because short things are wonderful).  Something about that growth-challenged grain becomes creamy and decadent when stirred with warm chicken stock.  You'll love it.  I used one cup of arborio rice: it makes four servings.

Take one carton (16 oz. I think) of chicken stock and heat in a deep saucepan until gently simmering.  You'll want it to keep simmering while making risotto, so it's nice and warm when you add it a bit at a time.  I recommend low-sodium so you can control how salty it is.

After cooking the onions and garlic for a few minutes, add the rice and cook on medium-low for a few minutes until the rice turns translucent.  At this point you can add 1/3 cup of white wine and let it reduce for a couple of minutes.  All I had was red wine, and though it would taste good, I didn't fancy pink risotto so I didn't add any.  

 Add chicken stock by the ladleful (or using a measuring cup like I did) and stir until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.

It'll look like this when it's ready for more stock.  Keep adding stock and stirring so it doesn't stick, until the rice is al dente and creamy, about 20 minutes.  I know this seems like a long time to stand by a pot stirring it, but in our non-stop society, a bit of a slowdown isn't a bad thing.  Risotto as counter-cultural act!  (Okay, perhaps not, but it's just delicious.)

Here's how it looks when it's done.  Now you get to add all sorts of wonderful things:

I added fresh basil,

frozen petite garden peas (note that taking a picture while pouring in peas leads to a proliferous pea situation, which I don't mind),

freshly grated parmesan, one tablespoon of butter and the zest of one lemon.  Stir together and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Now onto that delicate little poached egg to top your summery risotto.  Fill a deep pan with water, add a splash of vinegar and bring to a boil.

 Crack an egg into a cup (or that handy cup measure of mine)...

...and place it in the boiling water by quickly turning the cup measure over with a flick of your wrist.  The quick motion of the egg hitting the water will help the whites envelop the yolk and the vinegar (which you won't taste) will keep it from falling apart.  For a soft-poached egg, cook for 4 minutes.

 Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

Top that resplendent risotto with the egg and a little cracked pepper.

Break open the yolk and enjoy a creamy, fresh taste of summer.  Fall's on its way!

Bon appetit!

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