Radicchio Risotto

How much respect do you give radicchio? Probably not much, but that ought to change.

I never thought much about it before last year. On our last big grocery run to Italy, it refused to be ignored. We were in the major radicchio production region at peak harvest, so it was everywhere. And with good reason! I’d always thought of it as that bitter, purple and white stuff you threw in a salad to brighten it up and nothing more. But it’s a not just any lettuce, it’s a chicory and can be cooked. It takes on a bit more sweetness as it wilts, while retaining some of the characteristic bitterness. And in this recipe from Serious Eats (with the requisite tweaks), it’s paired with pancetta. You could probably use regular bacon, but if you can get your hands on the pancetta, it’s worth it.

4 T olive oil
100 g (1/4 lb) pancetta, chopped into lardons
2 heads Chioggia radicchio, cored and chopped to bite-size
salt & pepper to taste
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
500 g (2 c) risotto rice
3/4 c white wine
5 c hot chicken broth
2 T butter
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

In a deep skillet, heat 2 T olive oil over medium-low heat. Add pancetta and fry until beginning to crisp, about 3-5 minutes. Next add radicchio by the handful, stirring each addition to coat with fat. When all radicchio is in, season lightly with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 7 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and set aside (or transfer radicchio mixture to a warm bowl and wipe out skillet if you want to use the same pan).

Heat the other 2 T olive oil to medium-low in a deep, wide skillet. Add shallots and garlic and cook until just translucent, then add rice and stir to coat with fat, cooking for about 2-3 minutes. Add wine and stir frequently until mostly absorbed, then start adding your chicken broth (it should be at a gentle simmer) by the ladleful. Stir after each broth addition and when almost completely absorbed, add the next. When you’ve added half the broth, stir the radicchio-pancetta mixture in the risotto.

Finish adding the broth by the ladleful. With the last addition, remove from heat, stir in butter and cheese and cover for 5 minutes. Serve with extra cheese or a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.

Pumpkin Risotto

I made a lot of pumpkin purée last fall, which took up residence in the freezer. In an effort to continue the meat detox from our KC trip and clear out some of the longer-term freezer occupants, finally got to try this recipe. As I already have neutral pumpkin purée (so I can go sweet or savory), I changed a few aspects of the original and the recipe below will reflect what I did.

This risotto has a texture that is completely extraordinary. As in many things involving pumpkin, it’s subtly sweet and velvety. While cooking, it becomes much saucier than I’m used to. I think that makes it extra important that you let it rest, covered and off the burner, after finishing.

2 T olive oil
2 large or 3 small shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 c/500 g arborio rice
1 c white wine
1/2 t coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 t dried thyme
5-6 c/1.25-1.5 l chicken or vegetable broth (must be at a simmer when added to rice)
1 c/250 g pumpkin purée
1 c/250 g grated parmesan cheese, divided
2 T butter

In a wide, deep lidded skillet, heat oil to medium. Sauté the shallots and garlic to just tender, then add rice to skillet, stirring frequently and coating well with oil.

Add white wine to skillet and, stirring constantly, cook until liquid is almost completely cooked off. Add pepper and thyme, lower heat to low, stir and start adding broth by the ladle. When one ladleful cooks off, add another, stirring all the time.

When about two thirds of the broth is added, stir in the pumpkin purée. The texture will change and the sauce will become quite thick and possibly splattery. Right before the last broth addition, turn the burner off and add the cheese and butter.

After stirring in the last bit of broth, put the lid on the skillet, take it off the hot burner and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Indian Meatballs (Kofta)

We learned three things from this recipe:

  1. You CAN get a restaurant-like texture to your sauces at home if you’re patient enough to let them simmer the full time and are willing to get a few more pieces of equipment dirty
  2. Metzgerei Salzberger is our new hookup for ground lamb in Regensburg
  3. A rice cooker is certainly a convenience a lot of the time, but we can do great pilau rice on the stovetop, too.

More on those three points:
Continue reading Indian Meatballs (Kofta)

Bacon Fried Rice

Here is a great way to use up leftover rice – although we often make rice the day before specifically for this. You could probably throw in other vegetables, too, but be certain to cook them until they’re no longer releasing liquid. Too-wet veggies will prevent the optimal crispness of the rice. We got the inspiration from Culinate, but (as usual) this version is my tweaked one.

4 strips bacon, roughly chopped
12-18 green onions, sliced (white and light green parts only)
3-5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/2 inch knob ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
4 T soy sauce
4 T white wine (Shao Xing is great here)
1 T Hoisin sauce
2 pinches red pepper flakes
1/2 t rice vinegar
4 c cooked rice, cold
1 t sesame oil
2 eggs, beaten

In a large deep skillet or pot (or wok, if you have one), fry the bacon over medium-high heat. When the edges are just starting to get crisp, remove all but one tablespoon of the drippings and add the onions, garlic and ginger, stirring constantly, until just beginning to get tender and fragrant. Whisk together the soy, wine, Hoisin, pepper flakes and vinegar and set aside.

Add the rice to the bacon mixture, breaking up any lumps and reduce heat to medium-low. Sprinkle the sesame oil over the rice and add the sauce mixture, stirring until well distributed. Let the rice mixture stand undisturbed for one minute. After a minute, lift the layer of rice from them bottom – it should be lightly browned and crisp. Stir the rice so another layer has the chance to crisp and repeat until you’ve almost achieved your desired texture.

Push the rice to the side of the skillet and make room for the eggs. Pour the beaten eggs directly on to the surface of the pan and allow to cook undisturbed for 2 minutes. Once a good skin of cooked egg has formed on the surface of the pan, briskly stir the egg, scrambling it in the small space available for it, until you’ve reached your preferred scrambly-egg texture. Remove pan from heat, stir well to distribute the egg and crisped rice bits and serve immediately.

Lemon Risotto

We’d just returned from Italy with all kinds of ideas and experiences and raw materials for good food prepared at home — welcome, after being on-the-go for so much of September, October and November. We had a few lemons (from the Biomarkt) and shallots and garlic to use up, plus arborio rice and Pecorino Romano cheese from our grocery expeditions.

The original recipe came from our swell How to Cook Everything app (thank you Mark Bittman!), but the version below has our enhancements in it.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Large pinch saffron threads
1½ cups arborio rice
½ cup (120 ml) dry white wine
4 to 6 cups (950 ml to 1400 ml) chicken or vegetable stock
2 to 4 tablespoons softened butter
juice of one lemon
zest of one lemon
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Heat the oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet to medium. Then add the shallots, garlic and saffron, and cook, stirring constantly, until they soften, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until it is glossy and coated with the oil, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the white wine. Stir and let the liquid bubble away.

Use a ladle to begin adding the stock, a ladlefull or so at a time, stirring after each addition. When the stock is just about absorbed, add more. The mixture should be neither soupy nor dry. Keep the heat at medium to medium‐high and continue stirring.

Don’t plan on doing anything else while this risotto is going — you gotta keep stirring it. It’s going to take a while to get to that perfect texture. Plan on an a half-hour, but check it occasionally after 20 minutes. You want it to be tender but still with some resistance upon chewing; it could take as long as 30 minutes to reach this stage. When it does, stir in the butter and lemon zest and at least ½ cup of cheese. Taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary, and serve immediately. Throw some more grated cheese on it, if you like.

We used peppercorn Pecorino Romano, so we didn’t need any additional salt, pepper or other seasoning. You will need some of those flavor boosters if you choose a less burly cheese.

We found this recipe went exceedingly well with Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

Chicken Broccoli Casserole

Everyone has a brocco-cheese-chicken-rice casserole somewhere in their culinary arsenal. I think I found one that works for us. Rich, but very yummy. I found the base at allrecipes.com, but I’ve tweaked it enough to claim it as my own.

1 cup rice
2 cups broccoli florets (I used fresh, but frozen would work if thawed)
4 chicken breasts, cut into bitesize pieces
2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp tarragon
1/4 tsp celery seed
2 T vegetable oil
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp prepared mustard
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 (10.75 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1. Cook rice according to package directions. If using fresh broccoli, steam briefly (no more than 5 minutes). In a large bowl, combine broccoli and rice and set aside to cool.

2. In a medium bowl, toss chicken with garlic salt, pepper, tarragon and celery seed until lightly coated. On medium-high heat, cook chicken in oil until lightly browned, stirring constantly. Remove chicken from heat with a slotted spoon and add to rice and broccoli to cool. Cook mushrooms in the remaining oil for 2-4 minutes, then add to rice bowl to cool.

3. Combine mayo, mustard, curry and condensed soup in a bowl and whisk until well blended. Pour sauce and shredded cheese into large bowl of cooled ingredients and stir well. Spoon mixture into a greased 9×13 casserole and bake at 350°F for 45-60 minutes or until golden brown on top.