Wednesday, 7 March 2007

"It Tastes Like Mushy Rice!"

Going with the theme of building flavours and recipes, the next stage is exploring different types of food to expirement with. For chefs, most (not all) dishes consists of a starch, veg, protein and sauce. Of course there are many exceptions but generally speaking this is usually the case. While proteins and veg are nearly limitless in possibilities starch often poses a problem: it can get very repetitive. Rice, potatoes, pasta. That's often it. Of course there are many alternatives like cous cous, quinoa, wild rice (which has no starch), yams (in the same family as potatoes) or whatever obsure shit you can find. Nevertheless, potatoes, pasta and rice are usualy the popular picks for chefs to have on their menu. It's being creative with those starches that can be challenging.

Risotto is a good alternative. This italian rice is relatively easy, cheap and most people like it - except my brother who always tells me "It tastes like mushy rice." There are different types of rice but arborio is usually the most common. There are some standards to making risotto and then after that, well there are whole cookbooks dedicated to risotto.

The three things critical to risotto are: the rice must be sauted, cooked slowly with a hot liquid, cheese must be added near the end to thicken the sauce and butter to taste for the glaze. The cooking liquid is often chicken broth but can be anything from veg. stock, cucumber juice, beet juice, duck stock, tomato broth, whatever. Parmaggiano cheese the preferred choice but not the required one: asaigo, grano padano, queso manchego to name a few alternatives.

My recipe spawned by accident (many of them do). I had leftover sage in my garden, leftover pears in my fridge, leftover turkey stock in my freezer. I can spend all day talking about risotto but that's enough chit chat. Here's my recipe.

Risotto with Rum Poached Pears and Prosciutto

150 g Arborio Rice
1 l Turkey or Chicken Stock, hot
1 Small Red Onion, fine brunoise
2 Ripe Pears, cut into 6 segments
6 Slices Prosciutto, jullienne
250 ml Rum
150 g Parmaggiano-Reggianno Cheese, grated
80 ml Butter, melted
5 Sprigs of Sage, chiffonade (save some for garnish)

In a small sauce pan, bring rum to a slight boil. Poach pears until cooked through, about three - four minutes. Remove pears from rum and keep warm.

In a large saute pan, melt 20 ml butter until frothy. Sweat onion until translucent. Add rice and stir constantly. Cook for about two minutes until rice becomes translucent. Deglaze with rum and stir until reduced by half. Add ladle of stock and stir until reduced by half. Repeat until stock has run out (approx. 20 minutes). If risotto is still hard, add boiling water and stir to cook through.

Add prosciutto and heat through. Add sage, cheese and 50ml butter and stir. The rice should be firm and sticky.

In a frying pan, use leftover butter to caramelize the pears and heat through. When serving, place pears on top for garnish with sprig of sage.

Serves 6.

Risotto itself can be simply a base that you can add anything to in the last minute to make your dish unique. Try mine as a variation with your turkey dinner.

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