by Leslie Uhl, CCP
Thank goodness for language.
Our ability to tweak and rename, borrow from other languages, add a little Italian, a dash of French… Actually, the English language has become what it is today in a long process that’s not unlike cooking. And since that’s what we’re here to talk about this fine day, why waste another moment?
The reason I mention language is, in fact, the title of this dear post—an elegant title, a beautiful recipe, and in the end, a lip-smacking dish that happens to be a time-honored Thanksgiving tradition in the household of one Emilio Mignucci (third-generation owner of Di Bruno’s, Vice President of Culinary Pioneering, general loud-mouth and bottomless pit when it comes to eating, and one of my favorite persons in the entire universe). But without our simmering pot of language, so flavorful and intricate today, this post might be called
Foeniculum Vulgare Re-Undered with Italian White Wine and Hard, Granular Cheese.
Not so cute.
We’ve all seen and heard risotto listed on a menu (huge assumption on my part, eh?), and I know for me it conjures images of Gordon Ramsay screaming at some poor schmuck in a chef’s coat and a bandana about the undercooked, disgusting, $%&*#@ quality of this dish. Seems pretty fancy, though, and apparently difficult to perfect.
So why “re-undered” in my alternate title? It’s the pretty literal translation of “risotto” and the not-so-secret secret to producing a creamy course – the simplified idea is to add broth to your lightly cooked rice a little at a time, keeping the rice level UNDER the broth level again and again, until the rice has fully, and slowly, absorbed the liquid over time.
I’m already fed up with the process, but listening to Emilio describe it is kind of like hearing a history professor describe the landing on the beaches of Normandy. Can’t stop listening, completely enraptured. Also hungry, I’m assuming that’s unrelated to D-Day. Here’s what he has to say:
“This is a staple at our holidays because there’s so much food going on and cooking going on during the course of the day… and all you have to do here is prepare a few days in advance and just finish it on the day of.”
He also gets pretty serious about the meal prep itself: it’s all about choosing and cooking the right rice, he claims. “The aroma alone… I mean, the house smells… INCREDIBLE.”
Fennel Risotto with Prosecco and Parmigiano
Serves 10 people at 2 oz. of rice per person
1 – 500g can Acquerello Carnaroli rice
2 medium shallots, minced
1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
1 T garlic, minced
2 quarts chicken stock (to keep it vegetarian use vegetable stock!)
3 Tablespoons Di Bruno Bros. Classico Olive Oil
2 large bulbs fresh fennel
1/2 cup Prosecco (or 1/3 cup Pernod, if you like the stronger flavor)
8oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano
For the risotto (can be done a few days earlier):
· Pour your 2 quarts of stock into a pot over medium-high heat on the back burner—it’ll help if it’s as close as can be to the burner you’ll use for the following.
· Grab a deep-sided frying pan on your main burner, and over medium-low heat, sweat the onion, shallot & garlic in the olive oil slowly until translucent.
· Add Carnaroli rice to the sweated onion and stir until rice gets a good coating of oil and is slightly toasted. Turn the heat up to about medium-high
· Deglaze your pan with the Prosecco (or Pernod) and cook into the rice until all moisture is absorbed.
· Bring your stock to a boil, and with a ladle, add a scoop at a time to cover the rice and stir with wooden spoon so that it doesn’t stick to the pan.
· When all the stock is absorbed, add more to cover and continue doing this until the risotto is just getting tender. Keeping the stock at a rolling boil and stirring gently will help, but don’t rush the process – this is where the magic happens!
*You can stop at this point and cool it off on a sheet tray covered with plastic wrap. Keep refrigerated until you are ready to finish it off for dinner.*
· Add pre-made risotto to large saucepan with just enough boiling stock to reheat. When this stock is absorbed, the texture should be somewhat creamy. Some folks will cheat and add heavy cream at this point, we just add the grated Parmigiano and give it a good stir until completely melted and incorporated!
For the Fennel (can be done a few days earlier):
· Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
· Trim green stems off of the fennel bulbs (retain the fennel fronds for a garnish and chop up the stems, which you can layer under your roasting turkey or stuff into the cavity!)
· Slice the bulb into ½ inch thick pieces. Lay on a sheet tray and drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper, and roast in the oven until soft and browned.
· When cooled, chop roasted fennel into cubes.
· Add to the warmed risotto after you add the grated cheese and stir. Serve topped with a dash of lovely fennel fronds, and ENJOY!