Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Tomato, Olive and Basil Risotto

My best friend if one of those infuriating intuitive cooks, who eyeballs all her quantities, throws random stuff in the cooking pot, doesn't write anything down and always makes delicious food. I have a love-hate relationship with her cooking method: I love it because it's freaking good, and I hate it because I can never reproduce her stuff at home. The only method that works is to lure her in my kitchen with the promise of dessert, then watch her every move and take manic notes.

Risotto is something I had tried making once, and it turned out too dry. For Miss I-Cook-With-My-Eyes-Closed (I love you, V!), risotto is something she considers a quick meal. I had been anxious to watch her at work and figure it out.

This is her recipe, and it is to die for! Creamy, sticky and flavorful. Everything a risotto ought to be! She also had a few important tips to share concerning cooking risotto:
  • Use a spatula with an angle to stir, to avoid some rice getting stuck at the bottom of your pan and not cooking well.
  • The rule of thumb for the liquid/rice ratio is: 3/1. For example, in the recipe below, she used 3 cups of broth and tomato liquid for 1 cup of arborio rice.
  • Keep the heat relatively low; risotto should cook very slowly, so adjust and reduce the heat to keep it slow and constant.
  • Never stop stirring! The rice first needs to absorb the fattiness from the butter and oil at the beginning of the process so it can release it's starch at the end, and constant stirring is vital for a creamy and sticky risotto.
Now, to your pots and pans!

1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 Kalamata olives, finely chopped
1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes, juice reserved and tomatoes coarsely chopped
Chicken broth
1/2 tablespoon dried basil
1 small handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 cup arborio rice
3/4 to 1 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup butter, cut into 4 squares

Pour the juice from the can of tomatoes in a 4-cups measuring cup. Top with chicken broth until you have 3 cups of liquid. Pour that liquid in a small sauce pan, and heat over medium heat until it comes to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to keep it simmering. In a large sauce pan, heat the onions, garlic and 1 piece of butter in 1/4 cup of olive oil, over medium-low heat. Sprinkle with the dry basil. Mix and cook until the onions are soft. Add the olives and about half the tomatoes, being careful to add no liquid from the can. Add another piece of butter, 1/4 cup olive oil and the arborio rice. Cook, stirring constantly for an entire minute. Add 1 ladle of the liquid. Cook, stirring constantly, until all the liquid is absorbed. Add another ladle and repeat the process. Keep adding the tomato-chicken broth mix in ladlefuls and stirring until the mixture is creamy until you run out of liquid. The whole process may take up to an hour, because the more liquid is added, the longer it takes to absorb. When adding the last ladle, also add the fresh basil leaves. When the mixture is thick and sticky, remove from the heat, add a third piece of butter and the Parmesan. Mix well until they are both fully incorporated. Let the risotto sit, covered for 3 to 4 minutes, so the flavors blend.

Yes, I noticed half the tomatoes and the final piece of butter were never thrown in the pot, but that's the V-Wonder's way. My job was only to write down what she did. The really important thing is that this risotto was the BOMB! I can say in all honesty that it was the best risotto I ever ate, and that I can only pray I'll be able to do this again without her in the kitchen.

We enjoyed it as a side-dish to some pork tenderloin cooked in mustard and beer (another one of her eyeballing miracles), but I could have easily fed exclusively on that risotto. The glass of Arrogant Frog red wine that I had with it was perfect.

Every Friday evening should feature such good friends and good food! Much love and gratitude to the lovely VĂ©ronique for sharing her magic with me! <3

1 comment:

  1. I cooked this risotto this evening and it was delicious, so many thanks for the recipe and cooking guidelines. There was one veggie and one carnivore, so we added chorizo to half the risotto and that worked really well.