I love Jamie Oliver's shows and I love Italy (and I die a little more every time my husband reminds me that we can't afford to go there any time soon). When I wanted to buy msyelf a little birthday present last month, this seemed like a no brainer.
I had heard of caranoli rice before, but never tried it. The box promised it would be the "ultimate" risotto rice. (Hmmm...isn't the literal definition of ultimate "last". That should have been a warning.) It was two dollars more than the arborio, but I was feeling adventurous. In the end, I'm not sure I'm all that happy with it. I was assured it had a better "bite", which is true, but I think I like my risotto a little softer.
I remembered the rice, but I forgot to buy a couple of other things that Jamie's recipe called for. He likes to put celery in with the sauteed onions. I never put celery in my risotto, so I seem to have conveniently forgotten to buy it. I also forgot the dried chili peppers even though they were clearly on my list. I adjusted this by using some red pepper flakes. I also added extra ricotta salata to the recipe. I bought the smallest chunk I could, but it was still more than the recipe called for. I didn't want to buy a hunk of cheese I might not use again, so I used it all.
Jamie requires you to use a mortar and pestle to crush the fennel seeds. I don't own one, so I had to mash them up the best that I could. I am not a fan of licorice, but I did love the smell that came off of those seeds as I crushed them. It only got better when I added the fennel bulb slices.
In the end, my recipe was not quite Jamie's, but a recipe that made do with what I had on hand and what I usually do with my own risotto.
Jamie is perfectly happy to use store bought chicken stock. He doesn't poo-poo it like a lot of chefs and home cooks out there. I felt a lot better when he said to feel free to use it in his book. However, this this particular case, I was lucky enough to have a bunch of homemade stock in my freezer. Yay me!
So here is my bastardized recipe. One thing I love about risotto is that while it requires a lot of attention, it's fast. This one sadly isn't all that fast.
Risotto Ai Finocchi Al Breve Cuoco Di(dis)Ordine (Inspired by Jamie Oliver)
1 quart chicken stock, canned, boxed or homemade
2 cups Arborio or other risotto rice
1 diced Onion
4 minced cloves of garlic, divided
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds (crush them however you can)
1/2 cup white wine
6 Tbl butter, divided
4 Tbl Olive Oil, divided
2 heads fennel, sliced thin, fronds reserved
1 cup ricotta salata
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
In a large pan, heat 2 Tbl of butter and olive oil and add red pepper flakes. Add the garlic and cook until soft and then add the fennel seeds and sliced fennel. Cook until the fennel is soft, about 20 minutes.
In a small saucepan, heat chicken stock until simmering.
In a saucepan heat the oil and two tablespoons of butter. Add garlic and onion and cook over low heat until very soft and beginning to caramelize. Add rice and cook until it is coated and begins to look translucent. Add wine and stir in, cooking until it is absorbed.
Begin adding chicken stock, one ladelful at a time, stirring until it is absorbed. Once the stock is absorbed, add another ladleful. Keep adding more stock and stirring it in until rice is al dente. This will take about 20 minutes.
Halfway through the cooking process, add the fennel mixture to the rice.
When the rice is cooked, add the remaining butter, grated parmesan to taste, and the ricotta salata. Served garnished with the fennel fronds.
The sauteeing fennel smells so good.
This recipe needs a little less cheese. Too many big chunks of ricotta salata. I might actually use the wet, gloppy ricotta the next time for a creamier texture.