This week I took my love of summer produce and rebuilt (or some people might say destroyed) a classic risotto recipe. This time of year many cooks will incorporate fresh summer corn into risotto. I wanted to take it one step further. Most risotto recipes rely on the same Italian formula: onions, garlic, wine, parmesan, and occasionally seasonal vegetables. I wanted to ditch the formula and give that bowl of creamy rice a different flavor altogether.
Is this wrong? Should it not be done? Am I spitting on the sacred?
Anne Burrell is not my favorite cook on TV, but she did say something that made sense to me. She said risotto is a method, not a recipe.
So I don't care. I want to have fun with my favorite recipe bases, and keep creating, and keep finding new ways to use my favorite ingredients. This food blog would be boring if I made the same recipes the way everyone else makes them.
I have talked about my love of smoked turkey tails. They are the best unhealthful, fatty, treat in the world next to bacon. If you are cooking for someone who doesn't eat pork, you can get that richness and smokiness with a tail or three (and it's way better than turkey bacon which is just weird and processed tasting). While Sir Pickypants has become far less picky and now does eat pork occasionally without gastrointestinal incident, I don't want to always be serving him pork when I don't need to. This is why I used the tails instead of the classic pancetta.
I also substituted the traditional white wine with whiskey. I felt strong liquor would hold up to the strong flavor of the turkey tails and still complement the sweetness of the corn.
I used caramelized onions, cayenne, and smoked paprika for the flavoring. This was way off the beaten path for Italian risotto. Mine had a definite southwestern flair. I used too much cayenne when I made this. I thought a half teaspoon would be enough. The recipe below cuts that amount in half. The risotto was delicious, but a half teaspoon cayenne straddled the line of being overpowering.
I bought cilantro with the intention of adding it at the end and forgot. I encourage anyone trying this recipe to add it and see if it improves the recipe or not.
When I see you again I will have a travel post to share with you. I am leaving for a short trip to Prague on Friday. I am looking forward to the meat-and-carb-fest that is Czech food. I will be taking a food tour while I'm there, so I should have plenty of interesting meals to share.
Spicy Corn Risotto
- 2 ears fresh corn, cooked and kernels cut off the cob
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup whiskey (bourbon is optimal, but Irish will do just fine)
- 3 smoked turkey tails, cut into small pieces*
- 1 Tbl olive oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 2-4 cloves minced garlic
- 1 diced red pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 Tbl chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
In a medium saucepan cook the turkey tail pieces over medium heat until the fat is rendered. Remove from pan and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat (roughly). Add the olive oil and cook the onions until they are very soft and starting to turn golden. Add the peppers and cook until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook another two minutes. Add the rice to the pan and cook another minute or two until they are well coated.
Begin adding the stock mixture one ladelful at a time. Stir well after each addition, adding more after the previous one has been absorbed. Keep adding liquid and stirring until the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
Remove from heat and stir in the pepper, cilantro, and paprika. Sprinkle with cilantro. Stir in the corn kernels and serve immediately.
*You can use bacon, smoked sausage, turkey bacon, or your favorite vegetarian bacon facsimile. Just make sure you use something with a smokey flavor to complement the flavor of the whiskey and the corn.