Sunday, August 10, 2008

Jamie Oliver and the Ritzy Risotto

I bought myself a new cookbook a month ago.

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.

One thing I love about this book is the section on risotto. I love making risotto. It's easy and it always makes people happy.

There was one recipe that caught my eye in particular. It was Risotto ai Finocchi con Ricotta e Pepperoncino. I love fennel. I love it. I love eating sweet raw slices. I love eating it roasted and mellowed. I love it any old way. I still carry over my childhood dislike of many vegetables, so it's rare for me to really love a vegetable, but I do love fennel.

I decided to make a batch of this for dinner. The first thing I did was buy my rice. I went to Whole Foods and saw that they had multipe kinds of risotto rice. There was the classic arborio of course, but they also had this.

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
Grated parmesan

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.


noble pig said...

Wow, I had no idea Jamie did Italy in a book! Wow, thanks for the insight and the recipe! I think I might have to add this to my Amazon list! Wow

Darius T. Williams said...

Ahh - I love risotto too. There should be a risotto day in the usa!


Lo said...

I've been wondering about this book. Anytime ANYONE travels Italy and creates a cookbook, I find myself wanting it. But, I've exercised restraint with this one.

Will have to keep this risotto in mind the next time I find it at the farmer's market. I love that it combines the fennel seed with the fresh veg!

Adam said...

Ya know, I've never followed his show or his book, but I know a lot of people like Jamie. From what you described, he seems to keep things simple.

Good luck with your Italy trip. You'll get there one day :)

Sue said...

Yummy! But, Rach, you forgot the ricotta salata in the list of ingredients, but you know what? I think I might just leave it out entirely and just do with the Parmesan.

That is interesting that you don't love many vegetables, but you do love fennel. I love it in salads.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Noble and Lo - It's a book worth looking at. Some of the photos are a little disturbing, but they do remind us where our food comes from.

Darius - I love the idea of National Risotto Day. Let's start one. We need to contact a rice company and pick a date. They'll sponsor it.

Adam - Yeah. He's pretty simple and into keeping things fresh. His new show annoys me a bit though because not all of us have our own houses with big gardens out back with which to grow said fresh veggies. I get envious, and then I get angry, and then I get cooking!

Sue - Problem fixed!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Yay! Someone else who loves fennel! And of course, I love Jamie too. One of my favorite risottos is one I posted for Valentine's Day made with fennel, sun-dried tomatoes, and pine nuts. Looks like I'll have to try yours now too. Thanks!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Susan- Thanks for dropping by. I must go check out your risotto recipe. I love pine nuts and fennel. It sounds right up my alley!

We Are Never Full said...

an interesting swap - ricotta salata for parm. i don't know if i would agree w/ that choice (i didn't taste it but it seems you didn't agree w/ that choice either). it doesn't melt the way that parmigiano does and it's texture and flavor just doesn't match the parm. of course, this is just my opinion, but i just think i'd stick w/ my cup of parmigiano - it just melds so perfectly with the creaminess of the risotto.

Bellini Valli said...

Fall will soon be coming... I can't wait to have risotto and other comforting dishes simmering on the stove:D