Friday, October 16, 2009

GOTTA EAT THIS: Elliott's Risotto!!!

When I first moved to Seattle, Eric and I were invited to a dinner party from a friend who had just gotten back from India and wanted to share some of the local fare with us!  I LOVE Indian food especially, authentic street food, and was eager to attend the party.  We all had sat down for a beautiful family style meal full of curries, grilled paneer, aromatic rices, perfect nan, chai tea, and decadent desserts.  It was love at first smell!!!  After digging in with much excitement, one of the roommates stood up suddenly and scurried off to the kitchen.  He returned with a huge stockpot, saying frantically, "I almost forgot the risotto!". 

WHAT?? Did I hear that right? We are eating Indian there is no way that guy just said risotto.  Did that guy just say RISOTTO?? Now if you know me, you know I can't live without, will always order if on a menu, absolutely die for, well made Risotto!!!  I have had my fair share of this perfectly creamy, flavorful delight! There is a huge range of quality in this dish.  I would say most restaurants are brave to serve it.  If not done right it's just an overpriced bowl of rice. Believe me, I have had too many watered down, pathetic, luster lacking attempts of this dish.  But, if made with heart and skill, like how I imagine short, plump, old Italian women have been for centuries, it becomes life altering comfort food!!! 

The guy, whose name I later I discovered was Elliott, plopped the huge pot right in the middle of the table next to the tikka masala and coincidentally right in front of ME! Lifting the lid, he said,  "I know we are having Indian and it's so good, but with all this rain I just had to make this Risotto! Enjoy!". The sex appeal of this guy shot out of the roof!  The risotto looked perfect, like bursting buds of white flowers swimming in a bath of cream holding hands with porcini mushrooms and tender grilled asparagus!!!  After eagerly serving myself a large scoop and slowly savoring the quality of the dish, I was in love with Elliott, I mean Elliott's Risotto!!! I licked my plate and after dinner ran immediately back to Elliott's room and without any grace desperately asked for the recipe.  I just needed a starting point for this kind of perfection.  Stunned by my need, Elliott ever so coolly, hand wrote me a copy of his recipe. 

I know Elliott would be proud of my sharing this recipe with you today!  Risotto really is that good!  If you already know, You Know!  If you aren't sure about or haven't had it yet, seek it out at good restaurants, and then you will know!!! But, don't be fooled!  Risotto is not for the weak of spoon!  This dish will take you a few attempts before you have the swagger of a pro.  Risotto can slip from underdone to overdone in a glance.  It takes a lot of heart to make it well.  So give yourself some room for growth and adaption.  But, this recipe is the perfect starting point to you're very own Risotto obsession!!!  I also threw in my all time favorite risotto leftovers recipeArancini di Riso (Stuffed Risotto Balls) which are equally decadent!!! I know you will, but in the words of Elliott, Enjoy!!!

Elliott's Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto:
1 bunch fresh young asparagus, cleaned w/ ends broken off
3 cups Arborio Rice (MUST be arborio)
1 package of dried porcini mushrooms or a porcini mushroom mill
1 pint of heavy whipping cream
1 medium shallot, diced
1 medium sweet yellow onion, diced
1 cup white wine, a good quality Riesling
1 quart good quality mushroom stock or chicken stock (1/2 of each is awesome!)
3-4 large cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp fine dried herbs: oregano, thyme, and/or sage
1 1/2 tbsp savory (if can't find the dish is still fantastic!)
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup+ of really good quality Parm Reggiano cheese grated and extra shaved for garnish
Good quality olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Good quality balsamic vinaigrette

 In a heavy bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven, drizzle with olive oil and sauté chopped onions for 2-3 minutes, then add garlic and shallots for about 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

 Once sweated, add rice and stir until coated and cooked with oil about 5 more minutes. Add porcini’s and wine.

 After about 5 more minutes, add stock, 2 tbsp salt, whipping cream, and butter. Simmer about 25 minutes. Stirring occasionally with wooden spoon until thick. The longer this simmers the thicker this rice dish gets (and in my opinion the better!).

 For asparagus, clean, break ends, and toss in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill or bake until soft yet crunchy about 15 minutes, flipping about half way through.  Once done, chop into bite size pieces.  Add to thickened risotto. 

Add cheese to risotto. Be heavy handed.  Let sit 10-20 minutes until thickened.  Let cool slightly. Top with grated cheese or shaved Reggiano, drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

For Leftovers: Arancini di Riso (Stuffed Risotto Balls)
2 eggs, beaten
2 c leftover risotto
½ c grated Parmesan
½ c breadcrumbs
1 c breadcrumbs to roll in
Grated parmesan for garnish
Fresh chilled mozzarella or havarti cubed
1-cup good quality marinara sauce slightly warmed or room temperature
Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Mix first four ingredients into a shallow dish. Roll into small bite size balls like a meatball. Then stuff one cube of mozzarella into the middle of each risotto ball. Finish rolling so cheese is hidden. Fry in hot (350 degrees) vegetable oil deep enough to cover about half the height of the risotto ball. Cook a few at a time. Gently spin the balls so all sides are golden and cheese doesn’t pop out.  Cook till golden brown and drain on paper towel. Lightly garnish with salt and Parmesan cheese. Serve warm with marinara for dipping! Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.


  1. Thanks Maria, I too LOVE< LOVE risotto and make it every other week. I stir mine pretty much constantly while adding the liquid. This recipe says to let it sit with occasional stir. I'm going to try it!!! Also, the BALLS sound WOW! Indian Food is something I have yet to tackle. I don't know where to start. We do have many authentic restaurants near by.
    Do you have any suggestions for a beginner?

  2. Thanks Jenny I am so glad you love it! I do have some indian food suggestions, let me simmer on it and will post something. In the meanwhile, do you live in the seattle area? I can suggest a great restaurant and even an amazing chef who does cooking classes. If not maybe when you come to visit!!! Oh yeah... stay close to the risotto don't stir it nonstop once they start to plump but stir a good amount. Have a great weekend! Best, Maria

  3. Ahhh, my hubby thanks you! He remembers this feast and RAVES about this risotto. Thanks for posting the recipe, so we can now attempt the recreation of this nummy dish. You are one rockin, hot momma. Miss you! Big hugs & love, Eliza