Friday, November 11, 2011

Curry Risotto

Curry Risotto

Sometimes you just need to stand over a hot stove for a little while. Steam rising up from the pan, the scent of spices filling the kitchen, and some soft music in the background. Tonight was one of those nights. I hadn't realized how much cooking had become a part of me over these past five years until these past few weeks when I've been lucky to get in the kitchen at all. Between scheduling and injury it just hasn't happened. And that was affecting me. It sounds silly, to be affected by something like this, but there you go. Cooking for me is an emotional outlet. To create something for someone, to bring a smile to their face, or to make something that I've been craving. Even just to play with textures and flavors. It's almost an out of body experience.

This afternoon was my breaking point. I HAD to make something. Having the Cooking Channel on proved to be an advantageous choice. Dolce Vita with David Rocco came on and he was making arancini. Now, I've had pre-frozen arancini before and was just not impressed, but these looked positively heavenly. Leftover risotto filled with cheese? Sign me up for that! So risotto it was (the arancini experiment will come tomorrow). Unfortunately, looking through my cupboards the prospects were grim. I did have arborio rice and half an onion, but that's where the connection to traditional risotto recipes ended. I was going to have to wing it. While that can spell bad news, tonight's result was a resounding winner.

Curry Risotto

4 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil (garlic infused, if available)
1/2 onion, finely diced
1/4 c. white wine
1 1/2 c. arborio rice
1 c. 2% milk (+ more for simmering!)
2 tsp. curry powder
a dash of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Start off with melting the butter into the oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add in the diced onions, cooking until they start to become transparent. Add in the wine, any white will do. I had some Three Wishes chardonnay leftover from making leek stroganoff and that worked beautifully. Simmer until the alcohol finishes cooking off. Add in the rice and stir constantly until it starts to brown.

Lower the heat to medium-low and add in the first cup of milk. Now begins the process of adding milk slowly and stirring until it absorbs. For me, this takes an average of about 3 cups of extra milk over a 30-40 minute period. It is VERY important to stir the pot regularly. Otherwise, it will stick to the bottom and burn quickly. This is also a dish that needs monitoring. Risotto, the more you make it, becomes more a dish of feel then it is exact measurement. Each batch comes out with slightly different proportions. Throughout this simmering process I start to season the risotto. I find this creates a more even flavor profile with more depth. Add the spices a little at a time. You can always add more, but once it's over spiced there's little you can do. You will know the risotto is complete when the mixture is thick and creamy and the rice no longer hard to bite into. Keep in mind that the dish will thicken as it cools, so think about how much extra sauce you want yours to have (as I am making arancini with the leftovers, I made mine pretty thick).

An obligatory note about spice proportions: Go with what you like. This recipe mirrors my fondness for a strong curry flavor with just a small kick. Also, it will probably feel, at some point, that you are over salting this dish, but don't worry! I found that it takes more than a pinch for the flavors to truly stand out.

This makes for a pretty hardy main dish so I served it with some toasted Parmesan sourdough. For delicious toast, soften butter and lightly brush both sides of the bread. Put on a hot panini press for about 30-40 seconds. I love the smoky flavor this imparts on the bread. As a side dish, this would pair nicely with sausage.

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