Monday, 11 June 2012

When I need some comfort

You know those days or weeks even when you feel like you are on an endless hamster wheel of life?  When the world around you seems to offer little comfort and loads of demands?  It's been like that around here lately.  My dear husband has been working his tail off, I have never in my living life met someone with a stronger work ethic than he has.  In the process, someone has had to look after hearth and home and that someone would be me.

I have spent many years undervaluing what I do around here which other than bring in an income is pretty much everything save oil changes and mowing the lawn.  But lately I have really come to appreciate just how valuable my work here is.  Caring for a home, raising children, cooking the daily meals, shopping for the food to make those daily meals, and all that goes in between is a full time job that deserves my own respect.  As my one dear friend said the other night, "you may not bring in the money, but you hold everyone's world together"  That is no small job.

In the midst of all of this, I find that some days when I need a little comfort this is my most favourite of all meals to make.  Risotto Bianco with pesto and steamed green beans.  Now I know for many the word Risotto sounds like something you would save to order in a restaurant because it is too intimidating to make at home.  That couldn't be farther from the truth.   While Risotto isn't a super quick meal, it is easy and worth every slow minute of stirring while you have a glass of wine to wind down from the day.  The lovely thing about this recipe is that you can make it without the pesto and it will be beautiful.  You can add seafood, mushrooms, tomatoes and basil, anything you feel like. The one trick to good risotto that I have found is that you need a wide pan to cook it in, like a saute pan.  Cooking it in a pot works, but I find it makes it too gloopy and sticky.  The rice needs to be spread out so that it can touch the pan.  The other trick is your stock.  Homemade is always best, failing that, get the best quality you can afford to buy, it does make a difference. This will probably be the most adaptable part of your day and no doubt the most rewarding.  Steam some green beans until they are fork tender, toss with a little olive oil and good salt and you have a dish that will elevate your mood faster than you can complain about your day.

Risotto Bianco with Pesto
Serves 4

Good extra virgin olive oil
1 good size onion
2 cloves garlic
2 stalks celery
1 small shallot if you have it

2 cups Aborio rice
2 cups white wine or dry vermouth
6-8 cups stock
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup Parmigano Reggiano grated (cheese in a can need not apply)

Start by putting your stock in a pot to get warm and keep on a very low simmer

Chop onion, garlic, shallot and celery very fine
Warm up your big pan with a couple of good glugs of Extra Virgin olive oil on med heat.  When oil is hot (not smoking!) add your vegetables.  Turn the heat down and cook slowly.  You can add a small sprinkling of salt.  The trick here is you are making a soffrito.  Cooked slow and low, your vegetables will get nice and soft and all their sweet sugars will come out and caramelize.  Be patient here, don't be tempted to blast the heat to make it go faster, everything will just burn.  This should take about 10-15 min.

When your veg is soft and caramelized, turn up the heat and pour your rice in.  Toss the rice in the lovely onion mixture coating it with the oil.  When you start to see the eye in the rice, it will be translucent all around except for a white dot in the middle, pour in your two cups of white wine or vermouth, whichever you are using and start stirring.  All of the alcohol will evaporate and the flavour will infuse into the rice.  Oh, yum.

Once your liquid has been absorbed by the rice, start ladling in the stock, one cup at a time.  Keep stirring, slowly.  Every time the liquid has been fully absorbed add another cup of stock.  You will be here for about 20 minutes repeating this process so feel free to pour yourself a glass of wine or whatever you like to drink at the dinner hour and start letting the day go, it doesn't belong in your supper.  I always believe that food always tastes better when made with love.  After around 15 minutes, start tasting your rice.  Risotto should be al dente, never mushy. When you tilt the pan the risotto should move like a wave, not a boulder. When it still has a little bite, but soft otherwise, take your pan off the heat, add your butter and Parmigiano.  Stir in, cover and let rest for 3 minutes.

At this point you can stir in your pesto if you have it, even chopped fresh basil will do the trick.  Serve in warm bowls sprinkled with a bit more Reggiano and a drizzle of your good olive oil.  Bring some lightly steamed green beans to the table tossed in good olive oil and a little salt, I like Maldon the best, a glass of wine and there it is, a bowl of love.  Good for anyone needing a bit of comfort, kids, partners and everyone in between.

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