Hey, Joke!

I made your risotto thing the other night and it got rave reviews. Rave. Even the 12 year-old girl child liked it and her favourite meal at the moment is a bowl of Special K. The baby was digging it, too. Eight months old isn’t too young to eat risotto. She’s still chugging along, so I guess it was ok.

This got scarfed down before I could take a picture, but it was very pretty, with the green asparagus, red tomatoes and pink and white shrimp.

I did make some modifications, which I’ve added at the end. And I took out your notations and added some of my own, just to be a pain in the ass.

RISOTTO MARGHERITA (Serves 6)
1½ cups grape* tomatoes (halved & seeded…tomato seeds are kind of bitter)
2 tablespoons fresh basil – rolled up and cut into VERY fine shreds** in a chiffonade
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
1 – 1½ teaspoons kosher or sea salt (start with the ½ and adjust to taste)
2 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
5 cups “pale” defatted chicken stock (if you are using store bought, try to get the kind that is low in sodium and is aseptically packaged in a box)
½ cup yellow onion, diced
1½ cups raw arborio (if you can’t find it but have a Spanish/Latin market nearby, “Valencia” will work in a pinch; if you want to be hyperfoodie, try carnaroli or vialone) rice
½ cup dry white wine, a leftover Pinot Grigio would work here***
2 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, diced ****(if you get the smaller sized ones — bocconcini or ciliengine — your life will be a lot easier)
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1- Combine the tomatoes, basil, half of the EVOO, ½ teaspoon of salt and garlic in a small bowl, toss well and set aside.

2- Bring stock to a simmer (don’t boil!) in a medium saucepan and keep it warm. Yes, you could “zap” it if you simply must.

3- Heat the other tablespoon of EVOO in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, and sauté it until it’s translucent (figure 3 minutes or so). Add the rice, and sauté for an additional minute. Stir constantly, since it’s vital to fully and evenly coat the in the EVOO. Add wine, and cook yet another minute or until it has been nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. (Make sure nothing sticks.)

4- Here is the key part. Add warm stock one ladleful at a time, stirring until each ladleful of stock is absorbed prior to adding the next ladleful…figure about 20 minutes total. Yes, you may switch hands. No, you don’t need to stir it constantly. Every couple of minutes or so, just when the stock is pretty much — +/- 75% — absorbed. The purpose of the stirring is to help evenly release the starch molecules into the liquid, to generate the requisite creaminess.

5- Add tomatoes & co., cooking another couple of minutes, stirring GENTLY (so as not to mush up the tomatoes you just spent all that time cutting and cleaning.

6- I blanched a bunch of asparagus and plunged it into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. I did this a couple of hours before making dinner, just because I have rugrats and I have to cook in stages. There was too much asparagus to use it all, so left-overs will go on my salad tomorrow. I used about 3/4 of the asparagus in the rice – your tastes may vary.

7 – I also threw in some small, pre-cooked, cocktail-sized shrimp that I had in the freezer. (I defrosted them first.) Put these in at the last second. You just want to warm them up, not cook them again. If you cook them again, they will get tough.

8 – Remove from heat and stir in mozzarella in small batches.



9- Sprinkle each serving with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and pepper.

10- Do your impression of Meg Ryan from When Harry Met Sally

* I didn’t have any grape tomatoes on hand, so I seeded and finely diced two vine-ripened tomatoes.

** Cue gasps of horror from Joke, but I had to use dried basil. Fresh would have been better, but I wasn’t bundling up a toddler and an infant just to get some leaves.

*** I used a Reisling (I know, I know, but it was in the fridge. Again with the bundling and the kids and did I mention it was sleeting? Yeah, April 4th, sleet and snow, fanfuckingtastic)

****If your market is anything like mine, you can find fresh mozzarella on the olive bar in the cheese department.

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