when stephanie is elsewhere, out of town, away for dinner or simply 'off', i like to cook things only i love. oh, it ain't she won't eat my by me much doted-on dishes, it's just i'd rather make her happy with food she won't have to look at sideways. so, besides, this is one of my favorite early spring foods, the kind of spring we're having here right now, no rain, no sun, kind of brightly overcast, fridgid, still, the tulips are up and hille gilbe, that all too shrilly electric out of place yellow, forethigh-thia, as i call it, playing shamelessly to the abatement of winter in portland and most likely, sooner or later, everywhere else.
the risotto i like to canoodle is really called risi-bisi, rice and peas, originating in the old veneto, excepting my addition of pine nuts, fresh ones, newly husked, soft, deeply fragrant of pine. mine come from china, or so they say, harvested from a chilgoza pine. looking at pine nuts, c'est la vie, say the old folk, it goes to show you never can tell, this is true, certainly and true as well for the rice, supposedly vialone nano, the one making the creamiest of all risotti. this, more likely and as often as always is contingent on the cook, 'cause he de one does all the dependin'.
so, and what does a terrific risotto turn on? i'm the cook and i say once you own the rice, have done your soffritto and got past the tostatura, it all starts with a rich broth. mine was chicken. this should be simmering, smiling in an offside pot. ladle for ladle goes to the pan with the rice, allowing the 'vialone' to consume most all the liquid before adding more. and like making love, rouse the rice endlessly, gently, consistently. your stirring about might be done with a polyamid spoon, or the old way, a spoon made of wood. oh, and while you're stirring you might troll along the parmigiano jingle. my friend maureen had me sing this days on end.
http://slowtalk.com/groupee/forums/a/tpc/f/2021055582/m/3951051592.i've read, likely in harold mcgee's 'curious cook', that this kind of stirring loosens the starch molecules from the outside of the rice grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy-textured liquid. sounds good to me. when your risotto has come to this, you take it off the heat and you do the mantecatura. this goes to say you cut in cold butter, add parmigiano, the pine nuts and the peas. i used frozen 'petits pois', as fresh peas are not yet around.
the finished dish should be all'onda, not soupy, not dry, but ready for the spoon. the texture of the rice needs to be al dente, the variant grains separate and distinguishable from the whole.
'vialone nano' is readily available at italian stores, or of course on the net. the pine nuts are somewhat difficult to get. with luck at a chinese market, just don't buy those things called 'pignoli', they are typically not fresh enough to have much flavor. and are barely good enough for cookies. my soffritto is made with cipollini onions, sliced paper thin and cooked in white wine and butter, the tostatura is the stage where the rice gets well coated with the hot soffritto, followed by the ladlings of broth. a small warning: should you need to take a taste during proceedings, spoon a sample off to the side and let it cool. straight from the pan the stuff burns hotter'n hell.
if by chance you cooked too much to eat by yourself, go fry it up for breakfast. it'll make your day, sunshine, lover or not. looking at tomorrow out my window, i might eat in bed, read and wait for late afternoon to venture outside.