Hot hot day and I cant face anything, especially where stoves are concerned so I'm sitting in front of the AC (set at 75 degrees, really) with the TV on. Lidia Bastianich, the amazing Italian chef, is on channel 13 making a radicchio risotto. I am so inspired I run into my kitchen, despite the heat, to start my own risotto. I don't have radicchio, but I am still swimming in tomatoes and I have a half a bulb of fennel so Im good to go.
The risotto was eaten before I could take a photo!
Lidia debates using stock in her risotto vs. plain simmering water. I have never come across a risotto recipe that calls for plain water. Lidia opts for the water even though the camera has panned over a lovely simmering stock. WATER? I'm intrigued. Well, let's give it a try. After the initial additions of water into the rice mixture I give it a taste and think, not so great. But by the time the dish was finished and butter was added (Lidia added at LEAST A STICK of BUTTER to finish the dish. I couldn't quite bring myself to do that. Sorry Julia, I know, I know). I was surprised by the pleasantly subtle sweet and fragrant flavor of the tomatoes infusing the rice. Stock now seemed like an overbearing intruder and I am sold on this new approach.
Fennel Tomato Risotto
and Couly Dutheil Chinon Rose
3 Tbs. Butter
2 Tbs. extra virgin Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
1/2 teas. salt
1 cup arborio rice
3 cups simmering salted water
1 cup of Rose wine (I used la Vielle Ferme)
1 large tomato chopped
1/2 cup grated romano cheese
Heat 1Tbs butter and 1Tbs olive oil in large sauce pan. When butter is warm and melted add the onions, the fennel and salt. Sweat the vegetables a few minutes until they are soft and translucent. Add rice and stir in pan until all grains are coated and begin to look a little clear. Add half the tomatoes and cook another minute till the tomatoes begin to break down a bit. Pour in the wine and let the pan simmer until wine is absorbed. Begin to slowly add the simmering water by the ladleful, allowing the liquid to absorb into the rice before adding the next ladleful. Lidia suggests it will take at least 10 additions of water until the rice is done. When is it done? The rice should be creamy, slightly loose, a bit al dente but cooked through. If it tastes done, its done.
Turn off heat and add the rest of the tomatoes, the butter, the cheese and the olive oil, stirring to combine.
Serve four right away!
Deb - I have just one word to describe my meal experience last night: exquisite. I decided to make this for dinner, and immediately knew which wine I would enjoy with it. When I saw "rose" listed in the ingredients, my decision was made. I figured the creamy texture of the risotto, and the wonderful licorice flavor of the fennel would be a great match for what else? A rose. But which one? I decided to go with one of my absolute favorites this summer - a Chinon Rose from Couly Dutheil located in the Loire Valley of France. The wine is made from 100% Cabernet Franc, and is just a beautiful composite of cherry fruit flavors and spice. Medium in body, the wine itself has a creamy texture which I knew would be perfect with the Risotto. Love, love, love this wine.
I chopped the fennel, tomato, and onion while the kids were eating dinner. Around 9:30, after the kids were asleep, I began to cook. I opened the bottle of wine, and enjoyed a glass while making dinner. I stood over my risotto, adding water, watching and waiting, anxiously anticipating what I knew would be wonderful by the mixed aromas in the kitchen. And I was loving my glass of wine! When it was done (and Deb - you're 100% right - you know it's done when it's done. Just keep trying it and you'll know), I placed a modest portion in a pretty bowl and topped off my glass of Rose. I was in heaven. This dish is incredibly suited to rose. The risotto was amazing, one of the best meals I've prepared in a long while. The rich fruit flavors of the wine were perfect next to the fennel and creamy texture of the risotto. I can't say enough good things about this pairing. It has "dinner party" written all over it. This is something I am, without a doubt, preparing the next time I cook for friends.
Oh, and one more thing, that modest portion that I placed in my bowl soon grew to 3 or 4 modest portions. Couldn't stop eating it. But Deb, one question: Any suggestions for leftover fennel?
-leftover fennel? goes great in soup, pasta sauce, or thinly sliced raw into salads. The flavor is so mild but has great depth and combines really well with other vegetables.