I am a huge foodie, and the older I get the more geeky I get about it. Every restaurant gets a thorough evaluation, whether I’m actually there to review it or not. It’s gone way beyond copyediting menus to things like making my tablemates feel guilty that they don’t know what arugula is. But if I’m gonna take on the calories (and you know I will) I want to at least know what I’m eating, where it came from and how one could possibly make a tiny cup of chilled rice pudding so incredibly good I could drink it.
However, when I get in the kitchen myself I instantly lose interest in cooking something that is a) meaty or b) hard to make. I just don’t have the patience for really involved recipes. The last time I cooked something that took 2 hours (an incredibly rich vegetable pot pie with saffron cream and homemade pastry from Barefoot Contessa) I immediately got bronchitis and laryngitis and was sick for two weeks. Mike is the patient baker. He loves anything he’s never made before. We are kitchen opposites for sure.
So one of those dishes I avoid like the plague is risotto. I’ve heard all kinds of things about how you have to stir it endlessly, keep adding broth, pray it doesn’t burn and then about 10 hours later you have….rice. Awesome!
But I saved a risotto recipe from a random issue of Rachael Ray’s magazine because it looked so lovely. (And by the way, I’m not sure what possessed me to buy a Rachael Ray magazine in the first place, except that I did spend a few months of my unemployed life watching at least 4 hours of Food Network a day. I don’t dislike her, I’m just overwhelmed by her). Anyway, it’s a creamy risotto with peas, parmesan and a little breadcrumb crusted on top. Last summer I had a similar version at a random cafe in Aix-en-Provence that was so incredible I could have licked the plate when I was finished proving to everyone French that Americans really are like that. So I knew the work could pay off, and I finally decided to try it. After a particularly stressful day it work. It seemed like it would become a total disaster, but I’m happy to report that risotto is not actually that hard to make and only took me about half an hour. Whew.
I even had an old chunk of parmesan in the fridge which I burned about 150 calories shredding. It was totally worth it.
Sweet Pea Risotto Gratin
Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray
10-oz. package frozen baby peas, thawed
6 c. chicken or no-chicken broth
5 tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 pound arborio rice
1 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. plain dry bread crumbs
Puree half of the peas in a food processor (I used a blender. I hate cleaning all the food processor parts).
In a saucepan heat the broth and keep it warm. Grease a 2-court casserole and set aside.
In a large saucepan heat 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium. Stir in the onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir well to coat the grains with butter. Add 1 cup of chicken broth, lower the heat slightly and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth in half-cup increments, letting the rice absorb the liquid (about 3 minutes) after each addition, and stirring almost constantly until the rice is cooked, 20-25 minutes. The finished rice will be creamy but firm to the bite.
A few minutes before the risotto is done, stir in the pureed and whole peas. Turn on the broiler.
Remove the cooked rice from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and 3/4 cup of cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese and bread crumbs together. Transfer the risotto to the casserole dish and top with the bread crumb mixture. Place the dish about 6 inches from the heat source and broil for 6-8 minutes or until the top is golden.