Monday, April 18, 2011

All'onda, But Not In That Bad Baseball Stadium Way

Despite the appearance of frost (or possibly snow?) on the ground this morning in Chicago with memories of 80 degree sunsoaked days a mere week ago still in the forefront of our minds, we've got to muscle through to spring. Like so many of the buds on trees, daffodils and tulips that thought it was time to wake up, let's make it through this lingering cold unscathed, protected by thoughts of what lies ahead.

I received help towards this in the tiny form of young green garlic from Videnovich Farms in Michigan. Still quite small and delicate, the flavor and texture at the root end stood up to light frying in a pan with some soffrito, sunchokes and preserved lemon. I added some arborio rice on the path to risotto and--17 minutes of gentle stirring and several additions of stock later--we had risotto. I folded in butter, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, piquillo peppers, parsley, butter and some of the shoot end of the green garlic, saving more to garnish with on top.

Risotto is, in a world where cooking means more than pushing some buttons and hearing a dinner bell-like beep, quite simple and quick to make. Don't be intimidated. This was a cheap, filling meal, full of clean flavors, appropriate for the season. Stir the whole while you are making it, brushing the grains of rice against each other to release their creamy starches. Add stock when the risotto asks for it--draw your spoon through the center of the pan, and when liquid isn't rushing back in to fill the ditch you just created, but is rather slowly seeping in there, add a little more. And cook until the rice has just a touch of tooth to it--not grainy grittiness, but just a bit of firm texture--realizing that a touch more cooking and absorption of liquid will happen once the process is complete and the pan is off the heat. And so very importantly, look for the condition of what Italians call all'onda, or "of the wave". See the video below to grasp what I'm talking about. Pull the risotto to one side of the pot. When it ever so slowly oozes lava-like to the other side of the pot, you have all'onda. This, plus the texture we just talked about, makes top-notch risotto. But above all else, do not neglect your risotto--unlike a stadium where the only thing necessary is a drunk fat guy with no shirt on--it takes love and attention to get the wave in a pot of risotto.

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