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Kitchen Witch - Leek-and-Green-Garlic Risotto

Spring orgy risotto

Wednesday May 2, 2007 12:04 am EDT

Spring of 2000, northern Italy. It would be my first time, for real.


It didn’t matter that I was a culinary school graduate and had since attempted my own pizza dough (clumsy) and risotto (gummy and unseasoned). I was now on the land where it all began, Terra Madre, and in the eyes of the Italians, I was an innocent rube who knew nothing about rice and the art of risotto seduction.

Like any virgin, I was nervous, but ready to be schooled. Sergio, my chef instructor, assigned me to dice onions, which I did dutifully, but my efforts were less than satisfactory. “No, continua,” he barked at my onion pile and me. “More, more.”

I looked sheepishly at my partner, Max, who was embroiled in intense mincing of parsley and fatback, equally clueless. The onions, we learned, must look like baby food, and the fatback like shaving cream, all the more to make the risotto the smoothest thing you’d ever put on your tongue.

It wasn’t enough to gradually add liquid to the short-grained rice over medium heat and stir, stir, stir so it would release its starch and transform into a creamy swamp. The seasonings had to be miniscule but forte, said the Italian. And you must add salt, more than you think.

In the span of two hours, I had rice sex and gave birth to risotto, a doubleheader that I highly recommend. Don’t worry; you don’t need fatback to make kick-butt risotto, and with the recipe below, instead of chopping the hell out of an onion, you mince leeks, which are gentler on the tear ducts.

Pair them up with green garlic (aka garlic scallions), which is garlic in its prebulb stage, and you’ve got the makings of a spring orgy. Hurry, while supplies last at your farmer’s market!

Adapted from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison

Green garlic and leeks:

4 medium leeks, white parts only

3 large heads green garlic

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup white wine

Salt and pepper to taste

Rice:

6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/2 cup chopped chervil or parsley, and/or leftover green garlic tops

Zest of 1 lemon, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Quarter leeks lengthwise, cut them crosswise into 1/4-inch slices, and wash well. Remove any tough, papery husks from garlic, then finely chop bulbs.

Melt butter in a saute pan. Add leeks and garlic, stir to coat, then add wine and cook over medium-low heat until leeks are tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside while you cook the rice.

Have stock simmering on the stove. Melt butter in a wide soup pot over medium heat. Add rice and cook, stirring for 1 minute.

Pour in wine and simmer until it is absorbed, then add 2 cups of the stock. Simmer until it has been absorbed, then raise heat to medium and begin adding stock 1/2 cup at a time. Stir energetically and continue adding liquid after each addition is absorbed. Rice is done when tender with a slight bite, about 35 minutes. Stir in leeks, cheese and herbs.

Taste for salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O’Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.