Tales of Risotto is one of those little gems that you will enjoy for years. Written by Jean Govoni Salvadore and Luciano Parolari, Tales says it will lead you on Culinary Adventures from Villa d’Este, a magnificent hotel on the shores of Lake Como. Chef Parolari is known as the King of Risotto. That is good background.
Here is the bottom line: we made Risotto with Gorgonzola Cheese last weekend. It was added immediately to the menu for Suzen’s events at Cooking by the Book. We want everyone to sample this heavenly dish. And, Suzen and I will be working our way through the 50+ other recipes in this slick book.
If I say Italian food, what pops into your head? Pizza, certainly. Pasta, of course. Rice? No, not rice. But in the North of Italy, rice a the staple and risotto, made with Carnaroli rice and ideally homemade stock, has been a traditional way to start a meal. These days, risotto can still be a first course or a side dish or the whole meal.
Tales provides some risotto history, many tips, and recipes organized by the key extra ingredient:
- Vegetable and Fruit
- Poultry and Meat
- Seasonal [Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer]
For foreigners, risotto was a “hidden” dish until just the past few decades. You may have sampled it in a restaurant. You probably have not tried it at home. With pasta, you boil water and toss the pasta in. With risotto, there’s a half hour of work. You are going to be standing by the stove, adding stock to the rice and stirring. It’s worth every second. All you really need to do is have a great bottle of wine on the side, a glass in one hand, and that stirring spoon in the other.
The Carnaroli rice specifically picks up the flavors of the added ingredients. So in Tales you will find risotto with apples, artichokes, asparagus, champagne, smoked salmon, Proseco and oysters, lemon and shrimp, spring vegetables, chicken livers, green peas and prosciutto, … You get the concept. Some of the recipe ideas here are classics. Some are the creation of Chef Parolari, creations that will be classics.
Physically, Tales is beautifully crafted book. High grade paper with a very readable font and lots of white space. The photos are inspiring. This is a book you will enjoy picking up. The only issue here is the confusion: there are many things here you want to try all at once. So, I suggest you do what Suzen and I are: do a recipe every couple of weeks and work your way through the book, season by season, ingredient by ingredient.
Start with this Gorgonzola recipe. You can do it as a main course or a side. It’s rich so the perfect pairing would be protein, a strong protein. Lamb chops for sure. Or, and please don’t laugh at this, hamburgers. We make our burgers with 80% mean and 20% fat — because the flavor is in the fat. We had this risotto with a deep red wine — Sauterne is recommend by the chef but we had these fabulous burgers. We felt perfectly Italian.
Risotto with Gorgonzola Cheese
Yield: serves 4 to 6
- 6 cups chicken stock [homemade if at all possible]
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cups Carnaroli Rice
- 6 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce the heat keep at a bare simmer.
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, until every grain is coated with butter.
Add 1 cup of the stock and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding stock, about ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently and making sure all the liquid is absorbed before adding more stock. Cook until the rice is just gender and creamy but still al dente, 15 to 20 minutes. You may have leftover stock.
Combine the Gorgonzola cheese with the cream in a bowl. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Gorgonzola cheese mixture. Add the diced tomatoes, the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, the Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Let the risotto rest for a minute or two and serve piping hot.