Saturday, March 20, 2010

A basic and versatile risotto recipe with salt cod

Good friends, good times. Cooking for my family and friends... it is what I enjoy most! A good recipe for a get together? A risotto!

So Italian... I make risotto with starchy rices like arborio and carnarolli that result in a creamy and rich texture and these rices can be easily found in any grocery stores. Once you learn how to make the basic recipe for risotto, you can start playing around with ingredients you have in your kitchen like vegetables, mushrooms, aspargus, sun-dried tomatoes and meats, seafood, sausage, cheese, herbs etc.

The secret to making creamy risottos is to add the hot stock one ladleful at a time and cook slowly, stirring constantly, waiting until the liquid is almost completely absorbed before adding more. This way the stock gets absorbed and releases the arborio's starches.

 Sometimes I top the cooked risotto with grilled or sauteed shrimp. Since we eat a lot of rice here in Brazil and rice is stir-fried first, making a risotto is just like adding an elegant touch to everyday rice.

I like to use salt cod and desalt it in advance.

Salt cod risotto
2 cups arborio rice
1 onion, diced
1/4 cup white wine
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon canola oil
8 cups (2 liters) stock (vegetable, chicken, fish - I prefer vegetable stock)
1/2 teaspoon saffron powder

10 oz (300 g) salt cod (bacalhau), desalted and flaked

1 tablespoon butter

Fresh parsley or thyme
3 oz (90 g) Parmesan, freshly grated

1) Bring 8 cups of stock to a boil - keep it in a separate boiler.

2) In a large pan (or wok) with a heavy bottom, heat olive oil and canola oil over low heat and sauté onions until translucent, not brown. Then, add garlic stirring until it releases its flavor. Add rice and stir to toast  approx. 5 minutes. Once toasted, add white wine stirring with a wooden spoon until it is absorbed. Add saffron.

3)  Start adding stock one ladle at a time, wait for the rice to absorb the liquid before adding the next ladle, stirring constantly for about 15 to 20 minutes, then add the salt cod and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. Add the butter. Stir to combine. Serve immediately with chopped parsley or thyme and grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

How to desalt salt cod and rehydrate it: Soak salt cod in cold water for 24 to 36 hours and change the water 6 times.
Shrimp risotto - just add shrimp instead of salt cod, or add both.