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Risotto


Anna Blume
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I completely disagree. Especially when making a risotto with something with a lot of its own character, like porcini, for example, I don't want a pronounced chicken flavor in the finished product. The gelatinous quality of a rich stock is also out of place in a risotto. If I'm using homemade stock for risotto, I dilute it heavily with plain water, to a strength similar to commercial canned or boxed broth, which is thus a passable substitute, although obviously inferior to the home-made article. There are certainly rice dishes in which a rich, chickeny flavor is desirable, but to me risotto isn't one of them (unless, perhaps, one is attempting a "chicken risotto", a dish I can't quite get behind).

I also have brodo in the freezer for my frozen stuffed pasta and risotto. However, when I am making risotto, I use part chicken stock and water, much more stock than water, plus a little white wine. I just made risotto recently when I had nothing in the freezer and with Swanson's, the results were disappointing.

Try a few spoonfuls of ragu de nobili--or di rigaglie* di pollo--in risotto and then get back to me about your position on "chicken risotto".

I'm no blooming Olive Garden, sir. smile.gif

* or simply fegatini

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I completely disagree. Especially when making a risotto with something with a lot of its own character, like porcini, for example, I don't want a pronounced chicken flavor in the finished product. The gelatinous quality of a rich stock is also out of place in a risotto. If I'm using homemade stock for risotto, I dilute it heavily with plain water, to a strength similar to commercial canned or boxed broth, which is thus a passable substitute, although obviously inferior to the home-made article. There are certainly rice dishes in which a rich, chickeny flavor is desirable, but to me risotto isn't one of them (unless, perhaps, one is attempting a "chicken risotto", a dish I can't quite get behind).
I also have brodo in the freezer for my frozen stuffed pasta and risotto. However, when I am making risotto, I use part chicken stock and water, much more stock than water, plus a little white wine. I just made risotto recently when I had nothing in the freezer and with Swanson's, the results were disappointing.

Try a few spoonfuls of ragu de nobili--or di rigaglie* di pollo--in risotto and then get back to me about your position on "chicken risotto".

I'm no blooming Olive Garden, sir. :P

* or simply fegatini

Given the quantity of stock stirred into a risotto, the thought of using store-bought stuff is beyond nasty. It's apostasy. I'm sure its a felony in Italy, if not grounds for exile. High-end, low-end, cubes: it just tastes bad. Or not good, anyway. I use all that stuff when time is short and the stock is a relatively modest part of a Wednesday night dinner, but I'd rather lick asphalt than have a risotto made with commercial stock. Ewwww.

When we do mushroom risotto, we make a mushroom stock.

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Given the quantity of stock stirred into a risotto, the thought of using store-bought stuff is beyond nasty. It's apostasy. I'm sure its a felony in Italy, if not grounds for exile. High-end, low-end, cubes: it just tastes bad. Or not good, anyway. I use all that stuff when time is short and the stock is a relatively modest part of a Wednesday night dinner, but I'd rather lick asphalt than have a risotto made with commercial stock. Ewwww.

When we do mushroom risotto, we make a mushroom stock.

True. Marcella Hazan has a good recipe for risotto-worthy broth. Also, I've found that Madeleine Kamen's system of "primary" and "secondary" veal stock (the latter approximating a "rémuage" or "second pressing" of the "primary" stock's ingredients) is useful here. The "secondary" stock makes a very fine risotto stock when diluted by about half.
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Look, I'm not advocating using commercial broth for risotto, but I am saying that given the right flavor base, good-quality commercial broth, and plenty of good butter and parmigiano, I can make a perfectly pleasant risotto. As good as with home-made broth? No, of course not. But when risotto sounds irresistible, and there's no chicken stock in the freezer, I (and not only I) can make a nice dish. Felony, forsooth.

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Given the quantity of stock stirred into a risotto, the thought of using store-bought stuff is beyond nasty. It's apostasy. I'm sure its a felony in Italy, if not grounds for exile. High-end, low-end, cubes: it just tastes bad. Or not good, anyway. I use all that stuff when time is short and the stock is a relatively modest part of a Wednesday night dinner, but I'd rather lick asphalt than have a risotto made with commercial stock. Ewwww.

When we do mushroom risotto, we make a mushroom stock.

Thank you, l'Omo Chi Aspetta. Sometimes even a bluestocking appreciates chivalry.

Hersch, I am sure you meant no offense. It's just that sometimes when we get up on our orange crates to pontificate, we sound a little ridiculous. That plural pronoun is inclusive since I know I get huffy, too, about these trivial little culinary matters.

As for relevant voices, I checked Marcella's original publications first, and in the early 1980s, for a pioneer, it was important to stop Americans from relying on chicken boullion cubes, a staple in the homes I grew up in and in the first Italian kitchens I entered where a "dado di Star" went into everything. Therefore, she publishes a "cucina povera" type of meat broth using chicken bones and leftover scraps as any frugal home cook in Italy would. If you don't have any around, she's fine with your using CANNED broth, an improvement on those gummy, salty cubes. Lidia Matticchio Bastianich started publishing later and tells her readers that a good stock is necessary in her restaurants (she mixes turkey & chicken), but they could use low-sodium chicken broth if they don't make one of the two stock recipes she supplies in The Italian-American Kitchen, the book in which she tries to present cucina diaspora as more than just red sauce and thick-crust, soupy pizza.

Last night, I finally got around to reading Tom Sietsema's review of Bebo in last week's Sunday magazine.

This is a kitchen that also knows from risotto: the night I ordered it, the creamy-firm grains of carnaroli rice, grown in the chef's native Piemonte and swollen with homemade chicken stock, were joined by diced squash and bites of meat.

When I played wait staff to Fabio Trabocchi's demo at the farmers's market, the stock was not house-made. It came from a restaurant supplier in heavy plastic zip-lock bags. Nonetheless, its flavor came through in a simple regional dish whose pronounced flavors are cheese, stock, lemon zest and cinnamon.

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Hersch, I am sure you meant no offense. It's just that sometimes when we get up on our orange crates to pontificate, we sound a little ridiculous and decadent.
Ridiculous I am ready to plead guilty to, but decadent? I reject decadent! :P

As to Marcella, in her later books she basically bans the use of chicken stock or broth in risotto (well, at least she says she won't use them any more). She never really makes clear (to me) what she finds objectionable, but uses words like "too pungent" and "sharp" (I think; I'm working from memory). She says to use a meat broth made with beef and veal, with little or no bone.

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For the record, I edited out the word "decadent" before cjsandler began transporting a section of this thread to a new discussion on risotto. Hyperbole, perhaps, but we do live in Washington, D.C. where we are keenly aware of many things of far greater consequence. I think a smily face is in order here, too, :P . Just wish it came with big, stick-out ears.

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Dinner last night was mushroom and leek risotto, only the second time I've ever attempted it, the first time being twenty years ago and the result a disaster. Last night's was edible, but not good. I stood there stirring and ladling and stirring while holding Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking in the other hand and reading about technique, but clearly missed something. The risotto took about 35 minutes, and went from 'chalky in the center' to 'overcooked and kinda mushy overall but still a little chalky in the center' in about two minutes, and my biceps are sore.

Anybody have tips to share?

Oh, and I used homemade chicken stock, and didn't care for the flavor. Later I found a jar of beef broth in the freezer and was slapping myself (not literally) for overlooking it. Next time mushroom stock for sure, though. Unless it's another twenty years...

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Dinner last night was mushroom and leek risotto, only the second time I've ever attempted it, the first time being twenty years ago and the result a disaster. Last night's was edible, but not good. I stood there stirring and ladling and stirring while holding Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking in the other hand and reading about technique, but clearly missed something. The risotto took about 35 minutes, and went from 'chalky in the center' to 'overcooked and kinda mushy overall but still a little chalky in the center' in about two minutes, and my biceps are sore.

Anybody have tips to share?

Oh, and I used homemade chicken stock, and didn't care for the flavor. Later I found a jar of beef broth in the freezer and was slapping myself (not literally) for overlooking it. Next time mushroom stock for sure, though. Unless it's another twenty years...

Calling Joe H.!!

From a post that Joe made on Chow a couple years ago, on "the best" risotto evah (or something like that), I realized that arborio was not the only rice to make risotto with. Joe's version (which I've never made yet) called for Vialone Nano, and I thought...hmmm...really? the rice is the difference? Who knew.

Well, last year, I found myself at The Italian Store and bought another version (after a bit of research online) called Carnaroli. It is so much more forgiving. It allows you to cook it, develop it, and in the end, enjoy a slightly al dente risotto that is creamy, rich and each grain remains an individual. It was a revelation after almost giving up on making a risotto at home.

My former attempts were glutinous wads of misery. Well, not that bad, but such a dissappointment that I thought I'd never get it right.

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Calling Joe H.!!

From a post that Joe made on Chow a couple years ago, on "the best" risotto evah (or something like that), I realized that arborio was not the only rice to make risotto with. Joe's version (which I've never made yet) called for Vialone Nano, and I thought...hmmm...really? the rice is the difference? Who knew.

Well, last year, I found myself at The Italian Store and bought another version (after a bit of research online) called Carnaroli. It is so much more forgiving. It allows you to cook it, develop it, and in the end, enjoy a slightly al dente risotto that is creamy, rich and each grain remains an individual. It was a revelation after almost giving up on making a risotto at home.

My former attempts were glutinous wads of misery. Well, not that bad, but such a dissappointment that I thought I'd never get it right.

Porcupine - What kind of rice did you use?

Decent risotto can be made with domestic arborio or carnaroli. I have not had any problems making it and I certainly do not stand and stir the entire time either.

If you want Vialone Nano you can always buy it at Amazon.com if it is not available locally.

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Decent risotto can be made with domestic arborio or carnaroli. I have not had any problems making it and I certainly do not stand and stir the entire time either.

I usually use arborio, and I've found that stirring obsessively is counterproductive. It somehow seems to inhibit the absorption of the liquid if I'm too diligent about it. Despite how the recipes I consult tell me how important the constant stirring is, I stir periodically rather than constantly.

While I can't claim to be a great risotto maker, it usually comes out fine. This may be one of those dishes it's possible to overthink. (I"m also not that great at making regular old rice. I think I'm better at risotto than plain white rice, for some odd reason :(.)

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I usually use arborio, and I've found that stirring obsessively is counterproductive. It somehow seems to inhibit the absorption of the liquid if I'm too diligent about it. Despite how the recipes I consult tell me how important the constant stirring is, I stir periodically rather than constantly.

There are some who suggest that stirring less is better: even to the point where some of the rice sticks to the bottom of the pot. Scraping the bottom causes those particular grains to burst, releasing even more creamtastic starch into the mix.
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Porcupine - What kind of rice did you use?

Decent risotto can be made with domestic arborio or carnaroli. I have not had any problems making it and I certainly do not stand and stir the entire time either.

If you want Vialone Nano you can always buy it at Amazon.com if it is not available locally.

I recently bought a box of Vialone Nano at the Mediterranean Grocery on Pickett Street.

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There are some who suggest that stirring less is better: even to the point where some of the rice sticks to the bottom of the pot. Scraping the bottom causes those particular grains to burst, releasing even more creamtastic starch into the mix.

An old Italian lady made me a batch once. Saute onion, add arborio rice and stir, add wine, then add boiling broth.

Then cover the whole thing in aluminum foil and place in a 450 degree oven for 18 minutes.

No soreness. Best ever.

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An old Italian lady made me a batch once. Saute onion, add arborio rice and stir, add wine, then add boiling broth.

Then cover the whole thing in aluminum foil and place in a 450 degree oven for 18 minutes.

No soreness. Best ever.

That is the way I was taught to cook pilaf.

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I use the Julia Child recipe from French Cooking and regular long-grain rice, and it always works out a charm for me. And I believe she explicitly prohibits stirring after a certain point (furthermore it is finished in the oven, so stirring is moot). I generally use whatever kind of chicken stock I have on hand, which is either home-made if I'm industrious, or else something organic & low-sodium that comes in a vacuum-sealed box.

I will say however that this does not make a creamy Italian-style risotto--the result is much more like a pilaf with individually separable rice grains.

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Porcupine - What kind of rice did you use?

Arborio. I don't really believe the type of rice is the issue, though. I think it's technique. Also it didn't help that I'm trying to learn how to use an electric stove again; I couldn't keep the burner temperature where I thought it needed to be.

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Arborio. I don't really believe the type of rice is the issue, though. I think it's technique. Also it didn't help that I'm trying to learn how to use an electric stove again; I couldn't keep the burner temperature where I thought it needed to be.

That's a tough one. I went from gas to electric a few years ago and burnt everything for quite some time. The residual heat always got me.

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I saw an episode of Lydia Bastianich's new series today, where she made three versions of a riso that she described as an quick alternative to risotto. The simplest one, just with sage, started with sage and salt steeping in boiling water (or stock) and then she added the rice, covered and lowered the heat. When the liquid was absorbed, she added butter and parmesan. The second version had a mirepoix of onion, carrot and celery ground up in the food processor, then sauteed and stewed in the liquid, then small chunks of butternut squash were added and cooked for five minutes, then the rice added heat lowered and covered, and again mounted with butter and cheese after all the liquid was absorbed. The third version had the mirepoix and small pieces of boneless chicken.

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I use the Julia Child recipe from French Cooking and regular long-grain rice, and it always works out a charm for me. And I believe she explicitly prohibits stirring after a certain point (furthermore it is finished in the oven, so stirring is moot).

Bear in mind that Julia Child is giving a recipe for a French version of risotto, and while her recipe may produce a lovely dish (I've never cooked it) it isn't the same dish as an Italian risotto.
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Does anyone have any tips for handling risotto a la minute?

Would I want to cook it fully during prep, chill, then just reheat it to serving temperature for service? Should I wait to add things like butter/parm and other flavorings?

Basically I want to make a big pot of risotto Sunday night so I can just get it on the table quickly on subsequent weeknights when I want risotto but don't want to stir a hot pot after a long day at the office.

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First make a ring powerful enough to rule the universe. Next, pull a sword out of a handy ash tree growing thru the floor of your lover's husbands house and use it to kill your lovers husband and cut 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter into small pieces. You first sweat 1/2 cup onion in 2 T butter and 2 T olive oil till they are translucent and sweet, but not browned. Use high enough heat to get some sizzle but do not borwn the butter either.

Heat 3-1/2 cups of broth: veggie, chicken, meat, fish, etc. As the onions are done, raise the heat and add 2 cups Carnaroli rice picked by the Po Virgins {See Wagner's epic the Ring of the Risotti for a full explanation}. Stir the rice so it does not burn and "toast" it in the butter/oil. It will take about as much time for the rice to toast as it takes Furtwangler to lead the Vienna Orchestra theu Ride of Die Valkure, which you should be listening to as you do this.

It will first look oily and "clump together" then it will turn white and seem to be separate grains. Finally it will take on just a hint of color and then you add 1 cup white wine. Keep the heat high until the alcohol boils off then reduce the heat till the liquid just barely bubbles. Stir as necessary so the rice does not stick. When the liquid is almost all absorbed, add a generous half cup of broth and stir. Don't add too much, you do not want the river Rhine to overflow and put out the flames. Stir a couple of more time as the liquid is absorbed. Repeat each time with a little less broth.

With each addition, the liquid will be absorbed and a little creamy starch will extrude. You want to wait to add the next ladle of broth until all the liquid is absorbed and there is just crema left. To mere mortals, the crema appears to be a liquid, but with enough repeated listenings to the Ring, you will be able to distinguish the leitmotif of the crema from that of the broth. Or you could just go and kill a dragon and taste a drop of its blood and you will understand the language not only of the birds, but of the rice.

Taste the rice as you go. it will go from crunchy to soft with a chalky center to soft all the way thru but a little dry to almost creamy. As soon as it reached this point, spread the grains out on a sheet pan in a uniform layer. Do not press them down as they are as delicate as virgins {think Siegfreid who was a virgin until the late third act of the third opera of the ring whn he met his Aunt, but I digress}. Take a wooden {Wotan} spoon and draw diagonal lines in the rice to make channels for better cooling. When cool, gently form into a funeral pyre and burn Valhalla and all the gods with it.

If you get hungry after all this, take a piece of butter and melt in the pan. Add some of the rice and a ladle full of stock. Stir until the risotto is heated thru and the stock is almost completely absorbed. Add a handfull of grana, parmigianno or whatever.

If you want a flavored risotto, heat your flavorings {ie cooked hubbard squash, or a saute of mushrooms or a spoon of Bolognese or a big handfull of small clams etc} befor adding te rice.

I was watching this on You tube last night. Can you tell?

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If you get hungry after all this, take a piece of butter and melt in the pan. Add some of the rice and a ladle full of stock. Stir until the risotto is heated thru and the stock is almost completely absorbed. Add a handfull of grana, parmigianno or whatever.

Covered, how long will the cool risotto stay good for?

Say, for example, if I wanted to take a little Nibelung? :(

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First make a ring powerful enough to rule the universe. Next, pull a sword out of a handy ash tree growing thru the floor of your lover's husbands house and use it to kill your lovers husband and cut 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter into small pieces. You first sweat 1/2 cup onion in 2 T butter and 2 T olive oil till they are translucent and sweet, but not browned. Use high enough heat to get some sizzle but do not borwn the butter either...

Dean, this is now my favorite board post ever. :(

Seriously though, risotto never tastes as good when reheated, but cakes made from cooled risotto are really really tasty. Form into flat cylinders (I use a little ring mold), dust with a little flour, cook in olive oil/butter until crispy. While they brown, whip up a wild mushroom sauce with the demi you have stashed in the freezer. Easy as pie.

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Dean, this is now my favorite board post ever. :(

Seriously though, risotto never tastes as good when reheated, but cakes made from cooled risotto are really really tasty. Form into flat cylinders (I use a little ring mold), dust with a little flour, cook in olive oil/butter until crispy. While they brown, whip up a wild mushroom sauce with the demi you have stashed in the freezer. Easy as pie.

Thanks. I knew someone had more class than Charles.... well, actually, everyone has more class than...

Actually the technique only works if you cool the rice while it is still rice and not yet risotto. Otherwise, it is just, as you said, reheated risotto which is best not spoken of, like my feelings about Mozart opera.

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Joe H, your risotto Gorgonzola dolce recipe popped to the top of 'home cooking' on CH recently, & I'm definitely trying it next week on spring break (if I can find the right cheese, doubt I can get it at the commissary). I took a risotto class w/ Roberto Donna several years ago, it was great, but these days all I manage is a pretty basic shrimp risotto for my daughter.

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It was labelled the "most notorious" of all CH posts ever because of my insistence on following the recipe exactly the first time someone made it. Of the 253 responses perhaps 50 or more said that they would change something when they made it anyway. A few because I had been so insistent. And, I really was inflexible.

I'm not proud of this but I think this might have had a half million or more hits. Many because of my attitude.

Still, it's a great risotto.

From April of 2002: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/288918

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This may be blasphemy, but I have had excellent results in making risotto in my pressure cooker. I didn't believe that the pressure cooker would produce anything decent, or even good, but in actuality it was FANTASTIC.

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This may be blasphemy, but I have had excellent results in making risotto in my pressure cooker. I didn't believe that the pressure cooker would produce anything decent, or even good, but in actuality it was FANTASTIC.

Agree. I've been playing around with this method and have very good results. I love being able to "set it and forget it" while working on other dishes etc.

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He also introduced me to this daffy diva:

I had never heard of Florence Foster - you learn something new every day. I've researched her, and nowhere does it say that she took herself anything but seriously - how can people think she was being serious? I think it's pretty obvious she *can* sing, and was just fooling the public.

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Tur works extremely well. Originally I did a quattro fromaggio. The recipe is actually based on one in Roberto Donna's original cookbook.

Thanks for the suggestions, Joe. I took several of Chef Donna's cooking classes ten years ago and wonder if this recipe was used at the time.

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I saw a demo at Sutton Place gourmet (remember that) by Francesco Ricchi. He did not constantly stir, rather everything in at once with a lid. STill have the handout recipe and it does work.

I saw this method on David Rocco's Cooking Channel show, "Zia Orsola's Spinach Risotto", made by letting the rice cook on it's own for 12 min. or so and then stirring in cooked spinach, ricotta and Parmesan.

Any leftover liquid at the end of cooking, and before the additions, gets poured off.

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We made the risotto recipe for dinner tonight. Very rich and tasty. We used a Tor instead of the gorgonzola dolce.

I would change two items to the recipe.

1> Grind the pistachios or spend a good chuck of time insuring a very fine consistency.

2> There is a part in the recipe which calls for "After 8 or 9 minutes of this add the gorgonzola dolce", I would reduce that time to 2-3 minutes.

Looking forward to trying the leftovers tomorrow.

Again thanks for revised Roberto Donna recipe, Joe!

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For those of you who know and love risotto, our waiter from last week's tasting told me they use Acquerello rice, which apparently is hard to get.

The William Sonoma outlet in Leesburg has the 1yr aged Acquerello. The sticker price is $16.96 which is consistent with what I have seen online, however it rang-up for $6.99.
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A friend received two leeks in her CSA box last week, so on Saturday night, I made a leek and pancetta risotto. But I used Trader Joe's "chunks" of bacon instead of pancetta. It was good, but next time I'll use pancetta. I found the video on cleaning leeks from America's Test Kitchen to be very helpful in getting all the grit out of those leeks.

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A friend received two leeks in her CSA box last week, so on Saturday night, I made a leek and pancetta risotto. But I used Trader Joe's "chunks" of bacon instead of pancetta. It was good, but next time I'll use pancetta. I found the video on cleaning leeks from America's Test Kitchen to be very helpful in getting all the grit out of those leeks.

Christopher Kimball's magazines and tv shows are serious money-making enterprises, and not much is shared for free via the web. I couldn't find the video you refer to, so I don't know what technique for cleaning leeks it illustrates. I must say that some of the instructions for cleaning leeks I've seen are idiotic, though, especially the ones that tell you to chop the leeks and then dump all the chopped bits into a big bowl of water. I hope the ATK video doesn't suggest that approach. The best (or what I would call the correct) method for cleaning leeks is illustrated in

. The trimming and cleaning of the leek begins at about 4:30. I don't actually trim leeks the way Jacques does, but his method for cleaning them is so fast and so easy, I would never do it any other way.
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Risotto is my favorite thing to make for company, since it seems difficult but I actually find it quite simple. I made a batch of corn and pea risotto with seared scallops while vacationing in Sonoma last week, and it was a hit. Good ingredients are key, and also the drinking wine while stirring. :) My only regret is that I didn't have the right supplies for next-day arancini.

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I will confess I have neither Joe's patience for stirring (or tolerance for wine on a school night), or Anna's skill in the kitchen.  I like the idea of risotto, but too many "half raw, half overcooked" experiences have convinced me to leave the entire rice thing to the professionals.

That said, I am a fan of using orzo to create a "mock" risotto-like dish using the same procedure Dean describes above, (without the dragon slaying).  Not quite a pilaf, no where near the nirvana that is real risotto, but still my husband's favorite side dish.

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