Monday, September 20, 2010

Fall dinner

As I'm stirring, Paul asks, "Aren't you sick of risotto?"

Stirring the risotto
"I don't think that's possible," I reply. We're making dinner. He is responsible for grilling the pork chops. I am making pumpkin risotto with smoked paprika and a side of sauteed zucchini.

I was driving home from work tonight, thinking about what to do for dinner (I swear that I do most of my best cooking while I'm in the car).
I knew I didn't have time to make pumpkin ravioli with Romesco sauce, which I have been craving. It will have to wait until the weekend. However, I really wanted to do something with the pumpkin from the farm share. I had baked, scraped and mashed it on Saturday.

While I was driving, I was thinking about the amazing dinner we had last night at Venus and the Cellar Bar, in our hometown of Easthampton, MA (I promise to write about it soon). I was re-living the quinoa risotto that I had savored, then I thought about the pumpkin puree in the fridge and thought, "Hmmm, that would work really well in risotto and would pair nicely with those chops."

For me, the act of making risotto is almost as wonderful as the eating of it. You saute minced onions in olive oil until they are translucent, then you add the arborio rice (one of the most versatile and luscious ingredients imaginable) and cook and stir until it glistens, then you slowly add the liquid - first some white wine, then some chicken stock and pumpkin puree - just a little at a time and keep stirring until it's incorporated, then you add some more - until it's absorbed about 3 cups of liquid per one cup of rice. Then, you finish it with at least a tablespoon of butter, a little coarse salt and some freshly cracked pepper.

The beauty of arborio rice is that it can handle being combined with an array of flavors. It takes them on and makes a subtle, complex dish. Tonight I made pumpkin risotto, seasoned with smoked paprika, cumin, allspice and a little cocoa powder. Another night, I might use soaking liquid from wild mushrooms, along with white wine and chicken stock and season it with sage. I've made scallop and saffron risotto and risotto with Parmesan, prosciutto and peas. I've had an incredible dish of risotto flavored with white truffle - subtle and spectacular. The rice itself lends itself to any number of combinations, becoming creamy and absorbing the flavors. It's really remarkable. Mostly what it takes to make a good risotto is patience.
Plate and present...

So, for our dinner tonight, Paul grilled the pork chops to perfection while I stirred the the risotto. I piled the rice on our plates and topped each with a chop. We ate the zucchini out of a communal bowl between us. And there it was, dinner.

P.S. Thanks to our friends, Lauren and Aidan, who invited our kids over for an impromptu dinner play date tonight. We owe you one.

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