Today I made a risotto. I have always contemplated making this dish as I peruse the grocery aisles and then ‘incorrectly’ remind myself that this dish should only be made by a seasoned chef. Abandoning this superstition that I had created in my own mind, I tossed the Arborio rice box in to my shopping cart. We were going to eat risotto con pancetta e gorgonzola….che buono!!
Cooking Arborio rice requires labor of love and so any desire I had of roasting and boiling carcasses for the stock were sharply dismissed. So, what was my next stop at the grocery store? Correct indeed, it was the organic premade stock section. I like organic chicken stock because the bouillon cubes have a synthetic flavor and exaggerate the taste of chicken not to mention the high sodium content. By contrast, the organic chicken stock cartons have a more subtle flavor and are correctly balanced with minimal salt.
I have an association from my wonderful months spent in Florence of any creamy preparations of pasta and rice with pancetta. Creaminess was definitely on this menu given the blend of gorgonzola and the starch from the Arborio rice and so, the next call to action was: Pancetta. Pancetta is similar to bacon but stronger in flavor. For this dish, the pancetta serves primarily to lace the oil with it’s deep and smoky aroma. And now, for the gorgonzola, I selected this cheese as it is ‘illustrious’ and since risotto has been on a pedestal in my mind for many years, it deserved nothing less. Gorgonzola is an Italian blue cheese and is pungent in flavor when consumed at room temperature, however, when it is cooked in a dish, the flavor mellows and it shows it’s ‘kinder side’, not dominating the dish it is somewhat of an equal participant. Furthermore, I have picked a Dolce gorgonzola which is younger and creamier and can even be spread on a toast in place of butter.
I would like to acknowledge that there will be several moments you will wish to ditch your risotto thinking that it will never soften no matter how much broth you use…believe me, I did. My advice to you is to ‘hang in there’ because, if it worked for me, it will work for you. It will show signs of reaching the desired state about 4 minutes before it is meant to be cooked. For this dish to work, ‘let go’ of your preconceived notions of rice, whether you are accustomed to cooking basmati or jasmine. For risotto, your role is to be calm, collected and fully engaged as you gently pour in the stock ladle by ladle. After 15 minutes of nurture and love, your dish is ready and you can now serve this plated decadence.