This is another recipe from that Sunset magazine article on greens mentioned earlier. This one is from chef Elise Wiggins from Panzano in Denver. I love making risotto, but it can be tricky to get it right. I think it was Julia Child who said that simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy and that’s true of risotto. It’s a fairly simple dish with not many ingredients, but it’s not necessarily an easy one to make. My first attempts were not stellar, but there are a few things I’ve learned that I think have helped. One is that you need to use good ingredients. Since its base is just rice and stock, I think you need to be sure and use well-flavored stock. Personally, I don’t bother to make risotto unless I have my own stock on hand, but I know not everyone feels that way, so be sure you use quality stock if you’re buying it. Another thing about risotto that I think adds flavor is to be let the onions caramelize. I always let them cook on medium low heat for at least 15 minutes before I go on to make the rice. And remember that risotto takes tending. You need to stand there and stir, stir, stir. This is not a dish you can walk away from, so have everything ready before you start. I like to prep everything I’m adding while the onions cook. One more tip I just learned from one of my Italian cookbooks is that you want to let it rest, covered, for 5 minutes or so before you serve. This gives all the flavors time to meld and helps the risotto get a nice consistency. All that said, this recipe is a good one to start making risotto with. It has a nice variety of textures and flavors that made my husband say it was the best risotto I’d ever made. High praise indeed.
1 hour to make
3 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 small bunch (6 oz) Tuscan kale, stems and coarse ribs removed
3 oz diced pancetta or thinly sliced speck cut crosswise into 1/2″ wide ribbons
2 cups Canaroli or Arborio rice
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 cup white wine
6-8 cups chicken stock, heated until steaming
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup chopped oil-packed dried tomatoes
2 tbsp butter, cut into chunks
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix 1-2 tbsp of olive oil, the garlic and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Add kale and toss to coat well. Spread on a baking sheet and place in oven. Cook about 5 minutes and check-you want it to be lightly streaked with brown and crispy. Stir and return to oven to finish crisping if needed. When done, tear or slice into ribbons about 1/2″ wide and 3-4″ long.
-Brown pancetta in a large Dutch oven or similar pan over medium heat, about 4 minutes (if using speck, don’t cook). With a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels. Add enough oil to pan to make about 2 tbsp.
-Add onions to pan and cook on medium-low to low about 15 minutes, until translucent and just beginning to color. Turn heat to medium and add rice. Stir constantly to coat and cook 1-2 minutes, until the edges of rice look translucent. Add wine, 1 tsp salt and cook, stirring constantly until mostly evaporated. Then add a ladelful of stock and cook, stirring constantly until mostly evaporated. Repeat process of adding stock and stirring until rice begins to look creamy-15-18 minutes. Taste for doneness. Rice should be soft with a little firmness when done, not crunchy.
When desired doneness is reached, turn off heat, cover and let stand for 2-3 minutes.
-Loosely fold in pancetta, marscarpone, walnuts, butter and tomatoes. Fold in most of kale, reserving some for topping each serving or put in serving dish and top with remaining kale. Serve immediately.