1.07.2011

italian at heart

I swear, I was born Italian. My mom may be a red-headed firecracker but I have to have Italian blood in me. They tell me I'm Austrian and French but I'm not buying it. I LIVE for pasta, pizza and risotto. In college, I decided to study abroad based on food, not classes. Naturally, I chose Rome.



I decided my 3+ months in Rome would involve what I called an EATaly tour. We had Fridays off from class and every weekend I would take a trip to a different part of the country to, yep, you guessed it, try the food! I went to Genoa for pesto, Turino for chocolate, Bologna for Tortellini, Sicily for cannoli, Napoli for pizza, Tuscany for meat and paste e fagioli, and Siena for ricciarelli (the most amazing cookie). I discovered so many amazing dishes in addition to the Italian classics just mentioned. A lot of my posts will probably be some form of Italian or Italian inspired dish and this one is no exception.

My first weekend trip was to Florence with one of my best friends from high school. She had some friends from college studying there and we decided to take a cooking class from the University they were at. We made so many amazing things, one of which was risotto. I of course lost the recipes in my travels but I did learn the tricks to making a perfect risotto. We made two kinds that night, pumpkin and sausage + saffron. This is my version of the sausage + saffron with a few tweaks of course.

There's something so medicinal about making risotto. Many would say it's too tedious, who want's to stand over the stove for 45 minutes stirring away? I DO! For me, its like meditation. A slow, calming wave comes over my body as I stir, over and over. The steam rising, acting as my aromatherapy. It's pure bliss. It's a 45 minute break from reality and the stress of my day slowly melts away as the flavors melt into the rice. I hope you enjoy, this is one of my fav's!

Sausage, Saffron + Pea Risotto


ingredients:
1 clove garlic
1 shallot
1 c. arborio risotto
1 34 oz box of good quality chicken stock (I like Kitchen Basics)
2 mild italian sausage links
¼ c. white wine (I like Kendall Jackson Chardonnay)
1 healthy pinch of saffron
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
½ c. parmesan cheese
½ c. frozen peas

4 servings (I find it feeds 2-3 good eaters perfectly)

In a medium sauce pan, place all the chicken stock and set burner to medium low. Dice shallot and place in a deep medium sized skillet or sauce pan and saute with olive oil for 2 minutes. Remove casing from the sausage links and add to pan. Peel garlic and give it a whack and place smashed clove (do not chop) in pan with sausage and shallots. Once sausage is browned, add arborio rice and brown for 1-2 minutes. This gives the rice a great flavor and is an important step in the risotto making process!

Next add wine and saffron to the pan, give it a good stir. Then slowly, 1-2 ladles full at a time, add the warmed chicken stock to the rice mixture, just enough to cover the top of the rice. This is the part I love aka the laborious part of making risotto but I promise it's worth it! Constantly stir the rice and continue to add chicken stock as its absorbed by the rice. You'll start to notice that the rice expands. You want to cook arborio al dente so be sure not to add too much liquid. You can always add more, but you can't take liquid out. Not sure if your rice is done? Take a spoon and try a few grains. You want it to be firm but chewy, not hard and not mushy. When the rice is done, stir in peas, butter, and ¼ c. parmesan cheese. Place in bowls and top with remaining cheese. Buon appetito!

improv style:
Don't have shallots? Use an onion instead. Not a fan of peas? Leave them out! Not a big sausage fan? Try crisping up some prosciutto in the oven and crumbling it on top instead. The one thing I will say is DO NOT use spicy Italian sausage. I did this once and the spice overpowers the delicate flavors of the saffron. Otherwise, go nuts!

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