Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Key To A Successful Easter Dinner

Chef Max, pictured above.
Pretty sure he's going to
be embarrassed that this is the
photo I'm using...
Two Sundays ago, our great friend Max invited us over for his annual Easter Dinner. We've been doing Easter Dinner with Max and company for the last few years, and every year Max finds new and exciting ways to out-do his dinner from the year before. This year was no exception, but luckily he didn't change one of my favorite dishes, his famous risotto, which has been a staple at every one of Max's Easter dinners... WHOA-- RISOTTO!!

After some begging and pouting, I managed to drag the recipe out of him, and am posting it here for all to enjoy! Note: This is not the healthiest recipe for risotto, but it will bowl you over with its deliciousness and is well worth a week's worth of light lunches if you ask me. Go on and live a little. You only get one crack at life!

Max's Famous Ridiculous Risotto:

2 cups of arborio rice
1 cup vermouth
1 – 1 ½ large pinches of saffron
6-8 cups of chicken stock (homemade is best but I often use better than bouillon)
½ - ¾ cup butter (a lot I know)
1 large onion finely diced
3 cloves of garlic finely minced
¾ cups grated parmesan cheese
2-3 heaping teaspoons of unsweetened mascarpone or crème fraiche.
3 cups frozen peas
½ - 1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper

Serves 4-6

1.) 15-30 minutes prior to starting the risotto, place the saffron in the vermouth and make sure it is submerged. It should give off some of its color to the vermouth.

2.) Bring the stock to a light simmer and keep warm. There is no need to simmer it continuously, but it is easier to work with stock just below that temperature. I also find it easier to fully season the stock with salt and pepper, therefore removing the need to season your risotto as you go along. If using store bought or instant stock be careful, as they are often very salty to begin with.

3.) Melt the butter in a large wide heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently while stirring. They should soften and begin to turn translucent, but they should not brown. Add the rice and stir so that the butter fully coats the rice grains. Season with some freshly ground black pepper and salt. Add the vermouth mixture to the rice, and increase the heat to a simmer. If there is not enough liquid you can add a little more vermouth as needed. 

4.) Stir until the rice has just about fully absorbed the liquid. Add in a large ladleful of the hot stock and cook over moderate heat, stirring continuously. When the rice has almost fully absorbed the stock, add another ladleful of stock and continue. Continue in this fashion, stirring throughout, for roughly 20 minutes, although cooking times may vary. 

5.) When the rice is just shy of al dente stir in the frozen peas. You can stop when the rice is al dente, although some prefer a more tender risotto, in which case you can continue to the desired texture.

6.) Remove from heat and stir in a healthy handful or two of parmesan, reserving the rest to add tableside. Mix in the mascarpone or crème fraiche one spoonful at a time, fully mixing it in. Fold through the parsley. Serve and top with parmesan as desired and enjoy.

Straight from the horse's mouth, folks! 

I can promise you, from my own eating experience, that this is an exceptional risotto recipe. The "magic ingredients", what really seems to set it apart from all other risottos, is the soaking of the saffron in vermouth, which opens the saffron up and allows the flavor to more fully penetrate the risotto, and then, of course, adding a couple of heaping spoonfuls of mascarpone at the end to (considerably) up the creamy/fatty content. Normally, I try to ere on the side of healthy when we're cooking at home, but it is well worth it to add the mascarpone, so live a little! Take the plunge! 

Bon appetit! 

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