Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wild Risotto with Fiddleheads

Yesterday, I had jury duty in downtown Boston. I had to be there by 8am, and the new courthouse has no parking lot. Daytime, weekday parking in Boston is the same as it is in any major city: expensive. So, I had to take the T, which was no hassle at all, really. But, it did sort of turn me around a bit, since I'm more used to driving. I definitely got a different picture of my city traveling on the bus and T.

We were given a generous lunch break -- 2 hours. I really don't know the Haymarket area too well, despite the popular farmers' market that populates the area every Saturday (it's not that great -- not necessarily local produce, kind of a rude atmosphere). AND despite the fact that I've been here plenty of times before. I guess I was just so nervous about getting there on time and getting on a case that I wasn't paying enough attention.

I completely spaced out on how close I was to the North End. Yes, THE North End. The oldest neighborhood in Boston. The one with all the Italian restaurants. WAH! Instead of eating THERE, I ended up at some crappy sub joint that served me the worst eggplant parm sub I've every had. Flavorless. Not enough sauce, limp, milky bread that nonetheless cut the roof of my mouth. Bleck. Oh, I could have done SO much better!

When I got home (didn't get picked for a jury, btw), I decided that I needed risotto to make up for my missed Italian opportunity. I recently bought some fiddleheads, so I decided to add them to a basic risotto recipe with some wild mushrooms and other wild/garden herbs for a hearty, wild-crafted version of the Italian fave. I also used short grain sweet brown rice, which I find has great flavor and will get creamy if you make a commitment to stirring. This recipe serves me about 3 times; double it for a family.

Wild Risotto

2 tbs. unsalted butter
1 small onion, diced
4-8 oz. chopped wild mushrooms
4-5 c. simmering turkey stock (or chicken, or veg., etc.)
1 c. short grain brown rice, arborio, or other short grain rice (never long grain)
1/2 c. washed, blanched fiddleheads
1/4 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c. chopped snow pea sprouts
1/4 c. chopped herbs -- go wild with sorrel or "classic Italian" with basil. I used both.
salt and pepper to taste
chive blossoms for garnish

1. Make sure you've washed and blanched the fiddleheads, dunking them in ice-water after a minute of blanching to ensure that they do not over cook by the end of the cooking process.
2. Set the stock to simmer. You can add a bit of water to stretch it out.
3. Melt 1 tbs. of butter in a heavy, large sauce pan.
4. Add onions and mushrooms and cook until they become soft.
5. Add the rice and stir to coat the kernels in butter and juices. This will burn easily if you don't pay attention. Keep the burner on medium. You want the risotto to cook gently -- high enough so that cooking does not stop when you add liquid, but low enough for the rice to break down and release some gluten, which is what makes the dish creamy.
6. Add the wine and stir. Cook for about 3 minutes or until the rice starts to look chalky. If using brown rice, this might take a bit longer (I do a blasphemous thing with brown rice -- I cover the pan for a few minutes, just to speed up this part. Then, I remove the lid and make sure I stir well throughout the rest of the cooking).
7. Add 1 c. of stock at a time, stirring almost continuously, until the stock is almost completely absorbed. You can tell it's ready to add more stock when you drag the spoon across the bottom of the pan and it leaves a "path" that slowly fills back in with the risotto. You'll probably add liquid every 10-20 minutes, depending on how high your burner/patience is.
8. When the stock is nearly finished, add the fiddleheads and stir gently.
9. When the stock has been used up, add the last tablespoon of butter and stir. See how magically creamy it is! Remove from heat.
10. Add your cheese and fresh greens -- the snow peas and herbs. Taste and then add salt and pepper to adjust seasoning.
11. Garnish with chive blossoms!


Simply Life said...

I love risotto- I'm sure this dish is delicious!


Risotto is just so good and a perfect "blank space" for creative cooking. There are so many additions that taste great in it.

Fresh Local and Best said...

I like that you're using fiddleheads in this recipe, it's such a complementary ingredient to mushrooms. This looks like a terrific risotto!