I will admit from the outset there are no photos to this post, but I decided to write up my two recent meals with risotto anyway. They both turned out better than I had expected and considering I have a ton of arborio rice that needs using, I need to keep risotto-related thoughts “on rotation” as it were…
Now, I am aware of the fact that improvising a recipe with risotto is not the most impressive culinary feat–but at the same time, that’s what’s great about risotto; it really lends itself to just about anything. I had about a pound of broccoli raab (broccoli rabe?) and had figured on making some pasta-broccoli rabe dish; but then it occurred to me; why not use all that risotto rice I have. I poked around online for a bit and didn’t really find anything but figured out the proportions of broccoli rabe to rice to stock and proceeded. Of course, I started out with some onion and garlic sautéed in butter, added red pepper flakes, and then the broccoli rabe. At first it seemed like my pot was not going to be big enough; I only added half my greens but as greens tend to do, once they wilt, they reduced substantially in size (broccoli rabe not as spectacular a decrease in volume, as it has those broccoli like sprigs, but enough so that I could comfortably stir in the rice). After the carnaroli rice went in, I started adding both the stock and the remaining greens bit by bit, and in the end the proportions worked out well–the rice swelled, the broccoli rabe contracted. I added a good teaspoon or so of salt to finish. I would have added parmesan if any was to be had (extra insurance against the sometimes bland taste of risotto); but the dish was delicious even without! Which surprised me–usually I think everything could do with a little cheese. Here, the savoriness of the butter, stock, and salt, combined with the assertive broccoli rabe, seemed to be enough flavor so that nothing else was necessary.
Delicious or not, we had leftovers and I wasn’t sure what to do with them. I wasn’t too enthused about merely reheating the risotto–I believe there is a saying that “risotto waits for no man” i.e. serve immediately! I did reheat a bit of it the next day but wasn’t really enjoying it. After a few more google searches I settled on trying to make pan-fried risotto patties using egg as a binder. My technique of flipping leaving something to be desired, I ended up with more of a “risotto fried rice” but that aside, for me this was a great success. It was just different enough from the intial meal to feel like something other than leftovers. Where risotto is creamy, this was crunchy. Where risotto’s flavor is perhaps more elegant, this was relaxed.
I’m not always that excited about risotto (as may have already become apparent), sometimes it barely rises above blandness. Other times it’s perfectly fine but has distinctive “first course only” tendencies. Both of these reasons probably are behind the surfeit of arborio rice in my pantry. However the above combinations had enough strong flavors on their own to survive being washed out by the rice’s dominant creamy-starchy character. While I’m sure my original or leftovers would each be fine as a side dish, the original risotto at least could likely stand alone. This is for me, great news, because risotto is a nice alternative to pasta and is relatively quick to make on a weeknight or any night.
Alas, no pictures, but I can tell you that the dark robust green of the broccoli rabe was set off nicely against the carnaroli rice background. Hopefully I’ll make this again soon and can update this post. But for now, on to the recipes.
Broccoli rabe risotto
- 2-3 T butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 lb broccoli rabe, chopped
- 2 cups arborio rice (preferably carnaroli)
- 4 cups chicken or other stock
- salt to taste
Melt the butter in a saucepan and at the same time warm the stock in a separate saucepan at the same level of heat. Saute the onion until it begins to soften; then add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and half the broccoli rabe. Saute until the broccoli rabe wilts down, stirring to speed the process along. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Begin ladling in the stock, waiting until each ladleful is absorbed before the next addition. (For technique on risotto, see Mark Bittman here; constant stirring is not required). At the same time, gradually add the remaining greens and wilt these. The rice will swell as it cooks and the proportion of greens to rice will even out. Keep making additions until the rice is al dente (you may not use all the stock). Add salt to taste and serve immediately.
Risotto fried rice
- 2 c leftover risotto
- 2T butter
- 1 – 2 eggs
Heat the butter in a saute pan. Stir the rice and eggs together until well mixed. Add to the pan and pat the mixture out to cover the whole pan. Let cook for about five minutes, or until the rice begins to brown. Turn (if you can keep it one piece, so much the better; forming smaller patties will make success in this regard more likely) or stir to brown on all/both sides. Sprinkle with salt and serve.