Wednesday, September 23, 2009
My Venture into Fusion Cuisine
Have you ever had risotto? It sounds really pretentious but it actually originated as peasant food in Italy. It's nothing but creamy rice. It has the BEST mouth feel when you eat it.
The traditional liquids used for cooking risotto are white wine and chicken stock. It's often made with mushrooms and finished with some fresh parmesan cheese. Traditional risotto is great so, even if you don't try this recipe, give a classic recipe a whirl sometime. While I really like the use of the wine and chicken stock in traditional risotto, I HATE them in this recipe. They are too overwhelming. My goal was to make a dish with the flavor profile of fried rice but with the creaminess of risotto. The first time I tried experimenting with this dish, the wine and chicken stock took over and you couldn't taste anything else. I then made it without the wine and a liquid mixture of half water and half chicken stock. It was OK but still too strongly flavored (to me) for fried rice. For this reason, I prefer using just one can of chicken stock (with enough water to make 6 cups) or ALL water with no chicken stock. I've also made it with ham and I wasn't too fond of it because the risotto just got too salty by the time it was done simmering.
As pictured, I served the risotto in a cool-looking soup bowl I bought at a factory in Chiang Mai, Thailand a few years ago. That particular factory specializes in "celadon" dishes – using a pottery firing technique that originated in China hundreds of years ago. When fired, the pottery looks liked cracked jade but my amateur photography skills were not able to capture that aspect very well. Sorry – I'm still trying to learn how to use a camera. The dishes were dirt cheap but the shipping cost me two arms, one leg, and the first born of my neighbor's-hairdresser's-first wife's-third cousin once removed (the ugly one with mullet who walks pigeon-toed). The dishes arrived in a HUGE crate – about the size of a refrigerator. At one point, I considered trying to cram the dishes into my carry-on. Wouldn't you hate to have a box the size of a Frigidaire in the overhead bin right above your seat? I'd rather have dishes overhead than a "chatty Cathy" next to me. One time, I was seated next to an older woman on an international flight and, as I was belting myself in, I stupidly said "Hi. How are you doing?" – and she spent the next 10 hours telling me. Oy! She had bursitis, phlebitis, tendonitis, tonsillitis – whatever kind of "itis" doctors had come up with, she had 'em all. She didn't have to worry about the plane crashing because it sounded like she was going to be dead in three days anyway.
Whether you're a fried rice lover or a risotto connoisseur, give this recipe a try one time to see if you like it. It's different – but maybe too different for many people. If you're culinarily adventurous, give it a try! Enjoy – and happy stirring!
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Fried Rice Risotto
1/2 lb bacon, cut into pieces
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp grated ginger
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP rice vinegar
5 to 6 cups water (or substitute some of the water with chicken stock)
1/2 cup carrots, cut into a small dice
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 TBSP butter
1/2 cup scallions (white and light green parts), cut into 1/4" thick segments at an angle
1 cup cubed, cooked chicken (from, for example, a roasted chicken)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 TBSP butter
2 eggs, beaten
Bring the water to a boil in a large, covered saucepan. Turn to medium-low when it starts to boil but keep it covered at all times. As noted in the recipe, you can substitute part of the water with chicken stock. In fact, I often add 1 can of chicken stock and add enough water to total about 6 cups. You may not need all 6 cups.
While the water is heating, add the chopped bacon to a large skillet (and I do mean a LARGE skillet) then set the skillet on a burner over medium heat. Starting the bacon from a cold skillet will help to render more fat. Cook the bacon until crispy. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel using a slotted spoon. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Add the onions to the bacon drippings in the skillet. Saute the onion for about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat. Cook the rice without adding any liquid for about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. This helps to give risotto its classic "al dente" bite. Add the garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute longer.
By now, your water should be hot. Add 4 ladles of the water (about 2 cups) to the skillet – enough to cover the rice. Add the soy sauce and rice vinegar and stir to combine. Using a wooden spoon (which helps to keep the rice intact), stir the rice from time-to-time. Do not put a lid on the skillet. The liquid in the rice should be lightly simmering. If it is simmering too briskly, turn down the heat. Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed, which should take 4 to 5 minutes. Add another 2 ladles of the hot water (about 1 cup) and allow it to be absorbed by the rice, stirring every once in a while – another 4 to 5 minutes.
When most of the liquid has been absorbed, add the carrots. Add another cup of the hot water and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed – stirring every so often.
By the time the liquid from the last addition has been absorbed, the rice should have been cooking in water for about 12 to 15 minutes. Add the peas and one last cup of the hot water. It is certainly possible that you may not end up using all of the water – or you may. It depends on your brand of rice, the humidity, how quickly you’re simmering the rice, etc. You should stir the rice more often at this point. After a couple of minutes, I start heating a small skillet for the scrambled eggs. The rice needs to have been cooking in the liquid for a total of about 18 to 20 minutes.
After the water has been absorbed, add 2 tablespoons of butter to the risotto and stir aggressively.
At this point, quickly scramble the eggs by adding 1/2 tablespoon of butter to the small skillet that you've been heating. Add the beaten eggs and scramble until just firm.
Add the cooked eggs, cubed chicken, scallions, and sesame oil to the risotto and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed with salt, soy sauce, and pepper (if desired). The risotto should be nice and creamy. If it is too thick, add a little more water. If it's too soupy, allow it to cook another minute or so before serving. Serve piping hot topped with some of the crispy bacon you fried earlier.
Posted by Cooking Ventures at 6:24 AM