June 12, 2008

White Trash Risotto

I jest, I jest. There's nothing at all trashy about this risotto, especially not how deliciously comforting it is. It's just that, well, upon seeing the original recipe, more enticingly named "Cheddar Cheese Risotto" in Nigella Express, I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like with a few sliced up smokies in it. I think it's the use of Cheddar cheese, which is often added so haphazardly to a variety of dishes without necessarily any cultural compatibility that makes me think of it this way. Isn't that fusion, though? Perhaps it is the common-place nature of the default Cheese of Choice in North America, placed against the exquisite, attention-demanding princess of Italian cuisine, the risotto. The neon-orange of the annatto colouring is often the harbinger of ill-considered, underwhelming cooking. I won't torture you with a scalloped potato recipe I was once encountered, which involved not just Cheddar as the preeminent ingredient, but a in the form of a canned, condensed Cheddar cheese soup.

Still, I have nothing but respect for Cheddar. I tend to keep a rather well-stocked cheese shelf, and Cheddar always has a place there, and a place in my heart. This is an enormously comforting dish, friendly and accessible to even the fussiest children, I would think, who might enjoy a new name, though...Picky Picky Princess Cheesy Rice?

Here's the recipe:

Cheddar Cheese Risotto

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
2 baby leeks or fat spring onions
300 grams risotto rice (such as arborio)
125 ml white wine (I used white vermouth)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 litre hot vegetable stock
125 grams cheddar cheese, chopped (I grated mine)
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Melt the butter and sautee the leeks until softened. Add the rice and stir around for a minute or so, then add the wine and mustard. Stir until the liquid is absorbed. Begin adding the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring after each addition until the liquid has been absorbed. When the rice is just tender (about 18 - 25 minutes, depending on heat), turn off the heat and add the cheese, stirring until it melts. Garnish with chives.

I've paraphrased the directions here, but they are pretty much the same as any standard risotto. For my part, I also seared three beef smokies and then sliced them quickly, stirring into the risotto right at the end. I used spring onions, but leeks would be better. Better still, a couple of shallots, but that does step away a little from the very ordinary nature of the dish. I'd say, use them if you have them, but otherwise, use whatever oniony goodness you desire.

If it were really a white trash risotto, I expect there would be some form of crumbled potato chip on top, and it probably be made with processed cheese, and cheap beer instead of wine. Ketchup, anyone?

I may joke about this dish, but it was absolutely delicious. We served it with broccoli, to give it a little vegetable consequence, but you could easily gussy it up to your own taste. Do give this a try, whether you have picky children or not. Nigella correctly places this in her chapter entitled "Instant Calmer" and it certainly does the trick.


Anonymous said...

I go on a search to see if my idea for a white trash risotto & find this epic post! Not sure if you have had the chance to try it with beer & American cheese yet, but that's my plan when I get around to this experiment. Not sure when your epiphany came, but as I found myself pulling top shelf ingredients for my first attempt (and nailed it BTW) I thought the inverse would be entertaining to try.

I'm not sure what the budget version of a shallot or leek would be... Maybe a red or brown onion? Onion + garlic powder in some margarine to start off the rice? As you can tell I've definitely given this thought! Haha

Dawna said...

I'm worried that the shallot substitution would be onion rings - the kind from a can. Yes? No? Let me know how it goes!