May 18 – May 24, 2020
Monday: Bacon and Asparagus Frittata with Parmesan Baguette
Tuesday: Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
Wednesday: Hoisin Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Grilled Cabbage and Rice Pilaf
Thursday: Kale Salad with Tuna and Parmesan Crisps
Friday: Dinner with Tim and Hilda: Apps of Radishes and Cucumber with Crème Fraîche and Goose Paté with Baguette and Cornichons/ Skirt Steak with Chimichurri/ Charleston Red Rice/ Corn Salad/ Chocolate Chip Cookies and Klondikes for Dessert
Saturday: Risi e Bisi
Sunday: Arancini from Leftover Risi e Bisi and Antipasti/ Cheeseburgers/ Cole Slaw/ Emily’s Peanut Butter–Chocolate Cups
Rice and peas do not sound exciting but, I can assure you, in the form they will achieve if you follow the recipes below, they are superb, though still not exciting.
Actually, I had planned to write about the dinner we had with Hilda and Tim two Fridays ago, and the reason for it. But I realized that I would then sound like all those men who spend the entire cocktail party in the corner, talking about the golf game they played earlier that day. In fact, SWMBO and I, largely by the example of Hilda and Tim, are becoming dedicated golfers – but I will spare you the details of the super three wood I landed on the sixth green, or the solid six-iron from the plateau above the ninth. Well, I see that I can’t help myself, so if you’d like to discuss any details of my last two rounds or have any tips on how to rein in my errant driver, please feel free to call.
If there is a more roundabout way to settle down to the topic of that humble Italian staple, Risi e bisi, I have yet to find it. But at long last: There we were, with a measuring cup of rice, some previously frozen peas, a hot pan of chicken broth, bacon, a lot of grated parmesan and some butter and we were thinking this will be a nice, comforting, though rather pedestrian dinner. And then, after a bit of work and stirring and watching and finishing with a tricky maneuver of the pot to create what the Italians call the “onde” (wave), we tasted the concoction and there was nothing pedestrian about it. This risotto didn’t walk, it didn’t run, it literally flew, it soared, it reached the height of taste, in spite of its pedestrian ingredients. I was glad we made a lot of it, because it was nearly impossible to stop eating and I dearly wanted some leftovers so that I might try my hand – yet again – at arancini for a starter for the dinner that Billy and Emily were going to join us for the next day.
[By the by, this dish is another reason for you to subscribe to The Great Courses Plus. In addition to great lectures on philosophy, history, art, mathematics and science, they have cooking courses taught by CIA instructors. Their outdoor cooking course, set in the beautiful outdoor kitchen of the CIA in St. Helena, CA is beautiful and fun. The course which featured the Risi e bisi is taught by an instructor from the Hyde Park, New York campus – less exciting, but equally enlightening.]
Look, this Risi e bisi is just short of life-changing – but that role was played by the next day’s arancini. You’ll find recipes for both, below.
Rise e Bisi: Risotto and what to do with the leftovers
(adapted from Sean Kahlenberg’s “Cooking Basics” – The Great Courses)
Just a note on quantities – Kahlenberg’s recipes give all measurements in grams – and rather than futz with exact translations, I used some rules of thumb. Generally speaking, you’re looking for a 3-to-1 ratio of stock to rice in this dish, which is a more liquid version of risotto. But the truth is that you’ll be standing there and stirring most of the time, so that you’ll see whether you need more stock and you’ll know when the risotto is finished. So please take my measurements with a grain of salt, even the salt.
Timing: 15 minutes for the pea purée – 35 minutes for Rise e bisi
(see note above – we winged it, since Kahlenberg’s recipe called for 12 cups of rice and served 16)
This yields enough for 6 – 8. We fed three and used the leftovers to make roughly 16 arancini the next day, and I suggest that you do the same.
For the pea purée:
1 cups of frozen peas, thawed
3-5 Scallions (note: you’ll be using the white part of these in the risotto, the green part in the purée.)
6 tablespoons of butter
For the risotto:
2 cups of rice (we used canaroli – the chef used vialone nano – arborio will work as well, but Uncle Ben’s will not)
1 ¾ cups frozen peas, thawed
¾ cup of parmesan cheese plus more for serving
Chicken stock as needed – 5-7 cups – put 7 in a pan to heat
1/4 lb. of pancetta or peppered bacon (we used the peppered bacon)
Measure out the peas, rice, chicken stock and butter
Cut the onions into sections, reserving the pure white part for the risotto and the dark green upper part for garnish
Cut the white part of the scallion into very thin rounds – set aside in a separate bowl for the risotto
Slice the dark green part thinly on an extreme bias – you’ll use this for garnish
Put the chicken stock in a small pan and heat it – you’ll be adding hot stock to the risotto. If the stock is not hot it will reduce the heat in the risotto and foul up the process.
Cook the Pea Purée:
Melt the butter in a pan slowly. You don’t want the butter to brown. You’ll need to jiggle the pan from time to time to stop the milk solids, which sink to the bottom, from burning. Add the light green parts of the scallions to the pan and toss or use a spoon to coat with the butter. Cook for 30 seconds, jiggling the pan occasionally, and then add the peas and toss or spoon to coat them with the butter. Now you’re going to keep stirring and jiggling as the pan just reaches boiling in the center. It will begin to boil at the edges first and you can use a spoon or spatula to draw the hotter butter into the center. Be patient, when the butter in the center begins to boil turn off the heat.
Now pour the mixture (be careful, it’s hot) into a blender. Start on low and move the speed by stages to the purée setting. When smoothly puréed, scrape into a bowl to cool.
NOTE: You’ll probably have more of this than you’ll need for the recipe. It is wonderful for a quick bruschetta or a sauce for pasta.
Cook the Risi e Bisi:
Bring the chicken stock to a boil, reduce heat a bit and keep warm.
Put a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil into a saucepan large enough to cook the pancetta. Heat the pan over medium-low and then add the bacon and turn the heat up to medium. When the bacon begins to sizzle turn the heat down – the objective is to render the fat out of the bacon but not to crisp or overcook it.
Move the bacon around from time to time and, when it is lightly cooked and the fat has rendered remove it with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Leave as much of the fat in the pan as possible. Kahlenberg’s method for doing that is to tilt the pan forward (off the heat) and spoon the bacon or pancetta up to the dry side and then remove.
Now put the pan back on the heat and add the white part of the scallions and cook until translucent, this shouldn’t take even a minute. Again – you don’t want to burn the scallions.
Now add the rice and toss or use a spatula or spoon to coat with the rice. Raise the heat a bit and cook the rice until it’s hot enough to hurt your fingers when you pick up a piece.
Add enough of the stock to cover the rice and use a spatula to make sure none of the rice is stuck to the pan.
Now add enough stock to cover the rice and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer, add a bit of salt and pepper and simmer for 22 minutes. Check after 10 minutes and add more stock, if needed, to just submerge the rice – check a few times more and adjust stock, if needed.
At about the 18 minute mark, add the peas, the bacon and a bit more salt and pepper. Add the pea purée and the parmesan cheese and give this mixture a gentle stir, making sure that nothing has stuck to the bottom of the pan. And then, for the last 2 minutes or so, grab the pan and use the tossing motion you would use in a sauté pan to slide the mixture forward (away from you) and to jerk it back so that it falls back over itself. IF YOU HAVE NOT MASTERED THIS TECHNIQUE, JUST CONTINUE TO STIR GENTLY. The object is to release the starches from the rice without breaking the rice – hence to toss or “onde” or the gentle stir. You’re looking for a creamy consistency.
Serve on individual plates, knocking the bottom of the plate to spread the risotto out. Garnish with more parmesan and the dark green of the scallions. Your diners will be too busy eating to thank you.
Now, if you’re lucky, you’ll have leftover Risi e bisi. Spread this out on a parchment paper lined sheet pan and refrigerate overnight so that you can make
Timing: 35 minutes
Serves as many as leftovers will allow – 2 arancini per person for an appetizer is plenty
Leftover, chilled Rise e bisi
Canola or other vegetable oil
Fresh mozzarella cut into small cubes (we had only shredded mozzarella and it worked just as well, but was more difficult to insert into the rice balls)
Coarse sea salt (Maldon would be perfect)
Pour enough oil into a saucepan to come 2” up the sides – if you use a small pan, you can save on the oil.
Using a small scooper or your moistened fingers, make rice balls about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Poke a finger into each one and insert a cube of mozzarella, then close the rice over the mozzarella and take enough time to roll into a reasonable sphere.
Fill a bowl with seasoned flour (salt and pepper), then another bowl with fine bread crumbs (whiz some panko in your blender to make it really fine), then another bowl with egg wash – one or more eggs beaten with a bit of salt.
Roll each rice ball in the flour and tap off the excess, then dip in the egg wash and let the excess drip off, and then in the bread crumbs and coat well.
Place the coated balls in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Cook the Arancini:
If you have a candy thermometer, use it to bring the oil in the pot to 350 F. If not, wait till you see lively movement in the oil. Now gently place the rice balls in the hot oil (don’t crowd – you’ll get 3 or 4 in a small pot) and cook for about 3 minutes – turning them, occasionally with a spoon until they are a dark, golden brown. Remove them with a slotted spoon to a wire rack, to let the oil drip off, and sprinkle them with salt while they’re still hot.
These babies are so good I’m thinking of selling them. Let me know when you want to drop by and pick some up. Oh – your cost will be a mere $20.00 per arancini.