Happy September! Is it fall yet? We’re headed back to school on Tuesday, and I’m always so confused and conflicted at this time of year. It’s totally still summer, but it’s totally fall too, and it feels like neither. As I told Cope last night, I feel a little (a lot?) like I’m losing my mind — I even missed two appointments the other day — and it’s purely because we haven’t had a regular schedule for a few weeks. Way to roll with things, Umami Girl. That’s great.
Maybe that’s why I’m cooking comfort food for Labor Day weekend. Grills be damned. I’m making saffron risotto. I love this recipe, partly because it’s super-delicious and partly because I think it represents the essence of my cooking style pretty well. I basically start with every intention of hewing to a traditional recipe — in this case Risotto Milanese — and then am like, okay but let’s throw in some peas and goat cheese, because more is more! And something new is born in our kitchen that makes us very happy, but with a little cognitive dissonance about the likelihood that Lidia Bastianich and Mario Batali may be off in a corner somewhere weeping and/or conspiring to murder me.
I hear you’re supposed to have an elevator pitch for your blog and the cooking style it represents. I’m having a little trouble fine-tuning mine, can you tell?
Okay, I’ll leave you to ponder that for today. (And for the love of god, please send me an email if you have a couple of sentences that you think describe Umami Girl without reference to felonies.) I’m off to perpetuate the seasonal confusion by cooking a lobster for lobster rolls, heading to the beach, and then finishing up some back-to-school errands. Makes sense to me!
Talk to you soon.
Saffron Risotto with Peas and Fresh Goat Cheese
This brightly colored risotto is always a big hit. Crumbling in the saffron as the risotto cooks rather than steeping it ahead of time is a little unconventional, so if you like you can steep the threads in a little bit of the broth for 30 minutes or so before adding. To be honest I don't find it makes a bit of difference. In fact, please apply this attitude toward your risotto cooking in general. Risotto has a bit of a reputation as challenging to cook, and it shouldn't. The keys are just to stir frequently to release the starch from the rice (you don't need to obsess about stirring constantly) and to quit while you're ahead.
- 3 tablespooons good butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads (a good hearty pinch)
- 5 cups good vegetable broth (I still love this one)
- 10 ounces small frozen peas
- 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Extra-virgin olive oil for finishing
In a large pan with a heavy bottom, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion along with a good pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to soften, about five minutes. Stir in the rice and cook, still stirring frequently, for two minutes.
Add the wine and cook, stirring almost constantly, until nearly absorbed. Lower heat to medium if necessary to prevent any hint of burning. Then begin adding the broth by the cupful (or so), stirring frequently throughout. With the first addition, crumble in the saffron threads. Continue adding broth as the rice absorbs it. Add a big sprinkle of salt if your broth isn't salty. Stir in the peas with the last addition. Risotto is finished cooking when each grain of rice is tender but still has a nice hint of chewy bite, and there's a little bit of delicious starchy broth remaining. (Keep in mind that the broth will thicken as you add the cheeses and let the risotto rest for a few minutes after cooking.)
Off the heat, stir in the cheeses. Let the risotto rest for about five minutes. Then drizzle with a little olive oil if you like and serve.
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