Monday, 20 February 2012

meat-free monday: truffles, truth and toast.

So last week I got asked: 
and I figured it's something we should discuss.


Truth is, if the copy doesn't say that this is what's going down around here, or says indeed that I *wish* that I could have some super-amazing dish, I probably haven't cooked it. Other times I'll tell you how I hack it and link to the real recipe (by the way, those canapes were delicious, but way uglier than anticipated), or it will be exactly what I've served up - although sometimes I use the recipe photo in order to inspire you, rather than it served up on my plate with my amateur photography. 

So, in order to be totally transparent, I thought I'd give you an example, and googled the world's most difficult recipe, only to find out it contains turkey. Still, it's an interesting story which you can read here, and maybe attempt to cook it on a Tuesday. 

Trying again, I got to a page on the Guardian entitled 'Difficult Recipes for Masterchefs' and upon browsing those, settled on Giorgio Locatelli's White Truffle Risotto, served at Locanda Locatelli, which is only like my most favourite restaurant in London (when someone else is paying) and since I know Nerdgirl is a fan of both Michelin stars and truffles this seemed *perfect* for both Meat-Free Monday and to illustrate my points...
Here you go then - see you on the other side...

Giorgio Locatelli's White Truffle Risotto 

Serves 4

2½ litres good chicken stock
50g butter
1 onion, chopped very, very finely
400g superfino carnaroli rice
125ml dry white wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper
for the mantecatura:
75g cold butter, cut into small dice
about 100g parmesan, finely grated
a white truffle
1 tsp truffle butter
Some tips: chop the onions as finely as you can (the size of grains of sea salt) - you don't want the onion to be obvious in the finished risotto, and if you have large pieces, they will not cook through properly. Grate the parmesan finely so that it is quickly absorbed.Make sure that your butter is very cold. Cut it into small, even-sized dice before you start cooking, and put it into the fridge until you are ready to use it. That way it won't melt too quickly and it will emulsify rather than split the risotto. Remember, the more rice you cook, the greater the heat it will retain, so it will take less time to cook.To make the soffritto: put the stock into a pan, bring it to the boil and then reduce the heat so that it is barely simmering. Put a heavy-based pan on the heat next to the one containing the hot stock, and put in the butter to melt. The choice of pan for risotto is important, as a heavy base will distribute heat evenly, preventing burning. As the butter is melting, add the onion and cook very slowly for about 5 minutes, so that it softens and becomes translucent, losing the pungent onion flavour, but doesn't brown - otherwise it might add some burnt flavour to the risotto and spoil its appearance with brown flecks.I don't recommend that you add any salt at this point, because the stock that you will shortly be adding will reduce down, concentrating its flavour. You will also be adding some salty parmesan at the end, so it is best to wait until all these flavours have been absorbed and decide at the end whether you need any seasoning or not.For the tostatura ("toasting" the rice), turn up the heat to medium, add the rice and stir, using a wooden spatula, until the grains are well covered in butter and onions, and heated through - again with no colour. It is important to get the grains up to a hot temperature before adding the wine. Add the wine and let it reduce and evaporate, continuing to stir until the wine has virtually disappeared and the mixture is almost dry -that way you will lose any taste of wine.
From this point to the end of the cooking, for this quantity of risotto it should take about 17-18 minutes (a minute or so less if you are doubling the quantity). Start to add the stock a ladleful at a time (each addition should be just enough to cover but not drown the rice), stirring and scraping the base and sides of the pan with your spatula. Let each ladle-full of stock be almost absorbed before adding the next one. The idea is to keep the consistency runny at all times, never letting it dry out, and to keep the rice moving so that it cooks evenly (the base of the pan will obviously be the hottest place, and the grains that are there will cook more quickly than the rest, unless you keep stirring them around).
You will see the rice beginning to swell and become more shiny and translucent as the outer layer gradually releases its starch, beginning to bind the mixture together and make it creamy. Keep the risotto bubbling steadily all the while as you continue the process of adding stock, stirring and letting it absorb, then adding more stock.
After about 15 minutes of doing this, start to test the rice. A word of warning: let it cool before you taste or you will burn your mouth!The rice is ready when it is plump and tender, but the centre of the grain still has a slight firmness to the bite. When you feel you are almost there, reduce the amount of stock you are adding, so that when the rice is ready the consistency is not too runny, but nice and moist, ready to absorb the butter and parmesan at the next stage and loosen up some more.Take the pan off the heat and let the risotto rest for a minute without stirring. For the mantecatura, quickly beat in the cold butter, truffle butter, then beat in the parmesan. The result should be a risotto that is creamy, rich and emulsified. At this point, taste for seasoning and, if you like, add a grind of salt and pepper, then shave over the white truffle. Serve the risotto as quickly as you can, as it will carry on cooking for a few minutes even as you transfer it to your serving bowls (shallow ones are best), and you want to enjoy it while it is at its creamiest.
So, there's an example of what I have absolutely no interest in trying at home. 
And here is what I am having for dinner: 
Only instead of looking like that, it looks like this:
Don't feel too sorry for me, it's the most low-fat recipe on this page!
I hope you find something inspiring, between the bottled pesto and the expensive truffle risotto (now I understand the price at Locanda Locatelli!)

See you tomorrow,
/cx

image credits: locandalocatelli, mycustardpie, suddenlunch, google

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