Wednesday, January 23, 2008
the story of baked risotto
I've been brainstorming about what to right about on my blog. One idea I had for a becoming a foodie blog staple is called disasters & recoveries. So here is my first installment of one of my recent food disasters (and a pretty good recovery).
So our friends Jeff and Lisa have become my official food-laboratory rats. They get a free meal, and I get to try a new recipe. Sounds fair, right? Well, sometimes life just isn’t fair, because sometimes Jeff and Lisa have to eat crap.
Here’s the disaster part. This evening started like any other evening where I was cooking for friends. They arrive at the exact time I told them to and I tell them dinner is running a little late: Like an hour or two. Still haven’t gotten that timing thing down. It was a cold day and a cold night (well coldish, Los Angeles cold. Like 55 degrees or something) and I wanted to make something warm and comforting. “Risotto!” I said out loud to an empty room, and I grabbed all of my Donna Hay cookbooks and started searching. Now I’ve made risotto before. I’ve actually made it countless times and it always gets high marks. I think I even know the recipe by heart. So I thought why not challenge myself. It’s always good to try something new. Well food challenges are really something that should be reserved for Food Network, where there is some kind of prize involved.
Baked risotto with pumpkin (butternut squash, they call it pumpkin in Australia) and
Feta. Did you see the “baked” part? That’s the part that drew me in, as well as the part that defeated me. You see, baking it was the challenge, since I had always done risotto on the stovetop. I mean how incredibly talented and amazing would I look pulling a beautiful baked risotto out of the oven and announcing, “dinner is served.” Let’s just say that it never got to the “me looking talented at amazing part.” Instead, 55 minutes into the 40-minute bake time, I still had rice soup with floaty things in it. So I did the only thing I could think of: I transferred it all to a stock pot and cooked it on the stove top. Just like I should have done to begin with. Thankfully, within minutes, the risotto was done. Damn I’m a genius. I looked at Lisa, quite proud of myself, and said, “Well, we really dodged a bullet there, huh?” Yeah, sort of. I forgot to taste it. And when I did, let me just say that there was not enough salt, pepper and cheese in the world to save this dish. I served it anyway, and Jeff and Lisa insisted that it was delicious and even had seconds. I’m quite sure that Lisa was smuggling large amounts of risotto into her napkin and dumping it in the toilet. Andrew, on the other hand, just said he was too sick to taste it (he had a cold), yet he could taste the berry crumble I made for dessert just fine. I spent the entire meal complaining about how bland it was and how sorry I was for subjecting them to it. We finished the meal, ate a pretty good berry crumble (although there were huge pockets of all purpose flour strewn throughout - - fun surprise), and called it a night.
Here’s the recovery part. I woke up the next day still feeling quite ashamed of myself. How could I let this happen? I have to find a way to fix it. And then it came to me; Giada’s recipe for fried risotto balls (well she calls them arancini di riso, but I prefer fried risotto balls). Basically, you take risotto, form it into balls, shove a piece of mozzarella in the middle, coat with breadcrumbs and fry. So I spent the next 30 minutes picking bits of butternut squash (as well as the pine nuts I had thrown in as a last stitch effort to add flavor) out of the leftover risotto disaster, and then constructed my arancini di riso. Needless to say, they were delicious (when in doubt, FRY). I served them to my husband and brother with a nice little salad and tomato sauce for dipping. We ate them all and went to bed happy. Case closed.