By Sarah Lagrotteria
It’s hot. When I went to meet Lydia at Suzanne Goin’s new Tavern (more on that amazing meal later!) at 8 last night, my car thermometer read 91 degrees! So, it was with some sadness that I prepared my favorite spring risotto–fresh pea and mint– for what will be the last time this year. I got a bit of an aromatherapy facial as I stirred (and stirred) the steaming pot. What I love about making risotto (and pasta too) is how the fresh ingredients intensify upon hitting the hot starch. In this case, the smell of the mint as it warmed to the rice was fresh and mildly spicy, followed by the rich scent of melting parmigiano-reggiano. It’s like crushing anew on old friends.
I used Carnaroli rice in lieu of the more common Arborio variety and the difference is really noticeable. You can tell from the picture-the risotto is luscious but more textured than normal, as the Carnaroli is starchier and holds more of its shape than the Arborio. I’m going to use it next time with my summertime risotto ingredients of choice.
Risotto with spring peas and fresh mint
2 tablespoons butter and/or olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli)
7 cups chicken stock, held at a simmer
2 cups freshly shelled peas (can substitute frozen)
1/2 cup fresh mint, cut into chiffonade
Parmigiano-reggiano for shaving
1. Melt the butter and/or oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Add the rice, stirring, until the edges of the rice being to look translucent. Add the wine, stirring until the wine is absorbed. Add the hot stock, one ladle at a time, sitting continuously until each ladle is absorbed before adding the next.
3. Taste the risotto when about half the broth is gone. The outside of the grains should be tender but the insides still hard. Stir in the fresh peas and continue adding the broth ladle by ladle until the stock is completely absorbed, the peas are cooked, and the risotto is creamy but retains a bit of a bite. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Stir in half the mint. Plate the risotto in a large serving bowl and top with a generous dusting of grated Parmigiano-reggiano. Serve with the remaining mint and the cheese for grating on the side.
Note: I love to serve this with broiled prawns. Just preheat the broiler, toss the peeled and de-veined prawns with olive oil, salt and pepper and broil for 2 minutes on each side. Add a squirt of fresh lemon juice and serve on top of the risotto.
Yield: serves 8