Vegetable Risotto has become our annual Christmas Eve dinner. Since we start the day with breakfast in New York City (usually at Balthazar but this year at Reynard at Williamsburg's Wythe Hotel) and then spend the afternoon walking and shopping and sight seeing and then finish up by snacking on a pizza from Sal & Carmine's on the Upper West Side (which we devour in the car), we don't arrive back in Nyack 'til close to 7. So we like to make something that doesn't require too many hours of prep and cooking.
This dish is based on my mother in law's recipe, and because he grew up eating it, Stephan makes it best. Not only can I not compete with the artful way in which he chops the vegetables and lines them up in neat little piles during the prep phase, nor can I match his mixing skills which always yield a perfectly creamy end result. The best part of the family recipe is the "gulch" of wine that Stephan's father would pour into the center of the risotto before eating it.
If there are any leftovers, the next day’s meal is risotto cakes—neatly compressed discs of risotto, dipped in egg and bread crumbs, sautéed in olive oil and served with salad and a dollop of tomato sauce. You’ll find instructions for preparing those below, as well.
6 Servings, with leftovers for risotto cakes
Ingredients for Risotto
- 1 cup dried mushrooms
- 3/4 cup chopped white onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (Stephan's mom's recipe calls for butter)
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 5-6 stalks of asparagus, cut into 1/2" pieces
- 3 cups Arborio rice (1 cup for leftovers!)
- 1 cup of white wine
- 2 quarts of chicken stock (or vegetable, if preferred), plus more, if needed
- Pinch of saffron
- Salt and freshly ground peppper
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- Red wine for serving
- Soak mushrooms in hot water for 15-30 minutes. Strain, reserving liquid, and chop mushrooms roughly.
- Bring broth to a boil and keep hot.
- Heat oil (or butter, if using) in a large saucepan and add the onions and garlic. Sauté gently for 2-3 minutes; do not brown.
- Add the rice and coat it thoroughly with the onion and garlic mixture, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Pour in the wine and simmer, stirring, until the liquid is absorbed.
- Add a ladleful of the stock at a time to the rice, and continue to stir until the stock has been absorbed. The more you stir, the creamier it becomes. You will continue this process until all of the stock has been used up (for a total cooking time of approximately 30 minutes). But after 15 minutes, add the carrots. Continue to stir and add stock, as needed. After 5 more minutes, add the asparagus. Continue to stir and add stock. After 5 more minutes, add mushrooms and strained liquid from the mushrooms and stir. Add stock, as needed, and continue to stir for five more minutes until the rice is plump and tender.
- When ready, add saffron and cheese, and stir well. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
- If adding "gulch" of wine, make hole in center of risotto and pour an ounce or two into center. Stir into rice and top with cheese and freshly ground pepper.
Ingredients for Risotto Cakes
- Leftover risotto
- Egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Tomato sauce
- Parmesan cheese
- Remove leftover risotto from the fridge. Take a handful of risotto and shape it into 1 1/2” thick wheel, flattening the top and sides. (Stephan will go through the trouble of placing the risotto inside a floured flat measuring cup to make a perfectly symmetrical shape, but I just use my hands.)
- Dip top, bottom and sides of cake in lightly-beaten egg, then cover in bread crumbs. When finished, place cakes on a platter, cover and return to the fridge until ready to sauté.
- Remove risotto from the fridge, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and when hot, sauté them till they have a nice crispy coating (about 5 minutes each side).
- Place on a paper towel to absorb some of the oil and serve immediately with a dollop of your favorite tomato sauce (I use Rao’s), freshly grated Parmesan and a side of salad.