17 March 2011

I'm back! I kind of took a winter hiatus from blogging, but spring is slowly creeping in and my taxes are done, so I am anxious to get back to posting recipes. Even though I didn't blog much during the winter, I still made lots of new recipes, so I have a backlog of stuff to blog about. I probably won't get to all of it, but I'll hit the highlights.

Today is St. Patrick's Day. There are two ways you go with dinner on St. Patrick's Day: traditional Irish food or green food. This year I have opted for traditional food. I am making my first ever corned beef and cabbage dish (in the slow cooker). But I inadvertently made a green meal last weekend.

This sweet pea risotto recipe is one I saw in Rachael Ray's magazine a while back and was eager to try, but for some reason I didn't get around to until now. Even though it's a side dish, it's kind of time-consuming and a little bit labor intensive, so you'll have to have a super easy main dish to serve it with. I pan seared salmon fillets.

I didn't change very much about the original recipe. Here's my adaptation.

Sweet Pea Risotto Gratin

2 cups frozen peas, thawed
8 cups chicken broth
3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cups arborio (short grain) rice
2 tbsp butter
1 cup parmesan cheese, divided
¼ cup soft bread crumbs

Puree half of the peas in a food processor and set aside with the whole peas.

In a saucepan, heat the chicken broth and keep warm. Grease a 2-quart casserole and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir well to coat the grains with butter. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth to the rice, lower the heat slightly and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth in ½ cup increments, letting the rice absorb the liquid (about 3 minutes) after each addition, and stirring almost constantly, until the rice is cooked, 20 to 25 minutes. The finished rice will be creamy but still firm to the bite.

A few minutes before the risotto is done, stir in the pureed and whole peas. Turn on the broiler.

Remove the cooked rice from the heat and stir in the butter and ¾ cup of the parmesan. Season with salt, if necessary. Stir the remaining ¼ cup of parmesan and the bread crumbs together. Transfer the risotto to the prepared casserole dish and top with the bread crumb mixture. Place the dish under the broiler about 6 inches from the heat source and broil for about 2 minutes, or until the top is golden. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

The original called for a total of 5 tbsp of butter, 3 for sauteeing the onion. I used olive oil for that instead. I also increased the amount of stock because I ran out, and it can't hurt to have extra (the leftover can be refrigerated and used for something else). The only other thing I changed was that I used fresh soft bread crumbs instead of dry. I just prefer the fresh and I think it gives it better texture.

This is it after the rice is cooked. So pretty!

Into the casserole dish.

I served this with salmon that had been seasoned with Penzey's Fox Point seasoning. It's made with shallots, chives, and green onions, so it has a beautiful green color. I actually didn't choose it for the color; I just thought the flavor would go well with the rice dish.

My favorite thing about making risotto is using the leftovers (I don't ever halve risotto recipes!) to make risotto cakes the next day. If you think making risotto is a lot of work (it really isn't, though), just remember that you get two days of side dishes out of it! Jim actually made these to go with grilled steak the next night. Mmmm! Take a handful of risotto and form it into a patty shape, coat it in breadcrumbs (dry is fine here), and fry in a little bit of oil in a skillet. A lot of times I end up enjoying the cakes more than the original dish.

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