Friday, November 1, 2013
Black Truffle Risotto: The ultimate souvenir
The second time I met my future sister-in-law, I made her go car shopping with me.
She was in town visiting from Phoenix with my brother, and what was supposed to be a special occasion for family-bonding and copious wine-drinking, quickly turned into a weekend of test drives and me having a nervous breakdown over whether I should get a Toyota Corolla, a Hyundai Elantra or nothing at all.
While everyone in my family (my mother included) quickly tired of my indecisiveness, she remained firmly on my side, never once arching an eyebrow even when I hijacked a trip to the mall so we could check out one last car dealership before dinner.
There was a moment in the midst of that final test drive when I looked in the rear view mirror at her in the back seat and realized that she wasn't just some girl my brother was dating. Nor was she someone I could imagine floating in and out of our lives at the slightest provocation, breeze or a potential sister-in-law's nervous breakdown.
She was family.
Either that or someone who really really likes shopping for cars.
Recently, she, my brother, and my parents took a trip to Italy together. I had originally hoped to join them for what I knew would be an eating and drinking extravaganza, but instead opted for an eating and drinking extravaganza in New York with my girl friends.
Even though I was happy with my decision (and grateful that I wouldn't have to share a hotel room with my parents), it was difficult for me to see the pictures on Facebook and Instagram of them truffle-hunting in Alba, sipping wine at the La Spinetta vineyards in Piedmont and touring the Colosseum. I wanted to be there with them gorging on Neapolitan pizza, al dente pasta and, in the words of my mother, "too many wine tastings."
So when my brother sent me a text message revealing that he'd smuggled me back a black truffle, I was thrilled that they'd thought of me in the midst of all their Barbera-slurping. Particularly since it meant I would get to enjoy a small taste of Italy in my shoebox West Hollywood apartment.
Yet, as fun as it was to shower a bowl of risotto with an indecent amount of black truffle shavings, it didn't compare to the other souvenir he brought back from Italy for me.
A future sister-in-law.
Someone who I know will always be on my side. Or, at the very least, always go car shopping with me.
[Congratulations, Richard and Taylor!]
Notes: This is a simple risotto - the barest bones of risottos, really, but also the perfect canvas for an ingredient like fresh truffles. The key here is patience, an attentive eye, and, the best ingredients you can find. It's a labor of love, but worth every flick of the wrist. This is comfort food at its finest and most luxurious.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2/3 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (a crisp Sauvignon Blanc is preferred)
4 cups of chicken stock (or 4 cups water combined with 1 tablespoon Better than Bouillon chicken base)
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmigiano Reggiano)
An indecent amount of black truffle shavings
In a large saucepan, combine white wine and chicken stock. Bring to a slow boil, then reduce heat and cover to keep warm. (You may not need all of it, but I prefer to error on the side of generosity.)
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in deep non-stick pan, preferably cast iron as it will cook the rice more evenly. Once hot, add the shallots, reduce heat to medium and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the rice kernels (no need to rinse first), and sauté with the onion for a couple minutes. Lower the heat, add a spoonful of the wine/broth mixture to deglaze the pan, and then add an additional 1/2 cup of the liquid. Simmer, uncovered, until the broth is absorbed, and then add another 1/2 cup, stirring frequently to ensure even cooking.
Continue process until rice is creamy and tender, but still has a slight chew left to it, as it will continue to cook after you serve it. Moving quickly, stir in the freshly grated pecorino, then plate immediately, letting it bleed out across the plate (or, if using, base of a flat bowl). Sprinkle with black truffle shavings. Buon appetito!