Risotto is great – it’s not an easy dish but after having tried for a few times you will get the hang of it. It’s one of those fundamental dishes that you can do over and over again, combining the basic risotto with many ingredients. We started with the classic – mushroom risotto – and once we had that down, began experimenting successfully. So when fresh corn started showing up in the veggie and organic stores, we decided to make corn risotto – with asparagus, tomatoes, Parmesan and mozzarella.
Preparing the dish will probably take you about an hour. Not exactly a quick dish, but trust me, you will love it! The ingredients complement each other really well: bitter asparagus and sweet corn; acidic tomato sauce and creamy Parmesan and mozzarella. And the al dente risotto rice ties it together perfectly and gives the dish great texture! Read on how to make it!
You will need the following ingredients:
• 2 cups of risotto rice
• Shallots and garlic
• 2 fresh cobs of corn
• Vegetable stock
• Tomato puree (“passata”)
• Tomato triple concentrate
• Buffalo mozzarella
• Small, green asparagus
Feduzzi – the “Mercato Italiano” on Scheldestraat that I go to and write about a lot – is a great place to get most of the ingredients such as the risotto rice, cheese and tomato sauce. You can find the rest at your local veggie store or the Turkish store on the corner.
I prepare the risotto in three steps. First start the risotto rice. Then prepare the vegetables while the risotto is boiling. And finally mix it all up.
1. First bring the chicken stock to boil. You will need between one and one and a half liters. The stock needs to be hot when you add it to the fried risotto rice.
Now start the risotto by frying the risotto rice in a pan. I use half butter and half olive oil. Add the risotto rice when the oil is moderately hot and leave the flame on high until rice and oil start bubbling.
Stir in the garlic and shallots – finely chopped – and when the whole thing starts bubbling again, reduce the heat and cover with a lid. Keep simmering for about five minutes or until the rice grains turn translucent – stir occasionally.
Make sure you fry the rice long enough – when I started making risotto I would fry the rice quite briefly and often have problems. Frying for as long as five minutes seemed counter-intuitive until I tried it. It works!
When the rice is translucent, turn the flame up to high again. You want the butter and oil to reach maximum temperature when you start adding the stock. Now start adding the stock – ladle by ladle, keeping the temperature as high as possible. After you have added about three ladles individually, you can start adding two or three at a time to give you time to prepare the other ingredients on the side.
2. It’s time to prepare the other ingredients while the risotto is boiling. Don’t forget to keep adding chicken stock whenever the liquid level in the pan is low.
Cut the asparagus into bite sized pieces and fry them in a pan for 5 to 10 minutes. You need to fry them long enough for them to be tender and lose their bitterness – but not too long to let them keep their bite. Take them off the fire and set them aside.
Then boil the cobs of corn by putting them into boiling water and letting them boil at high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes. Rinse with cold water and cut the grains off with a sharp knife.
3. The risotto should be almost done. Taste frequently when adding stock to make sure you do not overcook the risotto rice – risotto should be served al dente. We will now add the remaining ingredients – first the tomato sauce, then the corn and asparagus and finally the Parmesan and mozzarella. We will stir them in at low heat.
In this case, I am using tomato puree and concentrate instead of fresh tomatoes. It’s sad but true – the quality of tomatoes in Amsterdam is incredibly low. I have tried many stores – from the veggie specialist to the organic market and on to the Turkish store on the corner – but I never get anything that has enough flavor or even remotely reminds me of the aromatic tomatoes you can pick up everywhere in Italy or Spain. As a nice side effect, using tomato puree and concentrate saves the time usually needed for tomato sauce.
Next stir in the corn and the asparagus. We are almost done – the last ingredients to add are the Parmesan and the mozzarella that will give our risotto a lovely consistency and pungent, cheesy flavor.
Get good Parmesan – this is one of the ingredients that will make a break this (and many other) dish. Go out of your way to get the best quality. Again, I highly recommend Feduzzi. And get buffalo mozzarella – it has a distinctly different and much stronger flavor than regular mozzarella and will give this dish and extra pungent note.
Grate the Parmesan and cut the buffalo mozzarella into small chunks. Stir into the risotto.