In addition to re-learning how to cook my rice to perfection, I also picked up some tips on cooking grains and polenta–both of which are new comers to my meals in comparison to rice. There was a graded assignment on risotto which always seems to get the best of chefs on TV, and it turns out, it also got the best of this would-be chef. But as per the course, my instructor’s comments were constructive and beneficial.
I chose to make the pancetta, leek, and asparagus risotto. I started by par-boiling my asparagus so that I could add it at the end. I also chose to cook the pancetta to a crisp and add at the same time as the veg for its textural interest. I started warming up the stock at this point as well. I sweated the leeks and thyme in olive oil, added a bit of hot stock to finish the softening process. I then added the risotto and cooked it at a higher heat to slightly toast the grain. I then added the garlic and deglazed the pan with the white wine until syrupy. At that point, it was time to start adding the stock; ladle by ladle. In the end, I added a little over 5 cups of stock so I was glad that I had heated up extra. The process is a bit time consuming, but well worth the results.
I really like risotto, but I am not a bit fan of most cheese. In the past, many restaurants and recipes call for cheese. I am starting to think that they just trying to disguise the fact that they rushed the risotto. I was patient with it, adding one ladle at time, and the risotto came out creamy and rich with no additions of cheese or oil. The leeks added a subtle sweetness and the asparagus provided some color and texture along with the pancetta balancing out the dish with a with a slight saltiness.