Since I started food blogging, I’ve had a lot of friends offer to be my guinea pigs. And by offer, I mean suggest hopefully that perhaps I need taste testers. I invited a few friends over for dinner on Friday night and decided to make a recipe that I printed out about two years ago and always wanted to try, but never found the time. This NY Times recipe is based on a dish from La Zucca Magica (“the magic pumpkin”), an Italian vegetarian restaurant on the French Riviera. Also on the menu were chicken peperonata (recipe to come soon) and ratatouille with balsamic vinagrette. For the ratatouille, I left off the chickpeas since it was just a side dish, and actually used eggplant. And for dessert, the talented R. made black sticky rice with toasted coconut and fresh mango.
The recipe looks a little complicated at first, but now that I sucked it up and made the risotto, poached the chard, wrapped the risotto and baked the whole thing, I must concede that it was well worth it. This is a great dish for a party – it looks fancy and makes neat little individual servings.
1 c. arborio rice
5 c. chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp butter
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
6 ciliegine (the fresh mozzarella balls about the size of grape tomatoes), or buy a bigger piece and cut it into small chunks.
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
large pinch saffron
salt and pepper
6 chard leaves, rinsed, with hard middle stems removed
1. mix one cup of stock and the rice in a pot, and bring to a simmer. heat 2 more cups of stock, either on the stove or in the microwave.
2. mix the lemon juice and saffron in a small bowl.
3 when the liquid in the pot is just about all absorbed, add a little more and stir.
4. as the liquid is absorbed, keep adding hot stock until the rice is just tender. it took me about 3 cups of stock to get there. remove from heat.
5. add the butter, lemon juice and saffron, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste to the risotto. try to resist the urge to eat the risotto directly out of the pot. let cool slightly, until you can bear to handle the mixture. warning: do not refrigerate to make this go faster.
6. while you’re waiting for the risotto to cool, bring the remaining stock to a boil in another pot. poach the chard leaves for about 30 seconds each. you may have to do them individually – i found that was the easiest way to do it. drain the poached leaves in a colander. reserve the poaching liquid.
7. preheat the oven to 350.
8. wet your hands and form the risotto into six balls about 2-3 inches in diameter. dig a hole in each one and push in a ciliegine, and mold the risotto around it. wrap each ball in a chard leaf. resist the urge to laugh at the number of times the word “ball” is used in this step.
9. place the risotto balls in a close fitting baking dish and pour the leftover poaching liquid over them to reach about 1/2 inch up the sides.
10. bake 20 minutes at 350. serve immediately. try not to swoon.