My Creations, Places I like

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Belly of the Beast Part I

    I was in town yesterday running a few errands and I decided to stop in Price Chopper (our depressingly bad supermarket...someone build a whole foods damn it!) to pick up a few things for dinner. Risotto was fresh on my mind from Wednesday's class so I thought I'd make a batch for the family. "Time to go home and be a family man" I suppose...

The best taunt ever made thanks to Street Fighter
     I had no grocery list, no plan really. I just knew I wanted to make a risotto of some kind. In class we just made a basic risotto with onion, and Parmesan cheese so there wasn't a whole lotta flavor going on there. I walked down the produce isle in ghetto-chopper looking for things to incorporate into my risotto and brussel sprouts caught my eye.
Side Note: The price chopper in town in universally accepted as "ghetto-chopper" because its small, and well....ghetto? I don't know how else to describe it other than its a townie thing (drives away, puts town in rearview). Sorry I'm in a particularly quote-friendly mood today, that last one was from "The Town", great flick. Saw it in theaters with my college bros and after quoting that line from the trailer a million times, we all burst out laughing when Ben Affleck delivered one of the most unintentionally funny lines in movie history. No youu ahh!

    Brussel sprouts, right. Ok, so I grabbed some brussel sprouts and thought to myself, what goes well with these, and immediately bacon came to mind. I didn't want to have "bacon" in my risotto so I decided on pork belly instead and drove home with a smile on my face

"Is that pork belly? ohhhh......"
    I'm sitting in a giant comfy chair in the dark with headphones on listening to "meditation music" on spotify to help channel my inner creativity and all I got so far is pictures of Ben Affleck and the joker... (strokes imaginary kung fu beard)
     I started off by dicing the pork belly and sauteeing till crispy in a little bit of clarified butter (well melted butter really, what you think I have all day to melt butter? I'm a hunter and gatherer for chris'sake, I don't stay put for very long. Ask anyone in my family). Instead of roasting the brussel sprouts right after I deglazed the pan with some white wine then added the sprouts to the liquid. In hindsight I should've deglazed after the sprouts were roasted because the sprouts just kinda simmered and didn't get a good color on them. Damn. Still good though. I put the sprouts and pork on a plate lined with paper towel and set aside while I made the risotto.
    I added the risotto rice (Arborio--a short grain rice with high starch content so it can absorb a ton of liquid..well not an actual ton...shut up, you know what I mean) right into the deglazing liquid so all the pork fat, butter, and pan drippings could get absorbed right into the rice. That's how you build flavors. Final product pictures and actual recipe after the jump.

Recipe & Method:
  • 1/2 stick butter; 1/4 melted or clarified, 1/4 left whole
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion
  •  couple strips of pork belly, diced
  • 10-12 brussel sprouts stems/outer leaves removed, halved
  • 1 bottle of white wine; 1C for deglazing, the rest for drinking ;)
  • 2C arborio or similar type of risotto rice
  • 6C chicken or vegetable stock, hot 
  • 1/4C Parmesan cheese, grated 
  • salt, pepper, oregano, thyme or other herbs
    Disclaimer: Before I start rambling off the cooking steps let me first say that this recipe is kind of made up, as in I didn't really measure this stuff out (except the rice and stock) I just eyeballed it mainly because I can. That's what cooks do, we hate measuring if we don't really need to. Example: baking anything.

    Clarify butter by melting butter over medium heat and skimming off the foam that collects on the top. Once the butter fat (what you want) separates from the milk solids and moisture (the parts on bottom you don't want), gently pour or ladle the clarified butter into a small bowl and save or if your a lazy piece of shit like me, just melt butter in a microwave and skim the top (it happens).
    Heat a heavy pot till it gets real hot then add a small amount of CB (clarified butter) then toss in the diced pork belly and saute until nice and crispy. Important things to note here are: make sure there are no milk solids in your CB because it will inevitably burn when crisping the pork. You could also bypass all this and simply use vegetable oil but you want flavor and since your already forgetting about healthy alternatives by using pork belly its best to just say "fuck it" and stick with butter. Once the pork is nice and crispy and the fat has been rendered out, remove the pork and set on a plate lined with paper towel. Add the brussel sprouts flat side down and cook until brown then flip and repeat before removing to paper towel with the pork belly.
    Deglaze the pan with the cup of white wine, scraping the pan with a wooden spatula to remove all the bits from the bottom of the pan (do not throw away, that's flavor damn it!). The deglazed bits are called "fond" if you were wondering (I'll take unneeded culinary terms for 800). Let the wine simmer for a bit to cook out the alcohol and the raw wine taste before adding in the rice. Once the rice is added, stir to coat the rice until it begins to toast a little bit.
    Now here's the most important part because if your going to screw up risotto its likely going to be during this phase of the cooking process. Add the hot stock (should be gently simmering in another pot) a ladle at a time, no more than 1/2C. Once the first batch of stock is added, turn the burner on full blast and let the rice dance. Do not be afraid you will not, or at least should not burn the rice. I mean it, full burner and let the rice dance baby!!
Club Risotto
    There are a lot of tricks and tips on how to tell when the risotto is ready for the next batch of stock such as "run a spatula through it and if the rice holds for a second add more stock" but they're pretty unnecessary if you know what your doing; and you will know what your doing because I'm teaching you. I won't let you fail. Its not for you, its for me, because when you make this dish flawlessly and your friends say "oh my god this is so good where did you learn to make this" I want you to be able to say "Peter Hahm showed me". All you have to do is add a 1/2C of stock at a time and when the rice begins to absorb most of the liquid, just add the next batch. 
    Continue to add the stock a 1/2C or so at a time until almost all of it has been used up. Take a grain of rice out and cut it in half with a knife. If there is a white line showing on the inside that means the rice is not fully cooked yet. Risotto should be cooked al dente just like pasta. Tender but with a little bit of bite, and don't over cook the rice either. When you serve it on a plate it should spread out slowly, not stay there like Mac an Cheese.
    Gather everybody at the table while you finish the risotto because once its done you gotta eat it right away or it will dry out. Plus you get to show off your cooking chops here too, especially if girls are present they love a dude who can cook. Unless you yourself are a girl then its not important to impress the ladies....unless your into that sorta thing? Hey I don't discriminate here....
    Add the pork belly and sprouts back into the risotto along with whole butter and some of the parmesan cheese to yield you a nice and creamy risotto. Taste it, adjust the seasoning if need be, and add a little more stock if the risotto seems a little to dry. Serve, and enjoy, and tell all your friends about this blog (that's the most crucial part).

    I love making risotto because its like riding a bike, once you know how to do it, its pretty simple. Also, its fairly cheap, all you need is rice, stock and any protein vegetable combination you like.The downside is that you basically have to be standing over the stove the entire time babying and nurturing the risotto. Like I said earlier, "I'm a hunter and gatherer" so if your looking for a dish to make where you don't have to be by the stove all that much then forget risotto and bust out the slow cooker.

"The satisfied stay put, its the hungry that move about"
~unknown quote

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