I seem to be haunted by visions of Venice these days. Over Thanksgiving break I attended a Venetian dinner where our hosts focused on dishes from 15th and 16th century Venice and one of the dishes that most surprised and impressed me was a risotto made with Radicchio. The grains of rice took on the slightly reddish hue from the sauteed chiffonade of radicchio and lent a hearty, nutty taste. I didn’t know that it was the Venetians who began to cultivate this vegetable around the 15th century. Lucky for me, it’s a chicory and thrives in cold weather and I can grow it in my North Fork garden.
Just a week before that I was in London and had a brief chance to pop into a special exhibit at the National Galleryon Canaletto and the Vedute painters. I spent over an hour studying the beautiful scenes of the canals and piazzas of Venice displaying the global economy that was centered there at that time. Canaletto’s paintings included characters from all parts of Africa, the Middle East, Spain, the far east and fellow Italians in markets trading, negotiating and mingling. Then interestingly enough I found myself at the movies seeing Angelina Jolie’s new movie, The Touristand there was Venice on the big screen. Piazza San Marco, Ponte di Rialto, Hotel Giorgione and all the sites of Venice that left me longing for this city.
But instead of Venice, I find myself during the cold of winter in the Northeast cutting my last heads of radicchio (perennial by the way) from my small garden and thought I would make a risotto of radicchio and dream of Venice.
Risotto al Radicchio
5 cups of stock (chicken or veg)
1/2 cup of minced shallots
1 1/2 cups of arborio rice
1/2 cup of Prosecco/what you are drinking with dinner
3 tablespoons of EVOO
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 cups of chopped radicchio (I prefer it in fine strips)
1/3 cups of freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 half and half (fat free works well too)
a fist full of finely chopped flat parsley
Have your stock in a pot on the stove with a ladle handy. In a separate heavy pot heat oil, adding shallots until transparent — not brown, then add half of the radicchio until it wilts and you can add your rice and stir for 2 to 3 minutes. Add your Prosecco, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and promptly add the first ladle of stock and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. Continue adding stock one ladle at a time and stirring vigorously to create the creamy starchy texture until rice is about 3/4 cooked and add the salt. If you want to serve this al dente, it will continue cooking so be sure to remove it while the grains not quite done and empty into a large cookie sheet to prevent rice from continuing to cook in the pot.
Just prior to serving. Add risotto back to the pot adding the rest of the radicchio, stirring often. Remove risotto from heat and mix in the cheese and half and half. Serve family-style in a beautiful platter garnished with parsley-more cheese on the side. Have a pepper mill close by as it really complements this dish. Serve with some sauteed Haricots verts almondine and a rotisseries chicken and it will be a dinner to remember.