January 18, 2012

Risotto Cakes and Red Wine Braised Root Vegetables

We've recently had three culinary epiphanies:

1.) Leftover risotto is awesome if you form it into cakes and pan fry them.
2.) If you put some root vegetables in the oven with some wine, good things will happen.
3.) The results of the previous two epiphanies go very well together.

So in this post, we bring you the happy results, and we were so excited that we put them all together. However, both items here - the risotto cakes and the wine braised roots - would be delicious in combination with other things as well. The roots have a rich, hearty quality that makes them perfect spooned over any grain or carbohydrate - think of them as beef stew without the beef (and you won't even miss it). Polenta or pasta would be good bases. And as to the risotto cakes, top them off with whatever inspires you: a rich tomato sauce, whatever vegetables are seasonal, slices of roast meat or steak. And it would certainly not be a bad idea to put some cheese into the middle of the cakes; think fresh mozzarella or gruyère.

Risotto Cakes (serves 4)

These directions will tell you how to make a basic risotto recipe. However, the real advantage of these cakes is that they make good use of leftover risotto. So we would advise you to make a large batch of risotto, remove half of it for later use, fill it up with whatever you want and have that for a meal. Then, use the leftovers to make risotto cakes on another night.

- Olive oil
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 4 cups stock
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper
- Flour, salt, pepper and more oil, for forming and cooking the cakes

First, heat the stock in a medium saucepan and cover, keeping it warm.

Next, heat the olive oil in another saucepan over medium heat and add the shallot. Cook until it is soft and fragrant (about 2 minutes), then add the rice and stir to coat.

Add the wine and stir until it has been completely absorbed into the rice. Then, use a ladle to spoon about a cup of the stock into the rice. Stir until that liquid has been absorbed. Repeat until all the stock is absorbed into the rice and it has taken on a creamy texture (taste when you come to the final addition to see if you need to add more or less of the stock). Stir in the parmesan, salt, and pepper.

Put the risotto into a container and chill until you are ready to make the risotto cakes. When you're ready, divide it into four more or less even lumps of risotto.

Form each lump into a disc about an inch thick and three inches in diameter (we used a three-inch biscuit cutter to shape ours). Sprinkle a mixture of flour, salt, and pepper on both sides of each cake. It makes it easier if you pre-flour the surface of whatever you plan to form the cakes on so you don't wreck the cylindrical shape trying flour the bottom of the cake.

Heat some oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, add the risotto cakes and cook until the bottom is golden brown (4-5 minutes). Turn over and brown the other side, then serve.

Red Wine Braised Root Vegetables (serves 4)
Adapted from Eating Well

- 2 small parsnips
- 6-10 small heirloom carrots
- 8 cippollini onions
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 2 sprigs of fresh time
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Peel the parsnips and slice it into stalks about an inch long and half an inch wide. Larger parsnips or ones late in the season (February or March) may have a very tough, woody center; if that's the case remove that part (if you can cut through it easily then you can cook it with all the rest).  Smaller, early season parsnips will probably be fine without removing the center.

Peel the carrots and, if they are large, slice them to about the same size as the parsnips. Peel the onions and slice them in half.

In a large dutch oven, heat a splash of oil over medium heat and when it is hot, add all the vegetables. Cook them until they're slightly browned on the outside, about 4-6 minutes. Add the wine, stock, thyme, bay leaves, and salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. You want the vegetables to be about half submerged in liquid, so adjust the liquid level as needed.

Cover the dish and transfer it to the oven (you could use a skillet then switch everything to an oven safe dish if you don't have something that goes from stovetop to oven). Cook until the vegetables are tender and easily pierced with a fork - 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Periodically check the level of liquid and if it is getting low, add more stock and/or wine.

When the vegetables are ready, remove the dutch oven to the stovetop and put the burner on medium. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs, then add the butter and stir into the sauce. If you need to, bring the liquid to a boil and let it reduce until it has formed a nice thick sauce.

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