Saturday, March 30, 2013

Eggplant Risotto

When I smell risotto it brings me back to Italy. When I eat risotto I feel luxurious. When I make risotto I feel like I can master anything. Well, that may not be true, but I do feel rather accomplished. It is a tedious, loving journey to take a pot of rice to a creamy, delicious dinner, but it is well worth it.

This is one of my favorite risottos. Yotam Ottolenghi masterfully pairs both burnt and fried eggplant to create a perfect dish. And as I have said before in my Chicken Stock post, Mr. Ottolenghi believes stock “will make it or break it.” It holds especially true when it comes to risotto. You don’t want to spend all of this time on your risotto only to have it ruined by store-bought vegetable stock. So, please, trust me, make a stock this one time. You will by super stoked.

We start with the burning of eggplant number 1. (I have an electric stove, so I had to broil mine. Those of you with gas stoves can cook them directly over the flame and rotate with metal tongs.

Meanwhile eggplant number 2 is frying up in some olive oil.

Onions and garlic are being sautéed.

And now we begin adding the stock to the wine coated rice.

One ladleful at a time, lovingly stirring and waiting for the liquid to be absorbed.

Now we add everything in.

Plate and enjoy!

Recipe from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

2 medium eggplants
½ cup plus 1 tbsp olive oil
Coarse sea salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed
7 oz good-quality risotto rice
½ cup white wine
3¼ cups hot vegetable stock
Grated zest of 1 lemon, less if you prefer
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 ½ tbsp butter
½ cup grated Parmesan
Black pepper
½ cup shredded basil leaves

Start by burning one of the eggplants. If you have an electric stove like I do, pierce the eggplant with a sharp knife in a few places. Place in a foil-lined tray and put directly under a broiler for about an hour, turning a few times. If you have a gas stove, line the area around the burner with foil. Then put the eggplant directly on a moderate flame and roast for 12 to 15 minutes, turning frequently with metal tongs. The eggplant is done when flesh is soft and the skin is burnt.

While the burnt eggplant is cooling, cut the other eggplant into ½-inch dice. Heat up ⅓ cup of the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the eggplant in batches (or all at once if your pan is big enough) until golden and crisp. Transfer to a colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave to cool.

Take the cooled, burnt eggplant and gently peel off the burnt skin. Roughly chop the remaining flesh and set aside.

Put the onion and remaining 4 tablespoons of oil in a heavy pan and fry slowly until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the rice, stirring to coat it in the oil. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the wine is nearly evaporated. Turn the heat down to medium.

Now it is time to start adding the stock. I like to keep mine warm on a nearby burner. One ladleful at a time, add it to the rice. Wait until each addition has been fully absorbed before adding the next. Constantly stir the rice to prevent sticking and ensure even cooking. When all of the stock has been added, remove the pan from the heat. Add half of the lemon zest, the lemon juice, half of the diced eggplant, all of the burnt eggplant, butter, most of the Parmesan and ¾ teaspoon salt.  Stir well, then cover and set aside for 5 minutes. Taste, and add more salt, if you like, plus heaps of cracked black pepper.

To serve, spoon the risotto into shallow bowl and sprinkle with the remaining diced eggplant, Parmesan, basil and lemon zest.

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