It’s here: the 2nd Annual Risotto Challenge! Last spring, eighteen contestants answered this call-to-cooking action with imaginative risottos seemingly spawned while on crack. (The ultimate winner? A citrusy, brown rice “Scarborough Fair” ordeal, named for its profusion of four singsong herbs.) And since there’s never an end to variations on the delicious dish, co-host Karol Lu and I are giving the cook-off another spin — or stir. This time, the event will benefit Just Food, New York City’s local and sustainable food think tank. We’re also proud that it’ll be held at the fundraiser-friendly bar and restaurant, Jimmy’s No. 43. Mark your calendars for May 23rd!
When: Saturday, May 23rd, 2009 from 1-5pm.
Where: The back room of Jimmy’s No. 43 in the East Village.
How to attend: With a $20 donation at the door, which will allow you to taste and vote on all competing risottos, and will go directly to Just Food‘s initiatives to foster sustainable food in NYC (happy hour-priced drinks are not included with donation).
How it’ll work: Esteemed judges and prizes are yet to be announced, so more on that to come. We’ll be holding two rounds of tastings with 12 contestants’ offerings at a time, so you’ll have the chance to enjoy — not gulp — competing risottos, mosey into the bar, and mingle.
How to enter the Risotto Challenge: Write to firstname.lastname@example.org
with “Risotto Challenge” in the subject line. You may enter as an individual or a team of two only (for space limits). It’s free to enter the contest, as long as you follow the…
Contestant rules: Prepare at least 2 gallons of your original risotto recipe, and bring it ready to heat and serve on the provided chafing dishes. (We understand that risotto is best served immediately off the stove, but the clever contestants made out pretty well last year like this, and it ain’t called a “challenge” for nothing!) We’ll provide serving cups, utensils, napkins, etc.
In ’08, we narrowed the playing field to only risottos made with rice. However, in the past year Karol and I have seen some delightful things done with other grains, occasionally legumes, and even pumpkin seeds cooked to a creamy risotto-like consistency. So if that’s your fancy, give it a go! We do however want to curb chefs from making other foods from risotto — like leftover risotto cakes, deep-fried risotto balls, risotto ice cream… capice? Most important, try to take advantage of the spring harvest — and pride in your local farms.
To enter, write to email@example.com with “Risotto Challenge” in the subject line.
Lastly, a risotto recipe. I made this last night and it was so delicious (and so late by the time it was served) that all was gobbled up before a photo-taking session could take place. Another, more vivid, risotto recipe to come soon!
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
2 small or 1 medium/large turnips, peeled and diced
2 large clove garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
about 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
juice from half a lemon and its zest
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
for the topping
green parts from the 2 leeks, chopped to 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, cut into about 8 wedges
1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into about 8 wedges
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
To make the topping: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat the leek greens, onion and turnip with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread just the turnips on an oven-safe casserole dish or baking tray and roast for about 10 minutes. Toss the turnips, and add the leek greens and onions. Roast another 15-20 minutes, tossing once more mid-way, until browned and crisp in parts.
To make the risotto: Heat a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the chopped leeks (white and light green parts), diced turnips and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook on medium-low until softened, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with oil about 1 minute. Add the wine and stir occasionally until almost fully absorbed. Keep the chicken or vegetable stock warm in a separate pot. Add a ladle of the stock to the risotto at a time and let absorb, stirring occasionally, before adding another. Continue this process until stock is used up or the rice is just cooked through. Add more liquid (water is fine) if necessary, or discontinue adding stock if rice is cooked and consistency is slightly soupy. Add the lemon juice, zest, optional nutmeg; taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Stir in the heavy cream, butter and Parmesan until melted. Add more liquid if necessary and taste for last-minute seasoning. Serve immediately with the roasted turnip and leek topping.
(for 2-3 servings)
3 turnips (at $1/lb): $1.25
2 leeks (at $2.75/lb): $2.00
1/2 cup white wine (at $10/bottle): $1.00
2 cups homemade chicken stock: $1.50
1 cup arborio rice: $1.00
half a lemon: $0.17
1/4 cup grated Parmesan: $0.40
1/4 cup heavy cream: $0.50
2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg: $0.25
Six brownie points: It isn’t called “creamy” turnip risotto for nothing, either. I had a fear that cooking fresh turnips into the dish would add more bitterness than it ultimately did, so I went with rich additions like the cream and butter at the end (which I usually leave out in risotto, since it’s “creamy” in texture even without the cholesterol). I don’t regret it this time, though. On the plus side, leeks provide Vitamin C, iron and fiber, and this dish has plenty of them. Turnips are also high in Vitamins C, A, K and E, and has some protein and calcium, too (who knew?).
Five brownie points. Last winter’s root vegetables, though harvested months ago now, are still up for sale while the Greenmarkets are in limbo, eagerly awaiting spring’s veggie arrival. I thought I’d get better acquainted with the turnips, something I’m not sick of just yet. Leeks, on the other hand, were probably shipped from California like the lemon and Chardonnay that accompanied them in the dish (read: lots of fossil fuels burned).