I admireItalians, profoundly, for taking simple ingredients and creating extraordinarydishes. Think osso bucco, polenta, rice, pasta with seafood, marinara sauce,ragú, and so many others.
Risotto isone of my favorite ways to eat rice. Well made it´s a dish where flavorscomplement each other yet all have their own voice. The final risotto must becreamy and when you serve it will fall onto the plate like very thick, chunky soup.That silkiness is achieved by the rice´s own starch, that´s why not every riceis the right one for making risotto, and the final addition of butter andcheese, done off the heat, followed by immediate plating and eating.
Risotto, like asoufflé, waits for no one, well it waits a little longer than the soufflé butstill.
This is alighter version, with very little butter and cheese but an immense amount offlavor. Very good flavor. The reduced fat will give you a not so creamyrisotto, so the flavors have to be spot on.
The applesare cooked two ways, one part melts into the risotto from the beginning and theother half is browned quickly and added at the end for crunch and texture.
It´s veryimportant that you choose good quality ham and parmesan because you´ll be usinga small quantity of each, so their flavors have to come through.
And finallythe thyme. I find it essential. But then, I find the combination of apples, hamand thyme a fantastic one.
Now, if youhave picky eaters you can omit the apples, double the ham and add anothercheese such as cheddar, and maybe some spinach. But then you´d have to change the name, wouldn´t you?
And if you like the flavors butwant a regular, creamy risotto, just triple the amount of butter and cheese andadd it at the end, and double the amount of rice.
Either wayit´s a winner.
APPLE AND HAM RISOTTO
adaptedfrom The Best American Recipes 2000, by F.McCullough and S. Hamlin
2 to 3 cupslow sodium vegetable broth
1 Tbs oliveoil
1 largeshallot, finely chopped
1 apple, Iuse granny smith
2/3 cups uncooked rice, such as arborio, carnaroli or vialonne nano
¼ cup whitewine
1 oz. (30g) natural baked ham, cut into strips
1 teaspoondried thyme or 1 Tbs fresh
2 Tbsgrated parmesan cheese
1 Tbs freshchopped parsley
Bring brothto a simmer in a saucepan.
Peel andcore apple. Cut one half into medium dice and finely chopp the other half
In a largeskillet, melt 1 teaspoon butter, add diced apples and sauté over high heat untillightly browned. Transfer to a bowl or plate and reserve.
To the sameskillet add remaining butter and oil over medium heat. Add shallots, thechopped apple and cook for 1 minute, careful not to brown it too much. Add therice and stir constantly to coat with the butter for 1 or 2 minutes. Add wineand let it reduce. Add thyme and ham.
Startadding hot broth, ½ cup at a time, stirring once in a while until the broth isreduced and almost dissapears. Continue adding ½ cup broth until the rice is plumpbut firm to the bite. It will take from 15 to 20 minutes. Don´t let the ricebecome too soft.
Remove fromheat and add parmesan and parsley. You can add an extra teaspoon of butter oroil at this point. Mix well and serve immediately, adding reserved apples atthe end.