Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Anatomy of a Dish: Risotto "Cacio e Pepe"

Our Risotto "Cacio e Pepe" has become a favorite dish among guests. Here we break down the preparation in our Anatomy of a Dish.

Risotto "Cacio e Pepe"
We use Acquerello Carnaroli rice, which is grown in the rice fields of Piemonte in the province of Vercelli. In 1945 a Milanese rice grower crossed the Italian rice variety Vialone Nano with a Japanese strain to create Carnaroli, considered the “king of rice”. Carnaroli has the highest starch content of the japonica varieties grown in Italy, which yields a creamy, flowing risotto that is resistant to overcooking. However, Carnaroli is difficult to grow, prone to disease, and its grains break easily in processing, so it is typically more expensive than other rice varieties.

We start with a soffritto of shallots and a combination of butter and extra virgin olive oil. The shallots are cooked until soft and translucent. Then the rice is added, and "toasted" in the fat, a process called the tostatura. When the rice kernels change from translucent to slightly opaque, we deglaze the pan with a dry white wine, usually Verdicchio or Pinot Grigio. 

Once the wine has reduced, we begin to add the broth a little at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. After approximately 15 minutes, when the rice is just al dente, we remove it from the heat for the last stage in the cooking process, the mantecatura.  This includes the creaming of the rice with cultured butter and freshly grated Bonati Parmigiano Reggiano. We love the richness of the cultured butter, and the Bonati family is setting the standard for impeccable quality and production of Parmigiano Reggiano in all of Italy.

We plate the risotto in shallow bowls, and garnish with crushed black peppercorns, cubes of Parmigiano Reggiano, and a drizzle of Villa Manodori Balsamico. Villa Manodori Balsamico is produced by 3 Michelin Star Italian chef Massimo Bottura and crafted from trebbiano grapes. 

We add a few spoons of Parmigiano froth made from the rinds of the Parmigiano soaked in milk, and we often garnish with proteins such as roasted pheasant or duck confit, and mache or microgreens.

Buon Appetito!