PUMPKIN ROSEMARY RISOTTO
14 November 2007
Last week I went to a cooking course held by head chef Etienne Krebs at the Ermitage restaurant in Montreux-Clarens, Switzerland. I had been looking forward to this course for weeks…. counting the days, not sleeping the night before, arriving a half hour early… the word ‘eager beaver’ comes to mind. However I was not disappointed. In a small class of 12, he showed us step by step how to make a terrine of rabbit, fois gras & nuts, a fillet of sole on a bed of sautéed endives with a caramelised beetroot sauce (a great success), followed by a savoury wild bolet crème brûlée, sautéed frois gras & caramelised onigons , finishing with a basil pumpkin risotto accompanied by tiny tender frogs thighs! The finishing touch was a desert of poached pears with a delicate spiced cream sauce (which I plan to make and post), and a dark bitter sweet chocolate tart.
A highlight of the course was that I learned interesting little TIPS : dried or frozen bolet mushrooms have a stronger perfume and are better to use in the crème brûlée than the fresh garden variety!! Caramelised onions can be made and stored for future use. Also by heating a few cups of vegetable oil in a pan you can fry whole basil leaves for decoration (they stay green & will keep if stored in an air tight container between layers of wax paper for say a week). Re the sautéed endives – lemon juice stops them from turning brown, and the sugar takes away the bitter taste. For an easy cutting method : holding the white end of the endive, point it down at an angle, and starting with greenish part, cut the endive as if your were shaving a pencil with a knife – fast and easy and leaves the bitter core behind that you don’t want.
As for the risotto, Chef Krebs let us in on a little SECRET….. in his restaurant, where time is of the essence, he has developed a method of cooking the risotto in TWO STAGES: follow your traditional risotto recipe, but cook the rice until you have used only HALF of the bouillon (stock). Remove from the heat and let cool - then store in the fridge covered with plastic wrap. When the time comes to make the risotto for your guests, simply remove it from the fridge a little in advance to bring the rice to room temperature, then continue making your risotto as before, using the rest of the bouillon etc. This can be a handy trick if you are pressed for time and have people coming over for dinner after work.
Inspired by this cooking course, I have created my own risotto recipe keeping in mind the suggestion a friend of mine Alice gave me, to use pumpkin & fresh sprigs of rosemary.
RECIPE – SWEET PEA BLOG
Here are a few HINTS for those who have never made riotto:
- Use the best quality short grain rice= Carnaroli. Alternatively you can use Aborio rice which may be easier to find.
- Don’t wash the rice, or you will loose the starch which helps make the risotto creamy
- Use the best quality Parmesan “aged Parmigiano-Reggiano” if possible
- Watch the rice while cooking and stir constantly
- Do not omit the final ‘mantecare’ stage- this is the last traditional step of adding butter & Parmesan to the finished risotto, giving it that deliciously rich & creamy texture.
- Serve immediately, as when the risotto cools it thickens and looses some of its creamy quality.
RISOTTO : for approx. 4 people
- 300 grams Carnaroli short grain rice
- 1 small white onion
- 50 ml white wine
- 1 bouillon cube (for the vegetable stock/broth)
- 1.5 litre boiled water (use a little more or less as needed)
- 360 grams potiron pumpkin
- 2 whole garlic cloves
- 3 large sprigs of fresh rosemary (or 12 fresh sage leaves)
- 3 tablespoons of butter (see instructions below)
- 50 grams of grated aged Parmigiano-Reggiano parmesan
Potiron pumpkin preparation.
- Start with this step. Cut the pumpkin in 1/2. Remove the seeds and the skin. Now chop into appox. 1 cm cubes.
- In a skillet (frying pan) on low heat, cook the pumpkin cubes with 1 tablespoon of butter, the rosemary sprigs and whole garlic cloves (do not chop them), until the flesh of the pumpkin is slightly soft allowing a sharp knife to pass through, but not overcooked! Add a little water if the pumpkin gets too dry. Remove the rosemary and set aside.
Start the risotto.
- First make the stock / broth = boiling the water in a kettle, then combining with the bouillon cube in a large cooking pot over low heat on the stove.
- Next finely chop the onion and saute it over medium heat in a large skillet with 1 tablespoon of butter, until the onion softens and turns translucent.
- Now add the rice and mix well with the onions, so that the rice becomes coated with the butter. Let the rice toast in the pan for a minute or two.
- Now add the white wine. Stir and allow the wine to be absorbed by the rice.
- Next using a ladle, add 1 to 2 ladle’s full of simmering stock to the rice, then stir slowly and consistently until it has been absorbed. Keep adding ladles full of stock to the rice all the while stirring. When 3/4 of the stock has been used, add the pumpkin cubes and then finish adding the stock. Taste the rice as you cook, it is ready when it has a firm texture but not crunchy. If you prefer it a little softer you can always add a little more hot water, stir to absorb.
- Finally, reduce the heat to low, and stir in the final tablespoon of butter, grated Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat. The risotto should be rich, creamy & fragrant.
- Serve immediately sprinkled with Parmesan and topped with a bit of finely chopped fresh rosemary.