Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dijon, Leek, and Drunken Goat Cheese Risotto

Mike and I went out the weekend before for Valentine's Day because we like to go on a weekend evening rather than during the week, when Valentine’s Day falls on a weeknight. Also, it gave me the opportunity to put together a nice dinner on Valentine's night itself!
I like to poke around Epicurious.com when I'm trying to think of what to cook to see if anything piques my interest. I came upon a recipe I've seen a few times, Leeks Vinaigrette with Burrata Cheese and Mustard.
I really like the idea of using mustard in more places, but the expense (and seeming scarcity in north Orlando-area stores) of burrata kept me from trying this recipe. However, my mind jumped to the idea of making risotto, and leeks are a versatile spring vegetable that are great in risotto. (it's been spring in Florida pretty much since early January!) Adding mustard was what I was nervous about. Mustard is in the background of a lot of dishes, adding a little pungency that rounds out flavors, but using it as a main ingredient, I was worried it would overwhelm the more delicate flavors of the other ingredients. I wanted to add one other main flavor, but didn't want to go with fresh mozzarella (as an analog to burrata from the Epicurious recipe) because the mild flavor wouldn't stand up. For some reason, drunken goat cheese (a semi-firm goat cheese that’s soaked in red wine) popped into mind - it's firm, not too mild, but also isn't overwhelmingly "goaty." In the dish, it gives a nice creamy dairy sweetness to contrast the pungency of the mustard.
When I was cooking this, I did add the mustard a small amount at a time so that if it just didn't work, or ruined the dish, it could be saved. Interestingly, I ended up increasing the amount of mustard I used, by about double. I threw in some lemon zest at the end and it really brightened the risotto and brought all the flavors together. And I did add a little half and half to enhance the creaminess, though usually that’s a no-no!
I am by far not an expert on risotto, but it's thought that risotto is a fussy, difficult dish -- it definitely isn't. It does take time and a little attention, but it's easy once you get the feel for when to add liquid. A simple way to remember is if you drag a spoon across the bottom of the skillet and no liquid rushes in, it's time to add more. Here's a great video of Giada De Laurentiis making risotto, if you’ve never made it before, that’ll show you how easy it can be.
Unfortunately my picture below isn't an ideal picture of risotto, because if it's not photographed immediately it loses the "lava" fluid texture that you're looking for right off the stove.
mustard risotto
 

Dijon, Leek, and Drunken Goat Cheese Risotto

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as an appetizer or first course
Ingredients:
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
3 large leeks
16 oz. arborio rice
4 cups vegetable broth (plus more if needed)
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup sherry
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup half and half
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
4 oz. drunken goat cheese, shredded
zest of one lemon
Salt and pepper
Directions:
Cut off the tough green tops of the leeks (these can be saved for soup broth). Cut off the roots and thinly slice the tender green and white portions of the leeks and rinse off dirt in a colander. Heat butter and olive oil in a large, heavy stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook for 2 minutes, then add sliced leeks and  sprinkle with salt. Cook leeks for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are beginning to brown lightly.
While leeks are cooking, add vegetable broth to a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Depending on the rice, it may take more than 4 cups of broth so you may want to keep additional broth at hand.
Add rice to the skillet and stir until well combined. Cook for one minute to toast the rice slightly, then add white wine and one ladle of broth from the saucepan. Stir until all liquid is absorbed, then add another ladle of broth and stir slowly. As the rice absorbs the liquid, continue to gradually add broth and stir. The rice will begin to absorb the liquid more slowly, so it will take more time between adding ladles of broth. 
When the rice is tender and creamy but the grains are still distinct and have a little chew, turn off the heat. Stir in remaining ingredients, and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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