Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pea Risotto

I'm a fiend for risotto, so of course I had to try the Sweet Pea Risotto from A Recipe for Cooking by Cal Peternell.

But then ... there were those peas. Even when peas are in season, finding them fresh is pretty much impossible. No one likes shelling peas these days, so unless you're growing peas in your garden, you're probably going to want to make a substitute here.

I used frozen peas. They're available all year long, and I always have them on hand. I like adding them to salads. I just put them on the salad as-is and they thaw almost immediately. So anyway, I just measured the frozen peas, and all was good.

I was a little surprised at the color of this risotto. I guess I expected it to be more of a bright green, but it wasn't even close to that color. I liked the flavor, but I might actually use more peas next time. I didn't happen to have any mint available, although I can see how that would be a lovely flavor with the peas. I used parsley, since it was the herb that I happened to have on hand.

Sweet Pea Risotto
Adapted from A Recipe for Cooking by Cal Peternell.

1 1/2 pounds English peas, shelled (about 1 1/2 cup, divided) - I used frozen peas
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided (or to taste)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock, hot
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons thinly sliced mint leaves (I used parsley)

In a very small saucepan, combine 3/4 cup of the peas with 2 tablespoons butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and enough water to not-quite cover the peas. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook until very tender.

Pay attention to how long the peas take to cook, since this will help you figure out when to add your peas to the finished risotto. Since I like the frozen peas just barely warmed, I added them at the end of the cooking time. But, if you like your peas soft and squishy, do pay attention to the cooking time.

When the peas are done, push them through a sieve, or use a blender or other device to turn them into a puree. I used a stick blender right in the pot I cooked them in. Easy peasy.

Heat a medium skillet over high heat and add the oil and 2 more tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir until it sizzles noisily, then reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring as needed, until the onions are soft. This will take 15-20 minutes.

If the onions start browning before they're soft, add a splash of water or put a lid on the pan.
Once the onions are cooked, raise the heat to medium high and add the rice along with 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for two minutes, until the rice toasts a little, stirring often.

Add the wine, let it bubble for 30 seconds, then lower the heat and add 1 cup of the hot chicken stock. Keep the heat at a level that gives you a lively simmer, but not a boil. Stir to keep the rice from sticking.

When the liquid is nearly gone, add another cup of stock and stir often. Continue stirring and adding stock in the same way. This procedure takes about 20 minutes from the time the wine is added, so add the peas at the appropriate time so they're cooked to your liking.

Keep adding liquid and stirring until the rice is tender but still has a little bite. If you run out of stock, add water.

Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, the pureed peas, and the parmesan. (This is when I added the whole peas.) Stir energetically for 15 seconds. Taste and add salt, if needed.

Let the risotto rest, off the heat and covered, for a couple minutes for it to gather itself. Sprinkle with the mint (I used parsley) and serve.

About the book:

This book has a rather interesting organization. First, it's organized by courses, which is pretty common. But then, within courses, most are organized by season. I like to cook seasonally, as much as possible.

On the other hand, some foods are not particularly seasonal. The recipes in the "second course" section are not organized by season, which makes sense. The recipe for fish cakes didn't require any ingredients that wouldn't be available at any time of the year. Others, like lasagna, struck me as a cold-weather food, but I wouldn't turn it down at any time of the year.

The sweet pea risotto I made was considered a spring dish, which makes sense if you're planning on using fresh peas. But, since frozen are so easy to find, season didn't matter.

My suggestion is to look at recipes for your current season, but look at the others as well. Because you never know what might sound appealing.

There are a lot of appealing recipes here. The recipe instructions tend to be wordy, so they look more complicated than they are. The extra wordiness is actually useful information along with tips on what to look for as you cook - so don't be put off by recipes that span multiple pages.

I received this book from the publisher at no cost to me.