Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fabulous Fennel Risotto

With winter produce in all of its glory I've been getting some gorgeous greens, squash and root vegetables. By far, the most exciting thing to come out of my CSA box this month has been the fennel bulbs each week. Don't get me wrong, I love the crisp apples and lovely winter citrus that grow abundantly in Southern California, but I've been most excited about the fennel. Fennel has such a short season, or at least it seems that way. I feel so lucky to have it for the past several weeks.

This recipe is simple, delicious and my idea of warm winter comfort food.

Here's what you'll need to get cooking:

2T olive oil
2 fennel bulbs, cored and sliced thin (reserve a handful of the fronds for garnish)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large shallot diced (or 1/2 med onion)
1T butter
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
5-6 cups chicken stock
3T heavy cream
1/2 c parmesan cheese
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
fennel fronds for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan heat the chicken stock on low. While that is warming, heat olive oil in large pan or sauce pot. Cook the fennel for about 5 minutes and then add the garlic. Cook another 5 minutes or until the fennel becomes slightly browned, being cautious not to over cook your garlic.

Remove the garlic and fennel from the pan and add butter to the same pan.

Add shallot to the pan and cook until translucent and then add the arborio rice.

Toast the rice for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. When five minutes has passed, add the white wine and cook until it reduces by half or more. I used a very nice viognier because that is what I wanted to drink last night. Any dry white will do, I just suggest using something you like to drink so that you aren't wasting a bottle of wine.

Then pour yourself a glass to drink while you babysit your lovely, creamy risotto. Yeah, that's how I roll.

Now, at medium low heat, you'll just add stock, one ladle at a time, to the risotto. Stir until stock is absorbed and then add another ladle. Continue this process about 20 minutes or until risotto is done.

This was after about 15 minutes. Not quite there yet.

When the risotto is completely cooked, turn off the heat and hit it with the heavy cream. Yes, I said HEAVY cream. I'm all for taking short cuts, and you can here, too, but I don't recommend it. You're seriously only using 3 tablespoons in the entire dish to feed four people. It's not that much and it adds such  a silky finish to your risotto that I think is fabulous.

Add your fennel and garlic back to the pan and stir to incorporate.

Add all but about 2T of parmesan cheese and stir well.

Plate into serving bowls, sprinkle with parmesan and pine nuts and garnish with fennel fronds. Your family will thank you and so will your belly.

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