Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Risotto with Chorizo and Scallops: Not Evil, Just Misunderstood

Ever hear of risotto elbow? It's an injury unique to mathematically-challenged dinner hostesses who, knowing full well that a serving of risotto needs 20 minutes of stirring, fail to multiply accordingly when including risotto in a dinner menu for ten. And the best part of that night? When a guest called his maid to come over "para matuto ka kung paano gawin itong lugaw pag-uwi (so you can learn how to make this congee at home)."

Memories of that exhausting evening included my ending up in bed with a certain uber-hot Ben. Ben Gay.  Needless to say, the experience pretty much ensured a long wait in between risotto attempts. It just seemed like too much time and effort for a side dish that most people thought was too rich and heavy, anyway. Still, I've always loved me a good risotto.

This poor dish has been misunderstood and much maligned, mostly by those who insist on relegating it to side dish status when it actually deserves to be the star of the show.  And just because it speaks its mind and is probably too good for you anyway doesn't mean it deserves to be ignored and taken for granted. Risotto. Right. Focus.

ANYWAY. Last night, I decided to dust off that long-forgotten box of Carnaroli rice and give risotto the spotlight it so richly deserved.

I sautéed onions and chorizo Bilbao in a little olive oil and lovingly toasted those tiny little grains in the rendered chorizo fat. Then, I added some chicken stock one ladleful at a time, stirring constantly as the grains slowly soaked up all that chicken love.

As the risotto started to soften, I pan-fried some scallops in olive oil with salt, pepper and hot pimenton. If I were to do it again, I would probably slice and render another chorizo and cook those ginormous suckers in its sizzling bright orange oil, instead.

Normally, I would finish off a risotto with a generous pat of butter and a handful of grated cheese.   In this case, however, doing so would have been a little too much.  And that's coming from someone whose tombstone will one day read, "Less is not more. MORE is more." Instead, I simply topped my risotto with the scallops in their pan juices and a sprinkling of basil and grated Parmesan. Next time, I would probably add a few slices from the second chorizo, as well as drizzle the risotto with cute little chorizo oil squiggles.

And while my risotto still required a fair bit of time, attention and stirring this time around, that and maybe a salad were really all I needed to make. And we all know what that means, right?  A nice,  relaxed, injury-free dinner and Ben staying exactly where he belonged: in the damned closet.

Risotto with Chorizo and Scallops

Serves 4

2 medium-sized links Chorizo Bilbao, one chopped, the other one sliced thinly
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion (or two medium-sized), chopped
1 cup, Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1 lb sea scallops
2 tablespoons basil, chopped
Hot pimenton (optional; you can substitute any other spice of your choice, e.g., paprika, chili powder, etc.)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
Salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, bring chicken stock to a low boil (bubbling, but not violently). Keep simmering over a low flame.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat, then add chorizo and onion.

When the oil renders and the mixture is bright orange, add rice and stir for around 3-5 minutes until grains are thoroughly coated and lightly toasted.

Add the simmering chicken stock to the rice mixture a ladle at a time, stirring constantly and waiting until the broth is absorbed before adding another ladle.  Continue to do this until the risotto is ALMOST al dente, meaning no crunch, but not mushy. Risotto should be soupy, not gluey, so be generous with the broth.

Before you get to al dente (just a little bit of crunch left in the rice), heat sliced chorizo over medium-high heat until oil is rendered, around 2-3 minutes.  Season scallops with salt, pepper and pimenton (if using) then add to pan in a single layer.  Sauté for 3-5 minutes depending on the size of your scallops. Be careful not to overcook!

Risotto should be done by now or in just a few minutes after. When done, season to taste with sal and pepper, sprinkle with chopped basil, stir and pour into four bowls or plates, drizzling each bowl with some of the chorizo oil before topping with scallops and sliced chorizo. Serve with Parmesan cheese on the side for sprinkling.

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