From Paris, With Risotto [Plus: A Snazzy Salad]

Let’s say I have this “friend” and this “friend” (in quotes) recently went to Paris and let’s say when he was in Paris he met lots of people who gave him Parisian foodstuffs and while at a market one day he bought a giant glass bottle of risotto. Let’s say he placed it in his suitcase and flew back to the States, ignoring the directive not to bring in food from outside the country. Let’s say this “friend” has a food blog and would like to blog about the risotto he made from the giant glass bottle of risotto last night. Would he be arrested? Would government agents come knocking on his door tomorrow? Let’s keep talking about him in the third person with pictures “he” provided for me over e-mail. Check out the gigantic glass bottle of risotto:


Why did he buy risotto in Paris? Risotto is Italian. “Well,” he says, “I thought the giant glass bottle was really cool and I don’t remember seeing instant risotto anywhere in the States. Plus, I liked how you still needed butter and wine to make this instant risotto. Parisians may skimp, but they still skimp with style.”

Ok, let’s be honest, “he” is me…I made this risotto. Let’s hope the Feds don’t click “continue.”

Now, not only did I skimp with style as directed (butter and wine) I took it even further. I had leftover pancetta from a salad I made the other night. Look at this extemporaneous salad:


This I made by purchasing pre-packaged Romaine, two slices of pancetta, cherry tomatoes, Parmesan and a loaf of bread. What I realized after the fact was I’d bought the ingredients for The Barefoot Contessa’s Caesar Salad (minus the loaf of bread). So I roasted the tomatoes with olive oil and salt and pepper and I sliced the bread into cubes and “toasted” them in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper making my first homemade croutons. Instead of Caesar dressing I made a balsamic vinaigrette. Assembled on my Ikea plate, I shaved Parmesan over the top. I think it looks snazzy. But I digress.

Where were we? Ah, the big glass bottle of risotto from Paris.


I used the leftover pancetta along with butter to cook the risotto:


I remembered making Chez Panisse’s wild mushroom risotto a long while back and how the bacon in the initial mix made it delicious. So that’s why I used this leftover pancetta.

In went the risotto mix:


And it toasted for 2 minutes. Then went in wine—old old old wine that I’ve been using for all these recipes lately. It’s a giant bottle of Chardonnay from the Paleozoic era. I know using wine that you wouldn’t actually drink is bad form, but it’s cheap form and I always think it’s wasteful to buy entire bottles of wine just for myself when making dinner unless I’m having a “me” night, wearing bunny slippers and watching “Stepmom.” Ok, I hate “Stepmom.” Is that what that’s called? With Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts? I really hate that movie. But sometimes I’ll watch it.


After the addition of wine, I ladeled in simmering chicken stock over a 12 minute period. The risotto absorbed the liquid and I served it in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh grated Parmesan:


The verdict?

First of all, this was surprisingly spicy. One of the ingredients (in addition to dried porcinis and garlic powder) is dried red chilis. So I liked the heat. But overall, it’s not as good as fresh homemade risotto. And if you have Arborio rice (which I just bought another box of tonight) there’s really no reason to make this pre-packaged risotto except that it’s like 20 minutes faster. But flavorwise, it’s a bit dull. And texturewise it’s a bit strange.

And so, Federal officers, if you do come arrest my “friend” won’t you please consider the fact that this risotto wasn’t that great? Won’t you be lenient in my…”his”…sentencing? Please, show some compassion. It’s the American way.

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