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:

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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:

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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.

Well.

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

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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.

15 comments

  1. Even if it was from an instant mix, it has damn fine packaging and a really good looking product. It’s like… risotto for the time-crunched college kid.

    And yes, the movie is called Stepmom, though Erin Brockovich is still the most kickass Julia Roberts film.

    Now go to bed.

  2. I have purchased quick cooking pre-packaged risotto and found that it tastes like Rice-a-Roni with Elmer’s Glue. At least you have the cool bottle in which you can put your own rice.

  3. Trader Joe’s actually has a frozen mushroom risotto that isn’t half bad if you are trying to go for the under 5 minute route.

  4. You are a brave soul to keep taking the fall for the rest of us. (You can use that as your defense.) But between the Brittle Soup and the Risotto Pablum your tastebuds are definitely in need of some coddling.

  5. My girlfriend and I recently celebrated our anniversary at Hearth based on a past recommendation you made on your site. Unfortunately, fava beans seem to be out of season but the meal was brilliant nonetheless! THANK YOU!

  6. It is not illegal to bring risotto into the country. The food you cannot bring in is meats or fruits. This is because of disease and agricultural reasons.

  7. By the way, if you ever think you can get away with bring illegal foods into the county, forget it. They x-ray your luggage as it arrives to make sure. If they catch you the fines are very steep and they show no mercy.

  8. You’re allowed to bring in food – just as long as it’s cooked, dried or preserved. You can’t bring in raw meat or uncooked fruits and vegetables due to the risk of contaminating agricultural supplies here (no mad cow disease please). Also, you can’t bring in plants. Just make sure you tell the customs agent in the arrival hall that you have food and that it is cooked. I’ve brought shrimp from South America home with no problems – it was steamed and then packed in dry ice. And it was awesome when I made gumbo.

  9. Dried foodstuffs are completely legal to import to the country as long as they’re not illegal in the country you’re bringing them to. I can’t think of an example of what that would be off hand, so let’s say dehydrated ivory-encrusted spider monkey brains or something. That would be a no go.

  10. What about raw milk cheese? Can that be brought in? Jeffrey Steingarten made a big deal about bringing some home in “The Man Who Ate Everything.” Has that law been relaxed?

  11. Raw cheese is a no-no, but other stuff is fine, as other people have pointed out. There is a list on the website of the US Customs, so next time your “friend” need not worry.

  12. Richardab,

    They can’t be that good, as I once went to New York for a weekend (from the UK) with a banana in my baggage. I forgot about it, and it got in and out of the USA. I realised I was a bad-ass fruit smuggler when I got home and unpacked my bag.

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