Monday, October 25, 2010

Ham and Cheese Risotto

It has been nearly 1 year and 4 months since I last prepared risotto in my kitchen. (One of the perks of writing a food blog is having a record of exactly when you made a recipe, where it came from, and how it turned out.) It was high time to revisit this creamy Italian rice dish. While the last couple of days have been exceptionally mild and warm here; a cold, stormy front is moving in tomorrow. This recipe is the perfect hearty, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food for a dark, blustery day. I found a recipe for Porcini Ham Risotto on the Taste of Home website, and then I modified a few of the ingredients to create this Ham and Cheese Risotto. I didn't have dried porcini mushrooms, but I did have regular button mushrooms and so I used those. I have heard lovely things about the porcini mushroom, but honestly, I am always a little scared to try new types of mushrooms. While I can add plain old button mushrooms and morel mushrooms to my safe list, I am violently allergic to both the portabello and shiitake mushroom. Disappointing, considering I really enjoy both...for about 15-20 minutes...then it's all downhill from there. Ugh. This little allergy really inhibits my sense of adventure when cooking with fungi. These days I'm too busy to spend an entire night in the restroom in the name of experimentation, therefore, I don't even bother trying a 'shroom that I am unfamiliar with. Bummer. Anyhow, now that I have burdened you with my digestive woes, I will proceed with the creation of this ham and cheese risotto.

I heated 1/3 cup of butter in the bottom of a soup pot (the high sides come in handy with all of the stirring that is required to create risotto), then added in diced shallot, chopped mushroom, and minced garlic. Saute until tender.

Then, stir in 1-1/2 cups of arborio rice until coated with the butter.

Next, I stirred in 1 cup of a fairly dry white wine. I used a drinkable, yet inexpensive Chardonnay. I have learned my lesson when cooking with wine. It goes like this: If I wouldn't drink it, don't even bother cooking with it. The flavor does not improve upon cooking.

Cook and stir until the wine is absorbed.

While all of the chopping and sauteing were happening, I was also heating some chicken broth on the stove top. Keeping the broth hot is important because it helps to maintain an even temperature while cooking the risotto. Adding cold liquid to hot rice lengthens the cooking time.

I add the broth to the risotto ladle by ladle (or 1/2 cup at a time)...

and then stir, stir, stir, over the heat until the liquid is absorbed. Then add more broth and stir, stir, stir, some more. Repeat and repeat again until ALL of the broth is absorbed into the rice.

Here's the goal: a VERY creamy, near-tender rice.

Vigilant stirring lends itself to a creamy finished product.

Some people actually refrain from making risotto either because it seems complicated or they don't want to stand by the stove for all of this stirring. Here's the thing: Once you realize you're mostly committed for 20 minutes of hovering over the pot and stirring, it's no big thing. Plus, if you've ever tasted a good, creamy risotto, then you know that taking a mere 20 minutes out of your day to stir a pot is totally worth it.

Once all of the liquid is absorbed into the rice, then add in 5 oz. of shredded cheese. (The original recipe called for fontinella, but I got a great deal on an acceptable substitute: Asiago, at my local ALDI store.) Whatever you choose to use, stir until it melts.

Then stir in 1-1/2 cups of chopped ham. I just used whatever was on sale from my local deli, but if you've got leftover ham from Christmas or Easter, this recipe would be a delicious way to use it up!

In about 30 minutes, dinner was served! I sprinkled mine with a little fresh parsley. It was yummy. Like I said, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food! Often, risotto is a side dish, but this one is hearty enough to be the main course. I'd recommend serving it alongside a salad. : )

Ham and Cheese Risotto inspired by Taste of Home's Porcini Ham Risotto

8 Servings Prep/Total Time: 30 min.

1 cup button mushrooms, chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped shallots
2 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup butter, cubed
1-1/2 cups uncooked arborio rice
1 cup dry(ish) white wine
3 cans (14-1/2 ounces each)Chicken Broth, warmed
1-1/2 cups diced fully cooked ham
5 ounces asiago cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper


•In a soup pot, saute the mushrooms, shallots and garlic in butter for 3-4 minutes or until tender.

•Stir in rice until completely coated with butter. Add wine; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until wine is absorbed. Gradually add the broth; 1/2 cup or a little more at a time. Cook and stir until each addition is absorbed. Stir in the ham, cheese, salt and pepper; cook until cheese is melted and mixture is heated through. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley, if desired. Yield: 8 servings.


Katy ~ said...

LOL I just tried porcini mushrooms myself and learned that I LOVE them! So much wonderful flavor!! You are reading my mind. I have been thinking about trying my hand at risotto, and this looks delicious.

Kristen said...

this looks really yummy - I'd love to try it

Kim said...

I feel like risotto is a cook's best friend. It allows you to make an entire meal out of scraps. Little bits of cheese and meat can be turned into something so glorious and comforting. Love the idea of a ham and cheese risotto! Sounds like a very family friendly version.

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