Saturday, February 9, 2013

Labor of Love: Champagne Lemon Risotto

Let's talk about Valentine's Day.

Let's also take bets on how many people x-ed out of the page after reading the dread V-word...well, they are missing out on something delicious. I bet they'll come back. They HAVE to.

There is something romantic about a creamy risotto packed with tangy Parmesan cheese, crispy prosciutto, and bright lemon. And so it seems fitting that I share this recipe in time for that holiday filled with pinks and reds and hearts and chocolates.

I love chocolate...

Risotto is a meal that takes a little bit of effort and a good chunk of the home cook's attention. There is a constant stir that needs to happen, but in a way I find this methodical stirring a bit soothing. When all is said and done, what remains is a rich and creamy dish that will win over any man or woman's heart. And there is some champagne this is kind of a Valentine's Day win-win situation.

This particular risotto, adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis, is made using a dry champagne, lemon zest, chicken broth and Parmesan cheese. Crispy green beans get stirred in at the end and a crunchy prosciutto is used for a decadent garnish. 

If you have never made a risotto, it is nothing to be intimidated by. Just be sure you can dedicate about 30 minutes to the preparation of this meal (and if you have a significant other to help out, you can tag team the stirring efforts!).

First, place 4 pieces of thin prosciutto on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until crispy. This alone will win over your special someone's heart and belly.

Chicken stock is brought to a boil and sliced green beans get cooked in the hot liquid for about 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the beans, and set them aside for later. Meanwhile, the chicken stock continues to simmer over low heat.

A finely chopped shallot is sauteed in a good bit of olive oil and butter until fragrant and tender.

Then, the arborio rice (the ideal rice for risotto) gets tossed in with the shallots and butter. The rice will get toasted with lemon zest for about 3 minutes, all the while we are stirring it constantly.

Pop the champagne! This will be added to the pan to deglaze the bottom. We will let this simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Now, we will slowly add in the chicken stock to the rice mixture. Using a soup ladel, add about 1/2 cup of chicken stock to the rice. Stir constantly until the rice absorbs most of the broth, then repeat until all the chicken broth has been added. By the end of this process, the rice will be creamy and thick.

Off the heat, I add in more butter, a good bit of Parmesan cheese, the reserved green beans, salt, and pepper. We are totally in this to win it.

To serve, scoop a generous helping of the risotto onto a plate. Top with crumbles of the prosciutto and, of course, more Parmesan cheese. You can also add a small squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top to really brighten everything up. Not only is the dish totally gorgeous, but it is so tasty and elegant as well! Pair with a crusty bread and salad for a full dinner.

Oh, and if you're not sure what to do with the leftover champagne...why not freeze some strawberries ahead of time and serve some glasses with dinner? You win.

Here's what you need for Champagne Lemon Risotto:

4 thin slices prosciutto
3 cups chicken broth (low sodium is best)
1 1/2 cups green beans, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 large shallot, diced
3/4 cup arborio rice
1 lemon, zested
3/4 cup champagne
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper to taste

Here's what you do:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the prosciutto in a single layer on a lightly greased baking sheet until crispy, about 5 minutes.

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium pot. Reduce heat to low and add the green beans. Cook the green beans for 2 minutes, then transfer to a strainer using a slotted spoon and set aside. Continue to simmer the broth over low heat.

Add the olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to a large, heavy bottomed skillet. Melt butter over medium heat then add the shallot. Cook until translucent and aromatic, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir the rice into the butter and shallot mixture until fully coated. Add the lemon zest. Toast over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly so as not to burn.

If using a stove with an open flame, turn off the heat and add in the champagne (just add it in if you have an electric stove). Return the heat to medium and gently stir to pick up any pieces from the bottom of the pan. Allow to simmer about 2 minutes or until almost all the liquid has evaporated.

Stir in 1/2 cup of the chicken broth to the rice. Continue to stir constantly until almost all the liquid is absorbed by the rice. Repeat this process until all the chicken broth has been added and the mixture is creamy.

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining butter along with the cheese, reserved beans, and salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, add a few scoops of risotto to a plate and crumble a bit of the crispy prosciutto on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and finish with a small squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.

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