Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Rice, meat and love: it's risotto time!

I used to love my risotto with mushrooms, until a saucy little recipe caught my wandering eye. Filled with pure meat-soaked, liver-chopped fun, there was no mistaking this for a demure little side: risotto al ragu is unabashed main dish fare.

That holy trinity of onions, celery and carrots known as a mirepoix are fried in a mixture of olive oil and butter until softened. Then, the big guns come in: ground beef, tomato paste, red wine and a couple of chicken livers simmer until just beginning to reduce.

Now, grab a flat wooden spatula, your rice, and make sure the stock is simmering hot and at the ready. Yes, risotto takes about 25 minutes to complete, but those can be thirty relaxed, almost meditative minutes. Grab a glass of wine. Stir and scrape. Add more liquid. Stir and scrape. Sip on your wine. Before you know it, 20 minutes have passed, and it's time to begin tasting.

Ideally, the mixture should seem somewhat creamy, with the individual rice grains retaining their shape and just a touch of bite in the middle. When you've finally arrived, toss in your last dollops of butter, swirl to immerse, then cover and let it sit tight for a few.

Finally, it's time to sit down and eat! The more it cools, the more it mellows into a pleasingly complex version of old world comfort food. It's been my experience that this meaty, rich risotto can offer enough comfort to carry you through the week.

Risotto al Ragu (Risotto with Meat Sauce)

1/2 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small red onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 pound ground beef
6 cups hot best-quality chicken broth, plus more if necessary
2 chicken livers, finely chopped
1/3 cup tomato paste (3.5 ounces)
1/2 cup red wine
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 cups arborio rice
grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer over medium-high heat; reduce heat, but keep the stock hot.
In a large saucepan, melt half the butter in the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery and carrot and cook until the onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes.
Add the ground beef and cook about 3 minutes longer, until the meat begins to brown.
Add 1 cup chicken broth, the chicken livers, tomato paste, wine, pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the rice and return to a simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has been absorbed.
Stir the remaining hot broth into the risotto 1/2 cup at a time, making sure the previous addition has been absorbed before adding more.
Cook until the rice is al dente, about 25-30 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in remaining butter; cover and let sit for a few minutes.
Serve warm with grated Parmesan sprinkled on top of each serving.
Serves 6
adapted from the Maccioni Family Cookbook, by Egi Maccioni with Peter Kaminsky


Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Liver even. I used to cook liver so often. Risotto is hard not to like. This looks really rich with the meat my husband would love.

11:59 AM  
Blogger sher said...

You're making a believer out of me with the chicken livers!! Looks fabuloso!

4:56 PM  

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