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Saturday, October 4, 2008

My Idea of Comfort Food: Recipe

To be honest, I don't like the term "comfort food." I think it's corny and a little too 1990s. But I suppose if I'm using it then there is a good reason - we all seem to instinctively understand what the term means and just what it implies. It's the stick-to-your-belly food that makes you feel like a child again - fully protected, fully relaxed, and totally happy. Comfort food doesn't have to be just macaroni and cheese or meatloaf. At this point in the world of gastronomy, I think it's safe to say that everyone has come up with some form of comfort food that makes us feel just as we did when we were 7 years old.

I never had risotto as a kid - and neither did my husband, who is the real Italian in this family. It wasn't until I was about 25 or so that my mother ventured into the land of cooked rice. So I can't say that this is one of those meals that makes me feel like I did as a child but I can say that almost any time I crave food that warms my tummy as well as my soul, I reach for the container of arborio.

The beauty of risotto is that it can be done in so many ways. I know there is a standard, traditional, Milanese which is quite perfect but if you're feeling like you're not only in need of comfort food but also a science project, try making risotto. Just promise you will leave enough time to stir! This dish is not a "fix-it and forget-it" meal. You'll have a nasty pot to clean if you try that with risotto.

Risotto with Sausage and Celery
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, both ends removed and the remainder cut into small pieces
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves, chopped + 1 Tsp. for later
1 lb. pork sausage, no fennel, casings removed and crumbled
1 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups chicken broth, warmed
1 cup Arborio rice
1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup grated pecorino-romano cheese

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add in the celery and onion and saute until very soft, about 8 minutes. Add in the basil and the 2 tbsp. rosemary and stir to mix well. Add in the sausage and saute until it is no longer red but rather grayish color, about 10 minutes. Stir often and break up the sausage pieces.

Add in 1/2 cup wine and mix into the sausage. Raise flame to medium-high and add in the rice. Stir to coat it with all ingredients about 5 times. Lower heat to medium-low and add in 1/2 cup broth and mix well - until the liquid is fully absorbed. Then add in another 1/2 cup and repeat until the rice swells up and becomes very soft - cooking off all its starch to make a rich and creamy dish. Continue to stir often so rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Add in the remaining wine toward the end of the cooking. Total cooking time with the rice should about 25-30 minutes. As the dish nears completion, turn off the heat and add in the remaining rosemary, the butter, and the cheese and stir well. Serve.

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