Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fennel & Sweet Italian Sausage Risotto

In the 'Tasting & Testing' section of Food & Wine Magazine's February 2009 issue, they have a 'Test Kitchen' article entitled 'Perfecting Risotto' which included a recipe for classic Milanese risotto, followed by three variations: Fennel & Sausage, Seafood, and Wild Mushroom & Red Wine.

Although I've never only made risotto once before (and the recipe I used didn't follow the golden rule of adding stock a little at a time), we decided we'd try the Fennel & Sausage version. It sounded warm, comforting, and perfect for the winter season. I used the pound of Sweet Italian Sausages from Skagit River Ranch, some fennel from the grocery store, Valley Doe Aged Raw Goat Milk Cheese from River Valley Ranch, and I supplemented a couple cans of chicken stock with the last of my homemade vegetable stock.

I learned that risotto is labor intensive (with the constant stirring), hot (from standing over a steaming pot for 20 minutes), but well worth it - and ultimately not as hard as I'd been led to believe. I'm not sure I've perfected my risotto yet, but since Dan & I both scarfed it down before it could even cool off enough to eat comfortably, I think I did a good job with my first try.

Fennel & Sausage Risotto
5 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 Tbspn olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
Pinch of saffron threads
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino
1 Tbspn unsalted butter
2 Tbspn chopped flat leaf parsley
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer; keep warm. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, season with salt & freshly ground pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened (about 5 minutes). Add the rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring to thoroughly coat. Crumble the saffron threads into the wine and add it to the rice. Cook, stirring, until the wine is absorbed. Add 1 cup of the warm stock and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until nearly absorbed. Continue adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until it is nearly absorbed between additions. Meanwhile, cook the sausage, crumbled, in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over high heat until browned. Add the fennel and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy sauce - about 20 minutes total. Season the risotto with salt and papper, then stir in cheese, butter and parsley, followed by sausage and fennel. Serve immediately.

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