Monday, August 17, 2015

Smoked Salmon Risotto with Two Kinds of Onion

The original recipe for this dish was given to me by my friend Medi and has since become a family favorite.  I have tinkered with it a bit over the years. It is fresh and comforting at the same time, with the creaminess of mascarpone cheese added at the end, the rich flavor of the smoked salmon conrasting with the sweetness of the leeks, and the coolness of the greens on top.

You can use any kind of smoked salmon, either hot or cold smoked.  I usually prefer hot smoked, because it has a stronger smokey flavor that I like, but either will do.  In the photos, I have used a cold smoked salmon because that is what they had in the store today.  I can imagine it would taste good with any kind of smoked fish.

If you have never made risotto before, you need to be aware of the type of rice to use.  You want a short grained rice.  The consistency of the risotto will be creamy as a result of the starch in the rice but the rice should maintain a bite. Arborio is the most commonly available kind of short grained rice that is used in Italy, but there are other types.  My personal favorite is carnaroli, but it is harder to find and tends to be a bit expensive.  If you are looking for a budget version, try a rice labeled for  rice pudding.  It tends to be cheap and it makes a perfectly acceptable risotto.

Your risotto will taste better if you use a flavorful stock.  While I would love to be the type of person who has homemade stock in the freezer, in actuality, it rarely happens.  So I make liberal use of stock cubes.  Yes, stock cubes.  I always have vegetable and chicken on hand, and it makes a huge difference to soups to throw in a cube for a bit of extra flavor and salt.

Serves 4 to 5

2 large leeks or 3 medium sized
200 to 300 grams smoked salmon
1 big bunch chives
1 lemon, both zest and juice
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
250 grams mascarpone cheese
4 dl (1 1/2 cups) short grained rice
pepper to taste
100 grams arugula or other baby lettuce
About a liter or so of boiling water
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

First, cut your leeks lengthwise and rinse carefully in between the layers to get out any sand that has snuck in.  Slice crosswise, discarding any dark green bits that look like they won't be tender. Zest your lemon and squeeze the lemon juice.

In a pot, put in a couple of tablespoons olive oil and heat to medium.  Pour in your chopped leeks and saute until the leeks start to wilt.  Add in the rice and stir for a minute.  Add in the bouillon cubes and about about a cup (2 dl) of water and stir until the cubes melt.  Add in a very generous grinding of pepper, the lemon zest and the lemon juice.  Let the rice simmer, stirring occasionally, until the water is almost absorbed and then add some more water and repeat, stirring occassionally.  Continue adding water in this manner until the rice grains fatten and the rice tastes cooked.  The rice should be tender but still retain a tiny bite.  This whole process will take 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the rice you choose, the heat, and the size of the pot.  So be patient.  When the rice is finished, you should make sure that there is still some liquid. Risotto should be quite loose.

As the rice is cooking, mince the chives, and cut or tear your smoked salmon into bite sized pieces. When the rice is done to your satisfaction, add in the mascarpone cheese, the salmon, and the chives.  Stir until it is all incorporated and the salmon is heated through.  If it seems too thick, add a touch more water.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper.

For each serving, spread a portion of the risotto on the plate and top with a generous handful of arugula.  You could dress the arugula with a bit of lemon juice, salt and olive oil, if you like, but I find that it is not necessary.

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