We are huge fans of risotto, as we welcome the return of cooler temperatures, when once again rich, hearty dishes return to favor. This is a variation of a spring vegetable risotto, and the addition of the caramelized Bosc Pears, plus a hint of fall spices, serve as autumn’s calling card. This is an ideal on its own as a main course, or as a side to slices of pork tenderloin, roasted or grilled duck, or a perfectly cooked veal chop.
Serves 4 as a main course; Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish
For the vegetables:
½ cup fresh carrots, small dice
½ cup frozen or high-quality fresh peas (See Chef’s Note)
2 large leeks(white and light green parts only, sliced lengthwise, then sliced on a diagonal), rinsed and drained
For the caramelized pears:
6 firm (but ripe) Bosc pears (about 2 to 3 pounds), peeled, cored, and cut into a large dice (¾”)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
For the risotto:
2 quarts chicken broth (can substitute vegetable broth)
½ cup coarsely chopped applewood smoked bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium Vidalia onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups arborio rice (risotto)
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
½ cup white wine (Riesling works well here, though a Chardonnay is fine)
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, or more to taste
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Asiago cheese shavings, for garnish
Fresh sage leaves, for garnish
Place the chicken (or vegetable) broth in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and keep the broth hot for the risotto preparation.
Blanch the vegetables:
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice water bath by filling a large bowl with ice and filling it with cold water. Add the carrots to the boiling water and blanch them for about 3 minutes, just until they start to soften and become bright orange. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in the ice water bath. Return the water to a boil and add the peas, blanching for 1 to 2 minutes until bright green. Remove with a slotted spoon, add to the same ice water bath as the carrots. Add the leeks to the boiling water and cook for about 2 minutes until just tender. Remove the leeks and add to the ice water bath. Once the leeks have cooled, drain the vegetables and set aside.
[Chef’s Note: At this time of year, unless you can find excellent fresh peas, we recommend using frozen ones, both due to their texture and sweetness.]
Caramelize the Bosc pears:
Place the butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Season the pears with sea salt and add to the pan. Sauté over medium heat until the pears are browned and the edges crisp, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the brown sugar to the pan and toss the pears to coat. Allow the pears to cook about 2 minutes more, until caramelized. Set aside.
Prepare the risotto:
Place a large risotto pan, or large heavy saucepan, over medium heat. When hot, add the bacon and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the olive oil and the onion and sauté about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger, and cook until the onion is softened, about 2 minutes more.
Reduce the heat just below medium, and add the rice. Stir until coated. Add the sage. Cook, stirring until the rice begins to turn a milky white, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the wine. Cook, stirring frequently until the wine is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Ladle about 1 cup of the broth into the rice mixture and cook, stirring often, until the broth is almost completely absorbed. Continue cooking and stirring the rice, adding 1 cup of broth at a time, but only when the previous cup has been absorbed. After about 15 minutes, begin tasting the rice and adding the broth in smaller amounts until the rice is cooked through. When the risotto is done it should be creamy with a slight firmness (al dente) to the bite. Your total cooking time should be about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Stir in the butter, the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Gently fold in the vegetables. When incorporated, gently fold in the caramelized pears.
Place the risotto in warmed serving bowls. Garnish with Asiago cheese shavings. Serve immediately.
Recipe and photo by Donna Marie Desfor. Originally published 9/05.