My lack of blogging over the last few weeks can undoubtedly be attributed to the fourth of July holiday. I had a glorious 11 day vacation from work, during which I rode my bicycle, laid on the beach, played with my dog, drank margaritas in the middle of the afternoon, and indulged in daily afternoon naps. As cheesy as the term “staycation” may be, it was one of the most relaxing and fun vacations I’ve had in a while. I avoided all sense of responsibility and normalcy, including cooking (and the impending pile of dishes that would inevitably clutter my tiny apartment kitchen).
But after a few weeks of take-out and meandering boozy brunches, I was itching to get back into the kitchen and make something comforting and familiar. Nothing new and nerve-wrecking, nothing that would require research and planning. So, I went with an old favorite: risotto.
Everyone always talks about how difficult and time-consuming making risotto can be, but it’s the first thing I ever taught myself to cook and have made countless variations of the dish over the last several years. I think that with risotto, practice just makes perfect. Lucky for you, I have plenty of practice! I promise to share many more variations of risotto on the blog in the future, but I thought this was a great summery place to start.
I like to do as much of my weekly grocery shopping at the farmer’s market during the summer months, and this is the perfect recipe to use some of that delicious sweet corn that only comes around during this time of year. Roasting the poblanos gives the rice a deep smoky flavor that compliments the pops of crunchy sweet corn thrown in right at the end.
Roasted Poblano and Sweet Corn Risotto
2 poblano peppers
2 cobs of sweet corn, husks removed
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minces shallot
1 tablespoon minced celery
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4-5 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup queso fresco
salt + pepper
Spray poblano peppers with cooking spray and set on a sheet pan in your broiler. Broil peppers about 10 minutes per side, until the skin is dark and wrinkly. When removing the pepper from the broiler, immediately place them in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid for 15 minutes. This will steam them and allow the skin to separate from the meat of the pepper and will make your life oh-so-much-easier. Once the 15 minutes are up, remove the skin and seeds from the peppers, roughly chop them and set them aside.
Next you want to prepare your corn. The magic of sweet corn is that you don’t even need to cook it. It is sweet and delicious on its own, so this cooking step is quick. Turn a burner on your stove to high heat and place a cob directly over the flame. Rotate the cob every few seconds until the corn is slightly blackened on all sides. Repeat with remaining cobs and let cool. When the corn has cooled cut the kernels from the cobs and save the kernels for later.
Place the cobs in a medium saucepan with the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil and then keep at a simmer until you are ready to start adding the stock to your rice. Boiling the corn cobs in your chicken stock will really enhance the flavor of the sweet corn in the risotto.
Set your non-stick pan over medium heat (I love to use my ceramic dutch oven for making risottos for the evenly distributed heat). When the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons each of butter and olive oil. Once melted, add the garlic, shallots and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes, until softened, but not brown. Next you will add the arborio rice.
Toasting the rice is a very important step in making a good risotto. You’ll know when it’s ready by the smell. The rice will give off a nutty, toasty aroma that will fill your kitchen. Once your rice is toasted, add the poblano peppers and continue to toast for a minute or two to infuse the rice with the poblano flavor.
Add the wine to the rice mixture and cook until the pan is almost dry. Remove the corn cobs from the chicken stock and discard them. Once the wine has been absorbed, add a ladle or two of chicken stock and stir until the rice has absorbed almost all of the stock. this is where the “babysitting” aspect of cooking risotto comes into play. You want to allow the rice to absorb almost all of the stock before adding more, but you don’t want to let the pan completely dry out. Continue adding stock, a ladle at a time until the rice is creamy, but still has a slight bite to it. This will take about 30 minutes. You may not need all of the chicken stock.
The trickiest part of making risotto is knowing when to stop adding the chicken stock. Adding too little yields a crunchy risotto, but adding too much yields a mushy risotto. You’re looking for the middle ground. The best way to achieve a perfect risotto is to taste the rice after each addition of stock, once it has absorbed most of the moisture.
When the rice has reached the perfect consistency, season with salt and pepper. Add remaining two tablespoons of butter . Once the butter has melted, add the corn kernels and stir. Add the crumbled queso fresco at the very end and stir to combine.
chipotle crusted scallops
1 pound fresh sea scallops
1/4 cup all purpose flour
salt + pepper
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
2 tablespoons butter
Pat scallops dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Combine flour with chipotle powder. Lightly dredge the scallops in the flour mixture, making sure to shake off the excess.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. When hot, add butter. When the butter has melted, add scallops in a single layer and cook for 3 minutes per side. You may need to do this in 2 batches, depending on the size of your scallops
Bonus: If you have leftover risotto, stick it in the fridge overnight. When chilled, it will be easy to roll into balls, lightly flour, and pan (or deep) fry. Risotto cakes are a great appetizer or can be turned into a full-blown meal when served with a salad.