Sunday, January 2, 2011

Using Leftovers: "Boiled Dinner" Risotto

Growing up in New England, I am very familiar with the phrase "Boiled Dinner". This meal usually consists of a ham or corned beef boiled with potatoes, carrots, onions, and cabbage - at least that's what it was in my house growing up. It wasn't unusual for us to have boiled dinners a few times over the course of the winter growing up in my house, and some of my fondest Sunday dinner memories surround these meals.

Staring at a seemingly endless pile of leftover ham from Christmas, I decided that I would use some of it in a risotto dish. While wandering the produce section at my local grocery store yesterday, I came up with the idea of creating a "Boiled Dinner" risotto using some of my favorite ingredients from a typical New England boiled dinner. The results were absolutely delicious, so I will share them with you.

"Boiled Dinner" Risotto (Serves 8)

- 4 tablespoons of light olive oil, divided
- 1.5 medium or 1 large sweet onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled & chopped
- 2 red potatoes, washed & chopped
- 1/2 small/medium head of cabbage, cut into 2" long x 0.5" wide strips (roughly)
- 1.5 tsp crushed garlic
- 2 cups leftover ham, chopped
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 6 cups stock (I used chicken)
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1.5 oz (or 1/2 cup) shredded/grated Asiago Cheese
-  Cinnamon, sage, nutmeg, rosemary, and fresh ground pepper (about 2-3 dashes each... just enough, but not too much)

- In a large pot, heat 2 tbsp olive oil.
- Add in onions & carrots. Sauté for about 2-3 minutes.
- Add red potatoes & the other 2 tbsp olive oil. Sauté for about 2-3 more minutes.
- In a separate pot, combine stock, water, and cider vinegar. Put heat on medium to bring up to a warm temperature - liquid should be steaming but not bubbling. 
- Add cabbage & ham. Sauté for about 2-3 more minutes. (At this point, I also added about 1/4 cup water to help de-glaze the pan as there was some brown starting to appear at the bottom.)

- Add garlic & rice. Sauté for about 2 more minutes.
- Ladle enough of the liquid over the rice to cover it. Stir and bring up to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

- As the liquid becomes absorbed, add 1-2 more ladles of liquid until the rice becomes al-dente and the risotto begins to appear to have a creamy texture/look.
- Before adding the last ladle or two of liquid, add the 2 tbsp of brown sugar and all spices to the mixture. Stir until combined.
- Once the last of the liquid has been added and has been absorbed, stir in the Asiago cheese until it is combined. Serve in bowls, feeds up to 8.
This is basically what the finished product should look like.

When I served this up to Steve and our friend John, it was better received than I had anticipated. Steve is not much of a cabbage person so I wasn't sure how he'd like the cabbage in the mix, but he went for seconds - so it wasn't bad to be in there! We have about 4 servings left so I'm looking forward to having this for another meal or two.

One variation on this that I will throw out there. The cider vinegar combined with the brown sugar & cinnamon lend this dish to have a slightly tart & sweet flavor. If you're not a fan of vinegar tastes, I would recommend not adding the vinegar to the liquid and instead substituting in 1/2 cup of apple juice or apple cider. I think that it would keep that sweetness to the flavor but take away the tartness of the vinegar.

If you try this out, leave a comment and let me know. I will say this for anyone who's never made risotto - I think that it can be intimidating because you don't want to overcook it. However, it is incredibly easy to do once you know what you're doing. The key - I've found - is to make sure you're ready to stand over the pot, stirring in the liquid and keeping a watchful eye for when it has been absorbed by the rice so you know when to add more. Risotto is an interactive meal to prepare and can be fun to watch it transform into a pile of sauteed stuff into a delicious creamy rice dish.


No comments: