Summary: Recently, I had an outstanding meal at The Magpie in Richmond, VA. My appetizers were the stars, and the flavors of the simple but perfectly executed arancini have stayed on the tip of my tongue since. Orbs of Manchego, rosemary and creamy rice were fried to a light, greaseless crisp and perched atop fig compote and adorned with pea tendrils. Each bite was breathtaking. As such, I simply had to recreate.
Because I don't love to fry at home and because I wanted more of an entree than appetizer, I decided on risotto; after all, the primary ingredient -rice- is the same. I bought young Manchego (three months) and also one more mature (6 months) because I like the melt factor of soft cheeses and the punch of older, harder ones. An equal parts blend worked phenomenally here, but you could certainly just one if you prefer.
The rosemary is key as is a gently sauteed base of shallots and garlic. Go outta the gate slowly and keep that pace, and you'll be richly rewarded. This makes two hearty entree portions or four side portions. It's great as is but would also be nice topped with grilled shrimp, seared scallops or even some chopped figs.
Yield: serves 2
- 3 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon finely diced shallots
- 1 generous teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1¼ cups arborio rice (or another short grain rice if you can't find arborio)
- ¼ cup white wine (I used a crisp sauvignon blanc)
- 1 cup grated Manchego cheese (I used equal parts young and more mature Manchego)
Into a 2 quart saucepan set over medium-high heat, pour the chicken broth. Bring it to a simmer and keep it there, adjusting temperature as needed.
In a 4 quart saucepan set over medium heat, put the butter and olive oil. When the butter is mostly melted, add the garlic, shallots, rosemary and salt, and, using a wooden spoon, stir gently so that everything becomes evenly coated in the butter-oil mixture. Saute, stirring regularly, for 2-3 minutes. Nothing should brown! You just want things to soften, become fragrant and the shallots will start to look translucent.
Add the rice, and stir to combine everything. Let the rice toast for about a minute and then deglaze by pouring in the white wine.
When the wine is mostly absorbed, add the broth one half cup at a time, making sure each new addition is mostly absorbed before adding the next. This is not a quick-cook process so stir slowly and consistently and just be patient, as if you're happily tending a lazy flock.
When all the broth has been added and absorbed, taste the rice. Is it creamy and just al dente? If so, you are ready to add the cheese which you should just dump on top and fold in. If the rice is not quite tender enough for your preference, add a bit of water, stir and cook, continuing this until the rice is to your desired doneness. Using the three cups of broth, the cooking time will be somewhere around 25 minutes.
Serve as soon as you've folded in and evenly distributed the cheese. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary if you have them!