Monday, September 19, 2011

Fresh Corn & Pancetta Risotto: 'tis the season!

There's a time and a place for everything, and the time has never been better for this incredibly satisfying risotto. You may have noticed a few ears of corn being offered for sale out right about now? If you haven't then you obviously have been a shut in for the last three weeks. Like fresh tomatoes warm off the vine, corn is never better than you'll get it in late summer/early fall. I picked up three ears at our local market for about a buck. If there's a more satisfying way to spend a dollar I haven't heard of it! I knew immediately what I was going to do with them. Risotto is the perfect thing for me to be making at home right now since we're still in "moving phase", getting into our new house and getting the old one ready for listing. Simple is definitely the mantra right now, and nothing could be simpler or tastier than this dish. It takes about 10 or 15 minutes to prep, maybe 25 to cook, and then you can take all the time in the world to linger over the incredibly delicious results!
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Fresh Corn & Pancetta Risotto
an E.D.T original

3 ears fresh corn on the cob
4 oz. pancetta, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1-1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
5 cups chicken broth/stock (approx.)
1/2 stick butter (optional but a really good idea)
grated parmagiano-reggiano

1- Shuck the ears of corn, removing as much of the silk as you can. Take your chefs knife and cutting as closely to the base of the kernels as possible, slice them top to bottom into a bowl. It's super easy, but if you haven't done it before click here for a great tutorial. You should end up with about two cups of kernels. Set aside.

2- Heat medium sized skillet over med-high heat, add pancetta and cook until semi-crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain off all but about two tablespoons of fat and set skillet aside.

3- Put chicken broth in a 3 quart saucepan and heat to a simmer. In a medium saucepan add olive oil and butter and heat over medium heat until butter is melted. Add onion and saute until it is softened, about 6 or 7 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat for about 1 minute. Add white wine and stir until almost all of the wine is absorbed. Then start adding broth about 3/4 cup at a time, stirring all the while, until the rice is just al dente (or whatever texture you prefer). Reheat pancetta and add it (along with its delicious pork fat!) and the corn to the pan and stir to combine. Add butter and stir until melted, then ladle risotto into bowls/plates. Top with grated parmagiano and serve.

wine pairing note: I was most fortunate to have a random bottle of 2001 Bernard Moreau Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru white burgundy rolling about the cellar. It was chardonnay at its most sublime! Assuming not everyone has such liquid wonder available, I would still highly recommend you find a more reasonably priced white burgundy (or other not overly-oaked chardonnay), maybe a 2007 or 2009 Viré-Clessé or good Macon from those same vintages. Both '07 and '09 were warm years, and the rich fruit, with still young acids, would be great with the richness and vibrancy of the corn.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Hail to The Chief: El Presidente cocktail

If you thought booze was any less susceptible faddism than any other thing in your life, think again. Case in point is the current affaire d'amour many bartenders are having with rum. Long forgotten and now popping up everywhere, not just on bar menus but on the front of the bar's themselves (here in PDX we have bartender extraordinaire Kevin Ludwig's new and very cool booze boite Rum Club), Rum is having its 15 minutes. Long ignored is the fact that rum has a long and storied history as a main ingredient in many a pre-prohibition cocktail.

For those who have forgotten their drink history, may I suggest you immediately run out and buy a copy of the Washington Post drinks columnist ("Drinks columnist"...I should sue my college academic adviser for negligence. I don't seem to remember "drinks columnist" ever being mentioned as a career option) Jason Wilson's excellent and inspiring booze bible appropriately titled "Boozehound". I've referenced Wilson and his intoxicating skill set many times on this blog (just search his name in the search box upper left) and almost without fail he's steered me right. His book should have a prominent seat at the bar of all drinks aficionados. At the end of his chapter "Of Politics and Rum" he offers the following recipe for the "El Presidente". He writes that it was "Popular in Havana during the 1920 and 1930s and was reportedly offered to President Calvin Coolidge by then Cuban president Gerardo Machado. Coolidge, mindful of Prohibition back home, declined the drink." I highly encourage you to find out what Coolidge was missing out on, because this is a deeply refreshing drink with a rich, fruity complexity. Wilson recommends using an aged rum in this drink, which I heartily endorse. I used Flor de Caña 7 year old off my home bar. It was perfecto!
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El Presidente
from Jason Wilson's "Boozehound"
1-1/2 ounces aged rum
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
3/4 ounce Cointreau
1/2 teaspoon grenadine (I found the excellent REAL grenadine made by Sonoma Syrups at New Seasons here in PDX. It's worth searching out!)
Orange peel twist for garnish

Fill a mixing glass two-thirds full with ice. Add the rum, vermouth, Cointreau, and grenadine. Stir vigorously for 30 seconds, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist.