Risotto is comfort food that is exciting and special enough to serve at a dinner party, but I never do, because it has to be cooked just before you serve it, and it’s a workout standing over steaming pots of rice and broth for 30 minutes of vigorous stirring – not what I want to be doing while my guests are sipping cocktails and enjoying hors d’oeuvres. If you don’t mind sweating it out in the kitchen a day or two before your party, you can make the risotto into “cakes” by shaping them into patties, lightly dusting them with flour, and browning them in a little oil. They can be stored in the fridge for a day or two and reheated in the oven during your party, while you are enjoying your friends.
Fennel can be challenging to cut if you’re not familiar with it. First cut off the dark green fronds – those are not edible, though the frilly parts are sometimes used as a garnish. Trim off a thin slice from the bottom, to remove the brown end. Pull off any damaged outer leaves or use a vegetable peeler to remove discolored areas from the bulb.
If you are chopping the fennel for sautéing, cut the bulb in half vertically. Then cut out the core, which is a little triangular part near the root end. Place the halves face down and slice vertically. Then turn and slice horizontally.
If you are slicing fennel for roasting, do not remove the core. You’ll need that to hold the slices together. First slice the fennel bulb in half vertically. Then lay the halves down and slice vertically through the core.
This recipe is adapted from a cookbook called “Marie Claire: Cooking” by Donna Hay. If you aren’t familiar with Donna Hay, the Australian chef and food stylist behind Marie Claire and Donna Hay magazines, and author of many wonderful cookbooks, I highly recommend a visit to her website and getting your hands on some of her cookbooks.
Roasting the vegetables brings out their sweetness, tenderizes them, and makes them irresistible.
I suggest putting on some good music and pouring yourself a glass of wine while you’re stirring the rice.
This is a special dish – complicated to make and time-consuming – but worth it.
- *Roasted Vegetables
- 10 plum (Roma) tomatoes, halved lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (to toss with tomatoes)
- 3 Fennel bulbs, stems and fronds removed, halved vertically, and each half cut into about 8 slices, through the root
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil (to toss with fennel)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- *Note: If you make the risotto cakes in advance, it is better skip this step for now and freshly roast the vegetables the day you are serving them.
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored, and roughly chopped.
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 4 cups low-salt stock (your choice of beef, chicken or vegetable)
- 2 cups (16 ounces) tomato puree
- 1 cup dry red wine (such as a Pinot noir or Chianti)
- ½ cup grated firm mature goat cheese
- Salt & pepper to taste
- ½ cup all-purpose flour for dusting
- Canola oil for sautéing
- Roasted Vegetables Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange the tomatoes halves on a roasting pan, cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, and pepper. Toss fennel with oil, salt and pepper and arrange on a roasting pan. Roast vegetables for 30-40 minutes in top and bottom racks of oven, switching position of trays and turning the fennel after 20 minutes, until they soften and begin to caramelize. Remove vegetables from the oven, and set aside.
- Broth for Risotto Heat stock, tomatoes and wine to boiling in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to a low simmer - hot but not bubbling.
- Risotto Heat oil in a heavy pot or Dutch Oven over medium heat till oil is hot but not smoking. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes, till soft. Add chopped fennel and cook for 8-10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until fennel is soft. Add rice to the pot and cook, stirring for a minute or two, to coat grains. Add broth mixture, ½ cup at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon, until all the liquid is absorbed. Repeat, using all the broth or until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite. (about 30 minutes) Stir in cheese, salt and fresh cracked pepper. Remove from heat.
- Cakes Allow risotto to cool for 10 or 15 minutes so you can handle it. Shape into 10 patties. Spread flour onto a plate, dip patties in flour and shake off excess. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, until hot but not smoking. Brown cakes, in batches, for about about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve risotto cakes with warmed roasted vegetables.
- Risotto cakes can be stored for 2 days in an air-tight container in the fridge. Put wax paper between them. Before serving, bring to room temp. Preheat oven to 400. Heat cakes on a baking tray till very hot, about 8 minutes.