Friday, February 20, 2009

stirring the pot

A few weekends ago, we had our friends E and Jessica over for dinner. They had never met before, which is always a little risky, I think. What if your guests have completely incompatible views on gun control, or favorite U2 albums, or whether season two of The Wire is better than season four? No one wants to break up a fistfight in their own apartment, especially before dessert is served.

Luckily they got along just fine. Whew.

In general, all of our friends get along (enough to survive a meal together, at least) but I'm always a little nervous about bringing those different worlds together. There's my work friends, and Dan's work friends, friends from back home and other random places, Dan's grad school friends, and of course, friends of friends. This is why I don't have Facebook. For the most part, I like my friends the way I like my peas and carrots—separate.

But bringing people together is kind of the point of throwing dinner parties. It's a no-brainer to have your usual group of friends over, but sometimes you need to be brave and inject some excitement into things with new blood. Stir the pot, as they say.

Speaking of stirring, risotto is not dinner party fare! What was I thinking? It's a perfectly lovely dish to eat in a restaurant, or make by yourself at home, but it is not conducive to entertaining. And not because it's complicated to make—because it requires you to be in the kitchen. (Duh.) While everyone was sitting in the living room, enjoying their drinks, I was standing over the stove, stirring, stirring, stirring. At first I was able to dash in and out of the kitchen between stirs and keep up with the conversation, but eventually I gave up because I didn't want to burn everyone's dinner. Not ideal.

I can see risotto being great dinner party fare if you have a big kitchen where people can congregate and help stir. Or at least a kitchen that looks into the area where everyone is hanging out. But our tiny galley kitchen isn't really designed for socalizing, much less two people in there at the same time.

Oh well. Live and learn, I guess. One consolation: the risotto was very, very good.

Saturday night winter supper
Winter caprese salad
Red wine risotto with bacon and radicchio
Hot chocolate and ambrosia macaroons

Red wine risotto with bacon and radicchio
If you like risotto, I'd recommend making this now, before the weather warms up. Unlike white wine-based risottos, which I find very delicate, this red wine version is hearty winter fare. The smokiness of the bacon melds well with the red wine, and the bitterness of the radicchio cuts the richness of the dish and brightens it up a bit.
(Serves 4 to 6 people)

About 5 cups stock (chicken, vegetable, or fish)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 shallots (or 2 medium onions), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
14 oz. Arborio rice
3 glasses of your favorite full-bodied red wine (I used a bargain bin cabernet)
6 strips bacon, sliced
1 medium-sized head of radicchio
1 handful fresh rosemary, chopped
salt and pepper
5 Tbsp. butter
4 oz. parmesan cheese, grated

Heat the stock in a medium-sized pot. In another pan, fry the bacon in a little olive oil until slightly golden. Add the radicchio and rosemary to the pan with the butter and cook gently with the lid on until wilted.

In a separate pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots or onions, garlic, and celery, and cook slowly, about 4 minutes. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.

Stir the rice. The rice will fry and turn translucent after about a minute, keep stirring. Add the wine and keep stirring. (Pour yourself a glass of wine while you're at it.) Once the wine evaporates, add a ladle of hot stock (I use a measuring cup) and a pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to a high simmer so the rice doesn't cook too quickly. As the stock evaporates, add another ladle, and keep stirring. This should take around 15 minutes. Taste the rice and see if it's cooked. It should be soft but still have a slight bite. When you get the right texture, remove the risotto from the heat and add the bacon-radicchio mixture, butter, and parmesan. Stir gently. Place a lid on the pan and let it sit for 2 to 3 minutes, so the risotto becomes creamy. Serve immediately with extra parmesan on top.


E. Tyler Lindvall said...

Huh, I didn't even realize you weren't around much...go figure.

I joke, I kid, then I joke again.

Dan talks enough for ten people, so he will always have you covered as you run to the kitchen to do whatever needs doing. That all being said, it was lovely evening and a GREAT dinner. Thanks again.

Colin P. Delaney said...

Dan doesn't have any work friends.

Anonymous said...

Adding stock to the Risotto is the perfect excuse to use if you want to get to know someone better. I assigned this task to my in-laws once and it was a bonding experience.

Daniel said...

I have all kinds of friends you don't know about, Colin. I think of them as my cool friends.

Maybe we can all get together and you can stir stock into the risotto together.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, if you ever want to bond, let's do it in a fancy restaurant.

Lisa said...

ETL: Yes, I am forgettable. Glad the food wasn't. Ha

Colin: Hmm...I don't know about that. Maybe a co-worker out there could add some perspective on this? Dana?

Laura: Nice to be able to hand tasks off to your in-laws, right?

Daniel: You are very cool. Don't listen to that mean Colin P. Delaney.

Judy: Yes, I agree. Although I'd love to bake cookies with you sometime.

E. Tyler Lindvall said...

Lisa, I just kid you because the sexual tension between the two of us is almost as intense as the sexual tension between your husband and I. It all must be very confusing for the two of you. Dan will always hold a special place in my heart, but you, have your own blog. And, what can he really offer? Quick quips on these comment pages and lame music recommendations. I think we both deserve better. Just saying.

Remember me.

Lisa said...

Jeez, why is everyone ragging on Dan all of a sudden? E, we may have our feelings, but he doesn't deserve this.

And that goes for you too, Mr. Delaney!

Cold Cuts said...

That risotto sounds so delicious. I'm gonna make it this weekend I think!

Dana B said...

Oops, I got behind on ADP right when the commenting was getting good... Had I been on top of this, I would've had a zinger to contribute but now it just seems mean.

P.S. : Fancy dinners? Cookies? I like the way you ladies think. Next time Judy's in town, can we have a baking throwdown and then decide the winner over an inadvisable amount of prosecco?

Lisa said...

Totally! But I warn you, Judy is pretty competitive...

Dana B said...

Hey Lisa, just wanted to tell you I made this risotto this weekend. It was super easy and deelish! Thanks!

Lisa said...

Hi Dana! Glad it worked out. I hope you have a an open-plan kitchen.


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