Hello, my babies!
I have been neglecting you. And for that I’m (wait for it, it happens once a year) truly sorry. But you see, I’ve been flitting around the world meeting a lot of you in person at various conventions/pop culture expos/bar stools, and it’s taken me this long to have a day with a nice chunk of time to say hello. And, more importantly, to feed you.
It’s gotten rather brisk here in Vancouver, which means the shorts and open-toed YSL’s have been packed away for fall. Everybody seems to be fighting the same cold, because Vancouver is small and we all have a tendency of making out with each other at some point but I digress. We’re all feeling rather domesticated and holing up at home in our sweatpants craving comfort food, and I’ve always thought the ultimate Italian comfort food was a nice warm bowl of risotto.
Risotto’s one of these gals that seems to intimidate people into thinking she’s difficult, but really she just needs to be nurtured and paid attention to and wined and dined and given a nice bouquet of flowers just because once in awhile and oh wait that’s me, nevermind. The best part about risotto is that once you master the very simple technique, you can literally add pretty much anything to it and turn it into a completely different dish from week to week. It feeds a crowd on the cheap so it’s a great dinner party dish, but do like I do and ham up how long you’ve been slaving away in the kitchen (even though we know better) and make everyone refer to you as “Chef”. Or “Queen Chef.” Or “Your majesty.” Whichever.
Because it’s fall, and because I found some beautiful free-range organic turkey sausage at the farmer’s market as well as some amazing chanterelle mushrooms (what a nerd), this is a decidedly filling and woodsy take on a risotto. If you can’t find turkey sausage, do what I do and whip up your own: mix 1lb ground turkey in a bowl with half a teaspoon each of ground fennel, ground thyme, ground sage, a dash of red pepper flakes, salt, and lots of black pepper. Look at you, Chef!
TURKEY SAUSAGE RISOTTO
1 lb bulk turkey sausage (if all you can find is the links, remove the casings)
2 strips of bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 lb chanterelle mushrooms (these are yellow in color and delicate and so pretty, but if you can’t find these, criminis will work well), stems removed and sliced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup frozen peas
4 cups chicken broth or stock
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup white wine (as always, make this a white you would actually drink, and stick to something a little drier, like pinot grigio)
couple large handfuls of grated romano cheese
1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
Heat your chicken broth or stock in a pot over medium-low so it’s nice and warm.
Heat a large deep skillet with 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil over high heat. Brown the turkey sausage for a few minutes, breaking it up with a spoon as you go. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside. Add the bacon and cook until browned, and then add to the bowl of sausage, leaving the bacon fat in the pan.
Turn the heat down to medium on the skillet and add another tbsp of olive oil to the bacon fat. Add the onions, garlic, mushrooms, and red pepper flakes, and sautee until the onions are translucent, about five minutes. Add the arborio rice and season with salt and pepper. Toast the rice in the pan for a few minutes, then add the white wine and stir and stir and stir. This is the trick with risotto: keep stirring. It’s going to soak up that wine pretty quickly (just like me!) so once that’s gone, slowly add in a ladle full of warm chicken stock and stir again. Once the liquid evaporates, add another ladle of stock and stir. This whole process is a little time consuming, but it takes about 20 minutes from start to finish and it’s worth it. Once your stock is all gone, taste the risotto to see if the rice is cooked. It should be velvety and smooth, not grainy, so if it has too much bite to it, add a ladle of warm water and stir it in and keep tasting until it’s finished. Risotto has a mind of its own, and it needs more or less liquid every time, so don’t be afraid to taste.
Once the rice is cooked, stir in the frozen peas and the turkey sausage and bacon and let everything warm through. Turn the heat off the risotto and stir in the cheese and butter. Taste for seasoning and add more or less if you need it.
Sprinkle the risotto with a little extra cheese just before serving and drizzle with a little dash of extra virgin olive oil just to richen it up even more, because you can never be too rich.