Whenever I make risotto I literally want to eat the entire pan all by myself. Seriously, it’s a huge problem. It became even more of a problem when I declared 2016 to be my Year of Risotto. Yes, I decided that I am going to use this year to perfect my risotto skills until I can make it with my eyes closed!
My love for risotto started when I was in high school. I signed up for student trip to Italy and Greece and was excited to eat pasta and Nutella to my heart’s content. My first memory of eating risotto is somewhat blurry, almost taken out of a movie. We had been traveling on a bus all day to get to a remote coastal town in Italy. It was dark and late and the group of 30 starving international students was shuffled into a small Bed and Breakfast. We climbed a few flights of stairs to the top of floor of the building, which was set up as a small dining hall for guests. For whatever reason it had almost no lighting with the exception of a few wall sconces, so it almost felt like a candlelight dinner. This little old Italian grandma comes out of the kitchen and serves us a bowl of “rice”. It was love at first taste. It was the most amazing thing I remember eating in Italy, more than any pasta or Nutella combined.
Now, what does this have to do with Puerto Rican food? Transporting all the way to the beginning of 2016 (Year of Risotto, remember?), I traveled home to visit my parents. One night I decided I was going to make risotto for them to keep practicing my skills. My recipe used English Peas but my mom didn’t have any in the house, so she suggested using gandules (Pigeon Peas). GENIUS! If you ask any Puerto Rican what our most iconic food is they will say Arroz con Gandules y Pernil. Pigeon pea rice is served at virtually all special events and parties.
So, to follow-up our amazing Pernil recipe, I am sharing an upscale version of our typical arroz con gandules: Pigeon Pea Risotto.
Vamo’ a Cocinar!
Risotto gets a bad rep for being difficult to make. It’s not very complicated, it is just very needy. It requires love and attention and constant
massaging stirring. The key is to make sure you have a good 20-25 minutes to stand a few feet from the stove.
Start off with dicing one plantain and deep fry it at around 375 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown on the outside and tender on the inside. Drain from oil and set aside while you start making the risotto. In a separate pot, heat up the chicken stock until it is simmering and cover it so it doesn’t evaporate.
To make the risotto, take a cast iron or stainless steel pan and sauté the sofrito in annatto oil for a couple of minutes. Add in the diced onions and sauté until translucent. Once the onions are translucent, pour in the arborio rice.
I’ll pause here for a moment and discuss arborio rice. The type of rice used in risotto is key to its success. It needs to be a short-to-medium grain rice with a lot of starchy content. The rice starch is what makes risotto creamy. There are many types of rice used in Italy for risotto, but the most widely common and readily available in American supermarkets is Arborio Rice. I would really discourage making risotto with long grain rice, it will not have the proper texture and will not be as enjoyable.
Ok, back to the the cooking. Toast the arborio rice in the pan with the onions for a couple of minutes until the rice starts looking a little darker.
Now pour in 3/4 cup of a dry white wine and lower the temperature to medium. Stir the rice periodically and wait for the wine to be absorbed by the rice. Once the wine has been absorbed, use a soup ladle and pour in 1/2 cup of your simmering broth. Keeping the broth warm will help the rice cook quicker because the it will maintain it’s temperature when you pour it in. Stir the rice periodically and make sure that it is not sticking to the pan. Once the broth has been absorbed, pour in another 1/2 cup ladle. Continue doing this until you only have 1-2 more ladles to go.
At this point your rice should start looking creamy and thick. The creaminess comes from the rice starches that have been released during the low and slow cooking process. This is the time to pour in your diced plantains and gandules. Stir to incorporate evenly.
Finish pouring in the rest of the broth in 1/2 cup increments. The rice should still feel a little al dente but tender enough to be enjoyable. Check for seasonings, adding more salt or pepper as necessary. Once you are happy with texture and flavor, dump in 1/4 cup of shredded parmesan cheese and stir.
Risotto is most delicious served right away, warm and freshly made. Feel free to shave a little more parmesan over it and garnish with cilantro.
This is awesome served with Pernil, but it is an amazing vegetarian dish just as is!
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 6 cups of chicken broth
- 2 tbsp sofrito
- 1/2 cup onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can Pigeon Peas
- 1 plantain (green for savory or yellow for sweet bite)
- 1/8 cup cilantro, chopped
- salt, to taste
- ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp annatto oil
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- Peel and dice the plantain. Fry for a few minutes until golden brown on the outside. Drain and set aside.
- Heat chicken stock in pot and let simmer while covered.
- In a pan, sauté sofrito in the annatto oil for a couple of minutes on medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Sauté until onions are translucent.
- Add arborio rice to the pan and toast for 3-5 minutes.
- Add 3/4 cup of a dry white wine and stir. Allow the wine to be absorbed while stirring.
- Use a ladle to 1/2 cup of the simmering broth to the rice and stir. Keep stirring periodically to ensure rice is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. At this point start seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Once the broth has been absorbed, add another 1/2 cup of broth and stir periodically. Continue this process by adding the broth in 1/2 cup increments and stirring while it is absorbed.
- When you have 2-3 more ladlefuls left, add Pigeon Peas and Plantains and stir. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
- Continue adding broth until the rice is tender but still al dente.
- Add 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese and stir it in.
- Remove from heat and garnish with cilantro and more cheese.