Sunday, 22 March 2009

Leek and Champagne Risotto

It's Sunday.

Last night we hosted a wonderful multi-course birthday dinner for a dear friend with friends old and new in attendance. It was incredible, we had such a good time. But today I'm tired. Played out from a full-day cook-fest. For this reason, I had no intention to undertake a post for my blog. But here I am.

Let me explain.

In the wake of the dinner party, I spent a relaxing afternoon catching up on the various foodie blogs I watch. There was a common theme across several of the food blogs as First Lady, Michelle Obama, made a groundbreaking (literally) announcement on Friday for the White House Kitchen Garden - an organic garden at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue . Wow! This is the first time since the Roosevelt Era (1933-45) that the White House has had a visible garden. And this one is particularly remarkable as it will meet needs beyond the White House kitchen. I won't go into the details as there's lots already out there but have provided some links at the end of this post in case you're interested to read more.

Moving on.

Through my blog reading,
Serious Eats New York put me onto, as they so often do, the New York Times food news - quick links to foodie articles without me having to do the looking. In particular, there were two very interesting articles centred around organic food and food consumption practices. Both quite thought provoking.

It got me to thinking (the thought provoking worked).

It's not that I read anything new that I hadn't read before, but it does seem there is a whole new energy to the writings. Some extra wind in the sails as a result of Michelle Obama's bold move (actually, planting a garden shouldn’t be a bold move, but perhaps the fact that it is bold, tells the story right there).

I decided to prepare a meal using the principles of minimizing waste and reducing my carbon footprint through vegetarian cookery. And that's how I got to Leek and Champagne risotto.

You see I had three leeks in my fridge that were about to expire (I've been here before) and some leftover champagne from last night's soiree. My leeks were originally intended for creamed leeks, but after a large, indulgent dinner last night, we weren't in the mood for another decadent meal. The topper, was that I was going to use the pressure cooker to make this risotto (another carbon footprint reduction).

I had heard the stories that a pressure cooker can make risotto, but was skeptical. Afterall, I actually find comfort in the 45 minute stirring process of regular risotto. But after my food blog reading, I felt that this was the evening to give it a go.

I prepared the risotto pretty much how I would normally. I sautéed the leeks for a few minutes, then added the rice. After adding the liquids (champagne and broth) I secured the pressure cooker lid and cooked the concoction at high pressure.

It was kind of strange, turning my back on the pot to clean up the kitchen, instead of regular stirring. I have to admit, I had an unsettled, almost a guilty feeling as if I was cheating all risotto making rules. The worst of it was I couldn't peek - the pressure lid was secured. So I had to trust the pressure cooker and assume all was well.

The end result was a very nice risotto. It was perfectly al dente. It wasn't as creamy as my usual risotto, but close - I would consider adding a bit more liquid next time. Another score not only for the pressure cooker, but for a reduced carbon footprint.

Leek and Champagne Risotto

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 table spoon butter
3 leeks, trimmed, cleaned and sliced thin
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup champagne
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

In the pressure cooker, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes - you don't want them to brown so adjust the heat accordingly. Add the rice and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the champagne and mix in. Add the broth and mix in. Secure the lid and heat to high pressure (15 psi). Once at pressure cook for 7 minutes. Use a quick-release method for reducing the pressure and open the pot. Add the parmesan cheese and salt and pepper.

Some extra reading about the White House Kitchen Garden:
Obama Foodarama - details on the White House Kitchen Garden
A Mighty Appetite - White House says yes to Edible Garden
The New York Times - Is a Food Revolution Now in Season

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