Chive Risotto Cakes

November 20, 2008 at 7:36 am 4 comments

risotto-cake-closeup When I started this blog oh so many, um…days ago, I asked myself a very important question: as I work my way through all of these millions of recipes that I have in piles, cookbooks, and Firefox bookmarks, will I post all of my results, or just the best ones?  Will people want to read about a failed attempt at a standing rib roast, or is that pointless?  Am I making recipe recommendations or offering people a chance to learn from my kitchen forays?
I said that I asked myself that question, but I never said I answered it.  Until today, it really has not been an issue!  Not that I am some culinary prodigy in the kitchen or anything, but in my first month of blogging, I haven’t yet had a disaster, and so I have been content to post about nearly all my recent recipe trials.

This is not to say that the chive risotto cakes were a disaster for me.  In fact, I think I would be more excited about the post if they had been.  I could have featured my Italian version of a “Cake Wreck” (get it? 😉 )!  No, they did not fail completely – more like a B minus.  However, those with whom I went to college know that such a grade could send me reeling for days…

I suppose I should preface the whole discussion with the fact that RJ and I love risotto.  Not only does it fit into the warm-and-hearty comfort food category while still being an excellent option for entertaining, but risotto has a special place in my heart because it is one of the only dishes into which I can insert vegetables without RJ flipping out.  His recent acceptance of onions, mushrooms, and butternut squash all resulted from one of my risotto variations.  Generally, I will cook risotto on a night when I have time to stand around the stove for an hour or so, and we will have leftovers for Day 2.  If you’ve never tried to reheat risotto in a microwave before, please trust me: it isn’t very pretty.  It comes out gummy and sticky and nowhere near as good as fresh risotto.  But the stickiness may be used to great advantage, also.  Cold leftover risotto of any flavor can be molded into round balls, rolled in panko crumbs, slightly flattened into a hamburger shape, then pan fried in butter or oil.  You will end up with a crispy browned crust and an oozy, like-Day-1 risotto center.

Reading Deb’s pick for the Barefoot Bloggers‘ Bonus recipe, I was actually thrilled.  Ina’s description explicitly claimed that her recipe provides risotto cakes without the Day-1 effort of stirring and gradually adding stock ladle by ladle.  “Brilliant!”, I exclaimed.

risotto-cake-miseI gathered my ingredients and even went to my favorite cheese shop for fine imported Fontina.  Though the chives were a bit yellowed in some places, I figured I would only use the best ones and we’d be fine.  But all the Fontina val d’Aosta and fresh-from-the-ground chives in the world could not save these risotto cakes.  I am interested to see if the others felt the same as I did, or if I have just been spoiled by having ‘real’ risotto cakes as part of my repertoire for a while now, but I thought these suffered severely from the outset due to one major flaw in the directions – you cannot cook risotto in water!  My cakes tasted, well, watery – comparable to how the inside of a baked potato with chives might taste if you omitted salt, butter, and sour cream.

To defend Ina’s honor, I probably could have salted the water more, or incorporated even more cheese or dried the rice in paper towels as opposed to a sieve.  But none of that could have compensated for the flavor that chicken broth gives to risotto. That just wasn’t there.  Even with all the cheese the recipe called for, the rice was barely holding together in balls because of the way the rice had been waterlogged.  My clear conviction is that there is no shortcut to risotto, and thus no shortcut to the crispy cakes.  Go the traditional route and make your favorite risotto dish.  Then, on Day 2, treat yourself to your own homemade creation, covered in panko and fried.

Well, this is the moment of truth.  Do I post the recipe?  Will posting it diminish my integrity as a blogger or detract from my validity as messenger of good taste?  I think not.  You’ve read my opinion of the recipe above, but of course you all have the ability to make up your own minds.  Perhaps reading the recipe will give us all some insight into where it goes wrong.  Conversely, you may set out to prove that Ina is right and I am not, and I invite you to share your results with me in the comments section.  Just don’t ever say I didn’t give you fair warning.

Chive Risotto Cakes, from Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basicsrisotto-cake-mix

Kosher salt
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
½ cup Greek yogurt
2 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 ½ cup cups grated Italian Fontina cheese (5 ounces)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
Good olive oil

Bring a large (4 quart) pot of water to a boil and add ½ tablespoon salt and the Arborio rice. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The grains of rice will be quite soft. Drain the rice in a sieve and run under cold water until cool. Drain well.
risotto-cake-raw
Meanwhile, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, chives, Fontina, 1 ¼ teaspoons salt, and the pepper in a medium bowl. Add the cooled rice and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, until firm.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Spread the panko in a shallow dish. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Form balls of the rice mixture using a standard (2 1/4 –inch) ice cream scoop or a large spoon. Pat the balls into patties 3 inches in diameter and ¾ inch thick. Place 4-6 patties in the panko, turning once to coat. Place the patties in the hot oil and cook, turning once, for about 3 minutes on each side until the risotto cakes are crisp and nicely browned. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and keep warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Continue cooking in batches, adding oil as necessary, until all the cakes are fried. Serve hot.

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Entry filed under: Recipe, Starchy Side. Tags: , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Cathy  |  November 20, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Oh gosh, if I couldn’t post my disasters, I would have to hang up my keyboard now! I’m sorry that these didn’t work out for you. I did not make them because I was feeling a time crunch this week, but really want to give them a try. I think I will cook the risotto in chicken broth rather than water when I do. See, your post already helped me out! I hope the next Barefoot recipe is a bigger hit for you!

  • 2. DebinHawaii  |  November 20, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Sorry this one wasn’t great for you. I actually liked mine quite a bit but I drained my rice really well so they didn’t seem watery and the flavor was good. On the other hand I have never made the real ones before so I probably don’t know what I am missing! I do think using chicken stock might be a good way to go next time. Oh well-they look go anyway and good for you for trying!

  • 3. KK Millet  |  November 20, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Thanks for the encouragement! I would definitely recommend using chicken stock in this recipe for an important flavor boost. However, in my opinion nothing can match that layered flavor that comes from simmering risotto rice in wine, then dried-mushroom-soaking-liquid, then chicken stock – in succession. The arborio rice just soaks up the flavors one after the other!

  • 4. Becky  |  November 23, 2008 at 8:15 am

    My experience with these was quite different from yours. We didn’t find them watery, and I had no trouble with the cakes holding together. We did however, find them a bit too salty. Otherwise they were quite flavourful and had a wonderful delicate crust. I’m so sorry they didn’t work out for you. That’s disappointing when you’ve gone to all the trouble to get the best ingredients and the effort to prepare something.

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