Corn and Poblano Risotto

It’s a wild guess, but having spent a little bit of time in Italy over the years, I don’t think you’d find Corn and Poblano Risotto on any menu there. A red or yellow pepper (peperone) risotto or rice with peas (Risi e Bisi), of course, but probably not corn or mild poblanos. Corn is reserved mostly for polenta and, loving polenta the way I do, I get that. Many peppers are cultivated in Italy (see photo below), but I don’t think poblanos are among them. Rightly or wrongly, we Americans have sort of taken risotto under our proverbial cooking wings and made it our own using favorite local ingredients. In this case, I had arborio rice; I had corn and poblanos. A meal needed to be made for good friends whose dinner with us had been delayed throughout Covid-Tide and here’s what transpired — a least a part of it. Perdonami (sorry), but I’m sincerely hoping any Nonna might forgive me for doing just as she does — using what’s available for dinner. On second thought, perhaps this is just a twist on our rice sopa seca (Mexican-style rice–literally “dry soup”), which traveled north to us along with many other wondrous meals. I like that idea but however it came to be, I’m overly glad it did.

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Shop in Montepulciano, Italy (Tuscany) Peppers, right?!

While in Italy risotto is technically considered, along with pasta or polenta, the first course of a fine dinner (primo), today’s cooks don’t always have the time for multi-course meals. I’m guessing risotto is, much like here, sometimes a whole meal or perhaps served with just salad. ( I clearly remember—and may have shared this before — a tour leader in Naples telling us, “We love just pasta for lunch! We have it a lot!”) Risotto is not terribly time consuming (30 minutes tops) —though people are a bit cowed by the thought of making it — even though it’s often made of only pantry ingredients: oil/butter, onion, rice, broth, cheese. Is that difficult? No–really. But you must remain attentive to the process! No texting/no checking email. I’ve no truck with eating risotto alone with a nice glass of wine and calling it good and plenty, but I occasionally, for a special occasion, use it as a bed for fish or special vegetables. Risotto’s comforting and it makes you feel as if something special is happening. (It is.) It’s filling. Inexpensive. Flexible. You can add nearly anything to it (mostly already cooked and added toward the end) and it takes it. Think shrimp, mushrooms, asparagus, roasted peppers (hey?!!), fresh tomatoes…the list is nearly endless. Once you’ve mastered the method, the process…the (risotto) world is your oyster. And in the meantime, you’ll still be happy with each pot you make. If you cook for someone else, they’ll love you, too.

27 Risotto Recipes for Fancy (but Easy) Dinners at Home/EPICURIOUS

I have a shelf full of Italian cookbooks, but one of my favorites is SAVEUR COOKS ITALIAN. (Note to readers: I bought my paperback copy at a local thrift shop (ARC) for $4.99. The paperback is now over $900. Currently on amazon, a well-worth-it hardcover is just $49.) When you get to the risotto section, here’s what you get….Marcella Hazan on RISOTTO! Who wouldn’t love that?

The story goes that when the writers interviewed her about risotto, the dish was done in 15 minutes. Hello. That was Venice. Talking about sea level. I live at 6,500 feet above that. Maybe a tad more. I don’t time my risotto, but I give myself all the minutes I need. With risotto, there’s no hurry. Set the table and pour the wine before you begin. Enjoy each moment. My good friend Sue says, “I like to pour a glass of wine for myself and give the risotto all the time it needs.” Maybe you’ll feel the same way.

Here are a few photos to get you started on how I made this risotto. Other bloggers seem obsessed with multiple in-process photos. I’m not, but maybe this helps if you’ve never before made risotto. If you’re an old pro, scroll down to the recipe.

Cook the corn first. Maybe you’re in Colorado and waited for the Olathe corn!! Yay, you! If it isn’t to be grilled or wasn’t done yesterday, bring a pot of water with a tablespoon or two of sugar in it (no salt) to boil, add the corn, turn off the heat, cover and wait 10 minutes. Let it cool until you can handle it and cut the kernels off the cobs. Sneak a taste, of course.

Next, get out a 5-6 quart heavy (this is Le Creuset) pot. Find all of the ingredients you need and put them on the counter. Get everything prepped before you begin cooking. Pour your wine. Chop the poblanos and the shallots. Grate the cheese. Measure out the bit of wine for pot. Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet. Careful; they burn fast! Pour the broth or stock into a pot and put it on the back burner to heat and then you’re ready to …

The wine goes in next. Let it simmer until the it is reduced (evaporated/absorbed) and then begin adding the hot broth or stock or water if that’s what you have. You add it about a cup at a time, cook until the liquid is absorbed at each addition and repeat that until the rice is done and still saucy. I like to add two ladles of liquid at the start and maybe a little less the rest of the time. Let the rice and vegetables simmer with each addition until the liquid is nearly gone. If you pull a rubber spatula across the bottom of the pan and it’s clear, it’s time to add more broth. Continue adding the liquid in this manner until…

Once it’s “done,” add in the last bits — the reserved corn and poblanos, along with pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cover it for a few minutes. Stir-stir and taste; season a last time. Serve hot. I know you’ll be thrilled (and full) when you try this:

Corn and Poblano Risotto

This recipe definitely kidnaps an Italian dish and takes it for a playdate in the American southwest. The result is lovely on its own but would also be happy as a bed for a Colorado trout fillet or lamb chop. It’s best in the summer when the “corn is as high as an elephant’s eye,” but can be managed easily in the winter with frozen corn and Fed Ex peppers or even by substituting canned roasted and diced mild chile peppers. Read through before beginning as you're going to save out some of the vegetables to add back in at the end to avoid overcooking them.
4-6 servings (main course/first course)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons each olive oil and salted butter
  • ½ large poblano pepper, seeded and minced (use jalapeño or mixture of poblano and jalapeño for a spicier risotto)
  • 2 large shallots, diced (can sub medium red onion)
  • 3 ears of cooked sweet corn, kernels removed from the cobs –about 1½ cups of corn – divided.
  • 1 ½ cups arborio rice
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper–plus more for serving
  • Pinch of Aleppo pepper -can sub a tiny pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 6 cups hot homemade chicken stock -can sub low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 oz 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ¼ cup lightly toasted pine nuts
  • Optional: a tablespoon or two of butter or heavy cream
  • Garnish: sliced cherry tomatoes

Instructions

  • SAUTÉ THE VEGETABLES. In a wide, heavy-duty 5-6 quart pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium flame. Sauté the poblano for two minutes and remove half of it to a small bowl. Stir the shallots and ½ cup of the corn into the remaining poblano and sauté, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until softening. Add the other 1 cup of corn to the small bowl of poblano and set that bowl aside.
  • ADD THE RICE. Stir in the rice until the grains are well-coated with fat and cook for a few minutes or until the rice is translucent and very lightly toasted.
  • POUR IN THE WINE and, stirring, cook a few minutes until it has mostly been absorbed or evaporated.
  • ADD THE BROTH A LADLE OR TWO AT A TIME. Stir in the salt, pepper, and Aleppo pepper. Pour in two ladles of broth and stir well. Simmer until broth is absorbed and you can see the bottom of the pot when you pull a rubber spatula across it. Continue adding the broth a ladle or two at a time, stirring and simmering until it’s absorbed and then adding more – about 20 minutes or until rice is done to your liking (al dente is usually named here, but do as you like, please) and the mixture is creamy not runny. Taste the rice as you go along (after, say, the first 10 minutes) to see when it’s getting nearly done. If it’s not done and you’re going to run out of broth, add some water or more broth to the broth pan so that it heats and continue to add to the rice until it’s done. When rice is cooked to your liking, remove pot from heat.
  • STIR IN THE PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO, PINE NUTS, AND RESERVED CORN AND POBLANOS. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cover for a few minutes. Stir well. The risotto should be creamy and fairly loose. If risotto isn’t creamy and loose enough, but instead sticky or gummy/gloppy, you can add more broth or the optional butter/heavy cream. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot.
  • Store leftovers tightly covered for 2-3 days. You can reheat in a small pot to 160 degrees F or make into patties and fry with eggs or for salad. I wouldn’t freeze risotto.

Notes

Risotto is a two-pot meal. Keep the pot of hot broth on the back burner with a ladle and the pot of rice on the front burner so you can watch it carefully.
Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2021. All rights reserved.

TIPS:

Risotto is a class of Italian rice dishes cooked in broth to a creamy consistency. The broth may be meat-, fish-, or vegetable-based. Many types of risotto contain butter, wine and onion. It is one of the most common ways of cooking rice in Italy. Risotto is normally a primo, served on its own before the main course, but risotto alla milanese, is often served together with ossobuco alla milanese.

Freebase

CHANGE IT UP/THINGS TO READ/WATCH

ABOVE: My fresh tomato salsa: diced tomatoes, minced scallions or red onion or garlic, minced parsley, salt and pepper.
ABOVE: Risotto patties with eggs: Make the risotto patty by patting out about 1/3 cup leftover cold risotto into about a 3-inch diameter patty. Fry it in a little oil over medium flame, turn when brown, and crack in eggs. Season; flick in a few drops of water; cover; lower heat; and cook until eggs are done to your liking. And once again, dinner becomes breakfast!

REDUCING FOOD/OTHER WASTE WITH THIS RECIPE:

  • Use extra poblano in your next salad, chili, or eased gently into any stir fry.
  • Leftover corn? Stir it into a fresh salsa; scrambled eggs; or try the Black Bean Soup with Fresh Corn and Bacon Salsa below.
  • Next day risotto can be formed into patties and fried with eggs (see photo above) or sautéed and added to salads or eaten as is with sliced tomatoes or salsa. Some people fry them to make arancini. I have frozen risotto successfully. Thaw overnight in the fridge before heating to 160 degrees F or using in another recipe.
Black Bean Soup with Fresh Corn and Bacon Salsa

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above: another stunning sunrise at our house–reason enough to have the coffee ready early

LIFE GOES ON:

below: Prickly Pear cacti blooming on the south side of our house. These sometimes spread where you don’t want them, but they’re beautiful no matter.

below: driving home the other evening from delivering meals to the families at Family Promise (Interfaith Hospitality Network), we nearly ran into these geese from a nearby park pond who couldn’t decide which way to go. Unseen and coming out from the left, was a larger parent bird who kept running out, “ducking” her head and hissing at these slowpokes, then running back again to safety. “Get out of the street!” Quite a scene. Reminded me of MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS by Robert McCluskey, a lovely children book that has never lost its charm. What’s happening is that even though these water fowl live on and near a fresh water pond, they cross the street for fresh rain water and teach their offspring to do the same. Don’t blame them.

If you celebrated the 4th, I hope it was all you needed it to be. (I do realize some of you aren’t in the U.S. !)

We’re in the high old days of summer. Enjoy the garden bounty…

Alyce

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