AMARONE & CARAMELISED TREVISO RISOTTO
"ON THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS…
RISOTTO DI TREVISO E AMARONE"
Amarone, a strong red wine grown in the Veneto, is a great match for another of the area’s most famous products – Treviso Tardivo radicchio. Both are a vivid violet-maroon in colour, and both have an amaro, or almost bitter flavour. This risotto works on a kind of agrodolce idea – balancing the bitterness of the wine and the leaves, against the creaminess of a risotto enriched with stringy Asiago cheese (another delicious product from the Veneto region!), and the sweet flavour of caramelised balsamic.
The hazelnuts offer another contrast, crunch against cream, but also a bit of colour, their golden brown kernels standing out in a sea of rich maroon.
- 100g butter
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 brown onion – very finely diced
- 1 clove garlic – crushed
- 240g risotto rice – Carnaroli or Aborio
- 250ml Amarone wine (or substitute another rich, red wine)
- 1.75 litres good quality vegetable stock
- 2 heads of Treviso Tardivo (or another red radicchio) – roughly chopped on the diagonal into approx. 2cm pieces
- 2½ tablespoons of good quality balsamic vinegar
- Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- Handful of shelled hazelnuts – lightly crushed into halves or smaller
- 100g aged Asiago (Asiago Vecchio or Stravecchio) cheese – the aged cheese has a harder consistency (almost like a Parmesan), the younger version, typically used in panini, isn’t really a suitable substitute.
Boil the vegetable stock in a medium saucepan, then, once boiling, place on a back burner, over minimum heat, to remain at a low simmer.
In a heavy-based pan, melt half of the butter (the second half will be added at the end), together with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, over a low-medium heat. Add the onion and cook slowly, until soft, but not coloured (approx. 5 minutes), then add the crushed garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon as you do so.
Next, pour in the rice, and stir vigorously to coat the grains in the butter. Toast for two minutes, until the rice has begun to go transparent at the edges, then slosh in the Amarone.
Stir to allow the rice to absorb the wine – it will turn a beautiful purple colour as it does so. When all the wine is absorbed, add your first ladle of hot stock, and continue to stir while this is absorbed. (If at any point during the absorption phase, you feel the colour of the rice isn’t as intense as you like it to be, top up with a little extra wine…).
As each ladle-full of stock is absorbed, add another, continuing to stir between additions to coax all of the starch from the rice grains and ensure a rich, creamy texture.
While still keeping an eye on the risotto, place the second tablespoon of olive oil into a medium frying pan and allow to heat. Add the chopped Treviso and fry until soft, then add the balsamic vinegar. Continue to cook gently until the radicchio is dark, caramelised, and sticky.
Meanwhile, also turn on the grill, ready to toast the hazelnuts. When hot, toast these for 3-5 minutes, or until golden – keeping a careful eye out as you do so, as they can burn quickly.
After about 15 minutes cooking time, taste a few grains of the risotto – they should be cooked through, but still have some texture. Add salt and pepper to season, then remove from the heat.
Lastly, add the remaining 50g of butter to the risotto in cubes, along with the grated Asiago cheese. Beat quickly and energetically to incorporate these into the rice, then pop a lid onto the pan and leave it to sit for 2 minutes. This will allows the cheese and butter time to melt, and for everything to meld together, ensuring an even more creamy risotto.
Dollop onto four plates to serve, creating a little well in the centre of each to receive the caramelised radicchio. Scatter the toasted hazelnuts over, and eat immediately, while still warm and gooey.