Chef Time!

Chef Time!

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Perfect Ending Of A Romantic Dinner

Looking for a last minute Valentine’s Day dessert or an ending to a perfect romantic dinner?

I’ve got a suggestion for you: velvety chocolate risotto with a hint of red wine, topped with toasted sliced almonds. It’s like rice pudding on chocolate steroids. How does that sound? I’m not going to lie this is a very rich dessert. It’s meant to be served in small portions. A few bites of decadence is all you need.
I’ve always loved making risotto. It follows the same preparation as standard risotto with a few additional tips to keep in mind:

Cream will reduce more quickly than stock so keep the temperature very low on both the saucepan and the risotto pan. I kept a close watch on both pans and moved them on and off the heat as needed to maintain a consistent temperature. You want a barely bubbling simmer. Also, the cream takes longer to absorb into the rice so if the heat is too high on either pan you’ll run out of liquid before the risotto is finished.
I’ve never believed in constantly stirring risotto but in this case I do recommend stirring for the entire cooking process. Burnt cream does not make for a romantic dessert.

I made this twice and the first time I had a near disaster. The cream separated at the very end, causing an oily residue to appear around the finished product. To avoid this, keep the temperatures low, do not add cold cream at any time during the process and remove the risotto from the heat after adding the chocolate. However, should this happen to you do not panic! It’s very easy to fix. Simply place the risotto in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Allow the separated liquid to drain and then place the risotto in a clean bowl. Stir in some additional half and half to compensate for the lost liquid before serving. No one will know and it will still taste delicious!

If you’ve successfully prepared risotto in the past this will be a breeze. A tasty tasty breeze.

Chocolate Risotto
1½ c. heavy cream
2½ c. half and half, plus more as needed
1½ tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
⅛ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. butter
1 c. arborio rice
¼ c. red wine
Pinch of salt
2½ oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¼ c. sliced almonds, toasted, for garnish

In a medium saucepan, bring cream, half and half, vanilla and salt to a low simmer. Keep the heat on low and watch the mixture to avoid boiling.
While the liquid is heating up, add butter to a dutch oven. Once the butter has melted, add the rice and stir. Allow it to toast for a few minutes, stirring, then add red wine to deglaze the pan.
Once the wine has cooked into the risotto and not a lot of liquid remains in the pan, add a ladle of cream. Stir frequently, allowing the cream to slowly absorb into the rice. Adjust the temperature as needed, alternating between low and medium low. You don't want to the heat too high or the liquid will be gone before the risotto is fully cooked. Keep an eye on the saucepan with the cream as well. You want it barely simmering to prevent reducing.
Repeat the process of adding cream and stirring until all of the liquid has been used, approximately 30 minutes. Test the risotto for doneness. It should be soft but slightly toothsome. If necessary, continue cooking and stirring on low heat until the rice has finished cooking.
Stir in the chocolate and remove the pan from the heat. Continue stirring until the chocolate is fully incorporated.
The risotto will thicken as it sits. Stir in additional half and half if desired to create a thinner consistency (start with ½ cup). Garnish with toasted sliced almonds before serving.
Chef’s note: If you run out of liquid but feel the rice still has a long way to go, you can heat up some more half and half and continue ladling it into the rice.

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