corny risotto

Last Friday, Nathan and I randomly decided to treat ourselves to a dinner at Incanto, one of our favorite restaurants in the city. I remember the first time we tried this place out was on a Sunday night after a strenuous and stressful weekend of moving (note to self: never try to move with just a pickup truck again). We of course had no idea it was the sort of place you should make a reservation for nor that the chef is famous for his offal-ness (ha ha), so we just stuck to the more “normal” sounding stuff on the menu.

This time around, having done our research, we went all out. House-cured meats? Oh yes please. Spicy pork offal with mint and arugula? Don’t mind if I do. Head cheese? Never thought I’d say this, but yum! This is one Italian restaurant I will gladly go to again and again, since I don’t foresee myself wanting to deal with pork hearts and kidneys at home.

What can I make at home? Simple stuff like this risotto. Especially when I’m trying to use up the last bit of corn and red peppers from last week’s veggie box. That’s right – my life is always about not letting things rot.

5-6 cups chicken stock, heating on stove at a very slow simmer
2 cups arborio rice
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ear of corn, blanched
2 small red peppers

1 large handful of cilantro, leaves picked off
4-5 sprigs of fresh mint, leaves picked off
2 Thai chiles (serranos or jalapeños also fine), seeded
~1/4 cup olive oil

Melt butter in large skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil. Saute onion and garlic until soft.

Add rice and saute until the outer shells are transparent. Then, start adding the hot stock to the rice one ladle at a time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed each time before adding the next ladle. Stir constantly.

Meanwhile, roast the bell peppers under a broiler until charred all around – this will require turning the peppers a few times to char all the surfaces. Once the peppers are black, remove from broiler and let them rest in a bowl for 5-10 minutes. Remove the skin from the peppers and cut into strips.

Cut the corn kernels off the cob and roast them under the broiler for a few minutes, so that they get slightly brown.

Make the spicy pesto by putting the cilantro, mint, chiles, and 1-2 tbsp of olive oil in a food processor. Keep adding olive oil 1 tbsp at a time until you get a liquidy puree. It should be a little more liquidy than a regular pesto but thicker than an herb oil.

When the rice starts to look puffy, begin tasting the grains – you want an al dente texture, so that the rice is tender but not too mushy. Once it reaches this stage, stop adding stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fold in the corn and red pepper. Add a dollop of spicy pesto on top before serving.

(Makes about 4 servings)