Risotto with Roasted Pepper, Onion, and Corn, By Evan J. wanna be gourmet, January 21, 2010.

Pictured above: A piping hot Risotto suspended midair with a magic hand.

The Staten Island anecdote preceding the recipe…

Risotto is a fairly new concept in my adult life. Growing up in a New York Jewish home lent itself to massive protein consumption: Chicken, Steak, Pork Chops (obviously NOT a Kosher home), Beef, Lamb Chops, etc. Italian dishes, however, were also quite popular: Chicken Parm., Lasagna, Sweet Sausage and Peppers, various Pasta dishes, Spaghetti & Meatballs (my Dad’s favorite), etc. I used to ride my bike to Val’s Pizza in Staten Island and buy Pizza Dough. When I returned home, I made various Calzones. My mother didn’t care what I prepared as long as I cleaned up the mess. Oddly enough, I could have bought a Calzone from Val’s or Rocco’s, another favorite Pizza restaurant. Instead, I deep fried my version at home, an idea that I mimicked from another popular Pizza place, PizzaTown, located in New Dorp, Staten Island. Baked Calzones have a nice taste, but the fried version is so much better, fattening, and about 5 times the calories. New Dorp was about 30 minutes from my house and I was too young to drive. My first cousins used to live near New Dorp before they moved to Eltingville, my stomping grounds. My Uncle Harry used to treat me to PizzaTown when I was in the neighborhood. They had decent Pizza, but I didn’t care about that. Even during my childhood, I was always interested in exploring something different from the norm.
In fact, I cannot honestly think of a Pizza place that deep fried Calzones, save PizzaTown…
Staten Island had a plethora of Pizza places. Here are just a few that stood out: Joe and Pats, Nunzios, Pal Joeys, Brothers Pizza, and Deninos (my absolute favorite). During my Teenage years, my Uncle Harry used to take me to Villa Borghese (spelling might be off) on Bath Avenue in Brooklyn. This was one of my Uncle’s favorite Italian restaurants. The food was incredible and it seemed to contain a higher level of Italian authenticity. Sure, you could get Chicken Marsala, Veal Saltimbocca, or other awesome entrees. However, they had Spiadini Alla Romana (literally Roman style Brochettes). It was prepared with day old bread cut into cubes, and Mozzarella Cheese on a skewer. If memory serves, it was dipped into egg and flour and sautéed in Olive Oil and Butter, until it formed a crusty exterior. Then, some variation of an herb sauce with Anchovies was prepared in the same pan. The skewer was removed and the rich sauce was poured atop the Brochette. Needless to say, it was beyond incredible. I’m 99% sure that this place had Risotto on the menu and it was overlooked. I’ll never know. However, it is safe to suggest that my love for Italian Food would inevitably lead me to the world of Risotto.

By the way, my parents took great care of me and I was always well fed. My mother is still a great cook. However, it’s not possible for most working moms to delve deeply into a culture’s culinary world and reproduce everything authentically. It takes a chef to do that compounded with many years of experience, trial, and error.

Before I present my original version of the Roasted Pepper, Corn, and Onion Risotto dish, I have to tell you that I’m doing something offensive: I’m using it as a side dish. Tom, Padma, Gayle, and Toby from Top Chef would certainly tear me a new one. Sorry guys, but this bodes well as an excellent side dish. I know because I ate it! I wanted rice with some form of vegetables to accompany my Chicken. Somehow, Risotto just popped into my head. It can easily be argued that some of the most unpredictable culinary accidents have turned into enormous successes, i.e. Buffalo Wings, Coca Cola, et al.

1 cup of Arborio Rice
½ cup diced onion
2 tablespoons of E.V.O.O.
2 tablespoons of Smart Balance OR Butter (Butter is preferred, but I’m trying to watch the LDL issue)
A shy ½ cup of diced Roasted Red Pepper
Around ¼ to ½ cup of canned Corn
24-28 ounces of Vegetable Stock (avoid salty versions)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Optional ½ to ¾ cup of grated cheese—Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, or something along those lines… I added the cheese to my portion and omitted it from my wife’s. Both were delicious. You’ll have to decide…decide….decide…now batting…Manny Mota…Mota…Mota…

Modus Operandi:
Boil the Vegetable Stock in a separate pan and let simmer. In a different pan custom tailored for Risotto, add the E.V.O.O. and Butter. Saute the onions for about 3 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and blend with the onions until it’s very coated. Carefully add about a ladle of stock and stir. This is the part where you must be patient and willing to stir for the next 20+ minutes. When the rice absorbs the stock, add more liquid. When most of the stock has been absorbed several minutes later, add the Roasted Pepper. Keep on stirring… Add the Corn, Salt & Pepper. You have to taste it to adjust the seasoning and to see if you like the consistency of the rice (can we call it Risotto at this point?). We’re trying to achieve a slightly al dente texture before overcooking. Do you really want to be cursed by chefs and Risotto purists worldwide? Let’s avoid that pain by tasting as we cook and stir.

Buen Provecho (it’s Spanish, but dig in and enjoy anyway!)

Evan J. wanna be gourmet, January 21, 2010