Friday, October 17, 2014

Apéritif Friday - Viognier, with Sausage and Vegetable Risotto

Remember when I talked about fancy tailgating a few weeks ago? Whelp, it didn't start with dinner, or even the appetizer.


We tailgated for lunch, too.

After church on Sunday, my people were all starving. So I told them to stay outta the snacks, and have a cup of tea or something to cub their hunger, 'cause Mama was whipping up some fantastic lunch food.
Gilbert's sausages are the bomb. If you see them in your supermarket, snatch them up. I can now only find them at our local Jewel. They are nitrate and nitrite free, gluten free and have minimal sugar. Trifecta! We eat them alone, as part of a dinner, or in this case...drumroll please... Risotto! 

Growing up, Italian food (pronounced EYEtalian in my oh so cultured home) consisted of overcooked spaghetti with a heavy meat sauce. Emphasis on heavy meat. I mean, I think there must have been three pounds of beef and sausage to a cup of red sauce. Mom jacked up the jarred sauce with fresh bell peppers, onions and mushrooms though. It tasted awesome to all of us, but I was shocked the first time I went to a real fast food Italian restaurant and realized there were shapes of pasta other than long, thin spaghetti noodles. Let alone sauces that didn't contain beef, sausage or the color red. I was a sucker for alfredo sauce for years.
This is rich, decadent and a one-pot wonder. Fresh vegetables, lean protein, creamy arborio rice and a touch of grated parmesan all snuggle up in a single dish. It's perfect for lunch on one of these beautiful fall days that I've been soaking up. I planted 270 tulip bulbs over the past few weeks, and I walked outside during our monsoon season this week to find a smorgasbord of bulb remnants on the very table this risotto is resting upon. Apparently I'm helping the squirrels and chipmunks fatten up for the long winter ahead.

Rat bastards.

Now don't judge, but there's wine in this dish, which simply means that there has to be a glass consumed when you chow down even if it's only 1:00 on a Sunday. In this case, thanks to that wine-snob sister-in-law of mine, it's a Viongnier. She detests Chardonnay so she brought her own white varietal to our cabin over the summer. One taste, and I was hooked. It's cleaner and fresher than chardonnay, but still bold enough to have some heft to it.

When it comes to wine, I truly know nothing. I just know if something tastes good, so don't ask me about peach and floral and melon notes and all that stuff. Just buy Viongnier if you see it - trust me. Locally, I've only found it at Mariano's (new fancy grocery store in Shorewood) or Costco. It's awesome tasting, especially on a 75 degree sunny fall day with a photo bomber in the background.
Kids gobble this stuff up and go for seconds, veggies and all. Note who gets the cracked serve ware around here.

Sausage and Vegetable Risotto

Six cups of chicken broth
A head of broccoli, chopped
2 slices of bacon, cut in half
1 medium onion, chopped
2 small red peppers, chopped
3 sausages, quartered lengthwise and chopped
2 garlic cloves, microplaned
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
3T butter
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup white wine
1T dried black truffles (optional), soaked in hot water and chopped
3/4 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese

Bring the broth to a simmer and steam the broccoli over the broth (alternatively, you can steam the broccoli over water, but I figured why dirty another pot?). Once fork tender, remove the broccoli and set aside. In a heavy stockpot, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon. Sautee the onion, peppers, sausages and garlic in the bacon fat for 5-6 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and butter. Once the butter is melted, add the arborio rice, stirring to incorporate. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot to lift all the browned bits. Once the liquid is completely absorbed, add a ladle or two or stock, continuing to stir the risotto to incorporate. Add more liquid as the rice absorbs it, and keep stirring, for approximately 30 minutes (you may or may not use all the broth). The rice should be cooked and puffed yet al dente. Add the truffles and parmesan cheese, stir to incorporate and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Declare that lunch is served and cry 10 minutes later that you didn't double the batch.


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