Risotto with Beetroot and Gorgonzola

Contemporary Classic

Enrico Bartolini (Castelmartini, Italy, 1979) is an extremely talented chef with restaurants in Italy, Hong Kong and Dubai. He is the only chef to have been awarded four Michelin stars at the same time. In his restaurant Mudec in Milan he showcases his motto Contemporary Classic by exploring new worlds and new flavours, without forgetting origins and traditions. One of his many signature dishes is Risotto with Beetroot and Gorgonzola (Risotto alle rape rosse e salsa al gorgonzola). An intriguing combination because beetroot can be very sweet which could easily ruin the taste of the risotto. Which is exactly what happened the first time we prepared this dish. We did more research only to read recipes we didn’t like because the beetroot was added at the beginning of the preparation process (giving the risotto a gluey texture) or honey, mint, balsamic vinegar, oranges or salty goat cheese (to balance the sweetness of the risotto!) was added.

We decided to take a different approach and see this as a combination of two dishes with the gorgonzola as connection. Now we could focus on preparing a savoury beetroot puree that would be tasty in its own right and create a brilliant combination with the risotto.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our risotto with a glass of Bianco di Custoza 2018, made by Monte del Frà from Italy. It is a well-balanced, dry white wine, with a fruity nose. Its colour is straw yellow, with pale green highlights. In general you’re looking for a light, aromatic dry white wine.
You could also serve a glass of Chardonnay; one that has a touch of oak and vanilla plus a lightly buttery finish. Our choice would be the Chardonnay of La Cour des Dames

What You Need

  • For the Risotto
    • 70 gram Carnaroli Rice (for instance from Acquerello)
    • (Vegetable) Stock
    • 1 Bigger Shallot
    • Parmesan Cheese
    • Butter
  • For the Beetroot Puree
    • 1 Fresh Beetroot
    • 2 Tablespoons of White (Cider) Vinegar
    • 1 Tablespoon of White Wine
    • 3 Freshly Grated Cloves
    • Black Pepper
  • For the Sauce
    • Gorgonzola Dolce
    • Milk

What You Do

The day before wash the beetroot and wrap in aluminium foil. Leave in the oven on 180° Celsius (or 355° Fahrenheit) for 60+ minutes. Cool and store in the refrigerator.
Thinly chop the shallot and glaze in butter. In parallel peel the beetroot and chop. Combine a third of the shallots with the beetroot, the white wine, the vinegar and finely grated clove. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust. In the mean time prepare the risotto. With a fork combine the soft Gorgonzola Dolce with the milk until it’s smooth and has the consistency of custard. Depending on the ‘blue’ in the cheese you may want to use a blender. Warm both the beetroot puree and the Gorgonzola sauce in the microwave or Au Bain Marie.
Time to start assembling the dish. Add butter and Parmesan to the risotto. Add more Parmesan than usual to create the right balance. Now start adding the beetroot puree, spoon for spoon. You’re looking for a balanced taste and a bright red colour. Perhaps add a drop of lemon and some black pepper. Transfer to the plate and using a spoon or a small sauce bottle add the sauce (drop-wise).

Risotto with Beetroot and Gorgonzola © cadwu
Risotto with Beetroot and Gorgonzola © cadwu

Risotto With Squid

A Tasty Bonus

Combining rice with squid is an excellent idea. Just think about Arroz Negro, the black rice from Valencia. We combine rice (Acquerello, of course!) with fresh (or frozen) squid. Cleaning squid can be a bit intimidating, but it’s not difficult at all. The result is much better than the already cleaned frozen tubes you can buy plus you get the tentacles as a tasty bonus. Becky Selengut’s video is very helpful. This is how we do it:

  • Start by removing the head from the body. When you do this gently, you will also remove most of the internal organs of the squid. You may want to secure the ink for later use.
  • Just below the eyes, cut off the tentacles using a knife or scissors. Remove the beak (located at the base of the tentacles). Discard internal organs and beak. Transfer the tentacles to a bowl.
  • With your fingers remove the cartilage (this is the part that looks like it is made of plastic).
  • Now you have a choice: you could leave the skin on; it does add extra colour to the stew. But you could also remove the skin of the tube and fins. Best is to start in the middle and then gently pull the skin towards the top and bottom.
  • Remove the fins and transfer to the bowl.
  • Turn the tube inside out by pushing the top into the tube. This allows you to remove all internal organs and the membrane.
  • Turn the tube outside in by pushing the top into the tube. Transfer to the bowl.
  • Wash the tube, fins and tentacles with cold water.

Wine Pairing

Best is to combine this seafood risotto with a light, aromatic white wine. One that is fresh and dry. We enjoyed our risotto with a glass of Bianco di Custoza 2018, made by Monte del Frà in Italy. It is a well-balanced, dry white wine, with a fruity nose. Its colour is straw yellow, with pale green highlights. It is made from a variety of grapes: Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano, Trebbianello and Cortese. An excellent combination with the seafood risotto.

What You Need

  • For the Squid Stew
    • 500 grams of Squid (to be cleaned)
    • Olive Oil
    • Shallot
    • 2 Garlic Gloves
    • 200 grams of Tomatoes (peeled, seeded and cut in chunks)
    • 1 Red Chilli
    • Red Wine
    • Two Fresh Bay Leaves
  • For the Risotto
    • 100 gram of Risotto Rice (Acquerello)
    • Fish Stock
    • Shallot
    • Butter
    • Parmesan cheese
    • Black Pepper
    • Crispy Japanese Seaweed

What You Do

A day before serving the risotto, prepare the stew: use a heavy, iron skillet. Cut the shallot in small bits and glaze gently in olive oil. Once the shallot is glazed add the garlic and the deseeded, chopped red chilli. After a few minutes add the squid (chopped tube and fins, tentacles ). Fry for a few minutes, add the tomatoes, a glass of red wine and the bay leaf. Allow to simmer for 4 hours. If necessary add a splash of water. Stir every 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, cool and store in the refrigerator.

The next day start by peeling and chopping the shallot. Add butter and olive oil to a pan and glaze the shallot. In another pan bring the light fish stock to a boil. After 5 minutes add the rice to the pan with the shallot and coat for 2 minutes. Add the squid stew and mix. Start adding the stock, spoon by spoon and stir the rice frequently. When using Acquerello rice it takes 18 minutes. Check the rice. When okay, transfer the pan to the kitchen counter top and leave to rest for 2 minutes. Add chunks of butter, stir, add a bit more butter and grated Parmesan cheese. Stir, a bit of black pepper, add more butter or Parmesan cheese if so required. Serve immediately with some crispy Japanese seaweed.

Risotto with Squid © cadwu
Risotto with Squid © cadwu

Seared Scallops with Truffle and Potato Mousseline

Truffles Are a Chef’s Best Friend

Truffles range from affordable summer truffles (€100 per 100 gram) via expensive winter truffle (€150 per 100 gram) to extremely expensive white truffles (starting at €375 per 100 gram). Cultivated truffles are considerably less expensive but unfortunately they have less flavour and taste.

Commercially it’s a clever idea to introduce high end products like Risotto with Truffle, Truffle Mayonnaise, Crisps with Truffle, Butter with Truffle Flavour or Black Angus Truffle Burger. The addition of truffle allows the producer to charge more compared to the regular product. So you wonder, how much truffle is actually added? Well, don’t be surprised: it ranges from hardly any truffle to absolutely no truffle at all.

The risotto rice for instance contains 0,2% of truffle per 100 gram. Probably it will be a cultivated truffle, so the impact of the 0,2% is zero. Especially if you take into account that summer truffle (and white truffle to be complete) loses its flavour when heated. Let’s look at the figures: the truffle risotto rice comes at €8,50 per kilo (containing 98,8% of rice) and the same rice without truffle at €2,75 per kilo. So for nearly 6 Euro difference you buy 2 gram of cheap truffle, 8 gram of porcine, parsley, garlic and chives. Yes, indeed, it’s Liza Minnelli singing Truffles makes the world go round, the world go round!

But I Did Taste Truffle!

Of course you didn’t. You imagined you tasted it because it said so on the pack and because the producer most likely added 2,4-dithiapentane, a synthetically produced, aromatic molecule. Products containing 2,4-dithiapentane taste and smell like a bad chemical version of the real thing. It’s especially sad because people confuse the smell of 2,4-dithiapentane with the smell of real truffle.
If people say they don’t like truffle they actually say they don’t like 2,4-dithiapentane, which is great.

Life is simple and truffles are expensive. So get rid of the truffle flavoured rice, oil, mayonnaise, preserved truffle and what have you and enjoy spending some real money on a good product!

An Exciting Combination

In this recipe we combine winter truffle with scallops and potatoes. Winter truffle improves in taste when warm. And it loves potatoes. Perhaps because both grow underground and have a similar odd shape?

Wine Pairing

You need a medium bodied wine to match the powerful taste and flavours. One that brings freshness, citrus, purity and character. We enjoyed a glass of Costieres de Nimes Nostre Pais 2016. You could also go for a Chardonnay with a touch of wood. Combining it with a Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris or Picpoul de Pinet is not a good idea because you then miss out on the necessary earthy tones in the wine.

What You Need

  • 3 Fresh Scallops (preferably in the shell)
  • 1 Starchy Potato
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • White Pepper
  • Salt
  • 10+ Gram of Black (Winter) Truffle

What You Do

Start by making the mousseline: peal the potato and cook until done. Make a mash with a fork or a potato squeezer. Optional: pass potatoes through a fine sieve. Warm the milk and add to the mash. Add a generous amount of butter. Use a whisk to make the mousseline. Add white pepper. The mousseline must combine with the intense taste of the scallops, so a touch of salt is also needed. Keep warm. Half the scallops and fry quickly in a touch of butter in a non sticky pan. When nearly ready, grate the truffle. Take two warm plates, dress with the mousseline, add the three scallops and top with black truffle.

Seared Scallops with Truffle and Potato Mousseline © cadwu
Seared Scallops with Truffle and Potato Mousseline © cadwu

Risotto with Mushrooms

And on the 8th day he remembered he had forgotten to create food. So he quickly created something so simple, so tasty, so fulfilling that he knew people would still enjoy it, many, many years later. He called it Risotto.

Five Challenges When Making Risotto

We’re always too busy! We are tempted to buy risotto rice that cooks quickly and can be served in under 10 minutes.
Never rush a risotto. And by the way, what is so important that you don’t have 34 minutes to cook your own lovely, genuine, risotto? Why would quick be more important than tasty?

And since we are too busy anyway: why look for fresh cèpes if you can buy a pack of risotto rice with cèpes. Second mistake. You will not taste cèpes but a series of nasty E numbers and salt. Just look at the package! It will probably contain 0,01% of cèpes.

We think risotto is too basic, so we prepare a luxurious version! Let’s add tomatoes, or salmon, or spinach and pumpkin, or chicken, or saffron, shrimps and peas.
Please don’t. It will only ruin the lovely combination of rice, butter, stock and Parmesan cheese. With or without mushrooms, that’s your only choice.

Risotto is too heavy, let’s use Crème fraîche and not butter, or Mozarellla and not Parmesan and butter, or let’s simply skip the butter. Fourth mistake: butter and Parmesean cheese are essential, for the taste, the mouthfeel and the consistency.

We buy risotto-rice without checking if it’s the right rice. We use beautiful Carnaroli rice, superfine quality, produced by Acquerello. It doesn’t come cheap (we pay € 11,95 per kilo) but why would you not treat yourself to the best risotto rice? It has all the right qualities and the taste is outstanding.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Risotto with a glass of Soave. Some acidity, touch of bitterness, nicely balanced with the butter and the cheese. It’s light and fruity; it elevates the risotto.

What You Need

  • 70 grams of Acquerello rice
  • 1 Shallot
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • 100 gram of Shiitake
  • 200 gram of mushrooms, for instance Chestnut Mushrooms
  • optional: 100 gram of Cèpes
  • Chicken Stock
  • Parmesan Cheese

What You Do

Peel and chop the shallot. Add butter and olive oil to the pan and glaze the shallot. In parallel clean and slice the various mushrooms. Feel free to use other mushrooms as well. We think the Shiitake is an important one because it adds depth to the taste. Bring the stock to a boil. After 5 minutes add the mushrooms to the pan and fry gently for 5 minutes. Add the rice to the pan and coat the rice for 2 minutes.
Start adding the stock, spoon by spoon and stir the rice frequently. When using Acquerello rice it takes 18 minutes. Check the rice. When okay, transfer the pan to the kitchen counter top and leave to rest for 2 minutes.
Add chunks of butter, stir, add a bit more butter and the grated Parmesan cheese. Stir, a bit of black pepper, add more butter or Parmesan cheese if so required. Serve immediately.