We've started a new tradition at our house... dinner by the fire. My original plan was to invite friends once a week beginning the first of the year, to dine on a small table in front of our fireplace.
Unfortunately, time has escaped me. I don't know why it's been so difficult to get this event under-way. But here it is, the first of March and we've only just hosted the first dinner in our living room.
It's also going to take a little tweaking. It gets HOT sitting directly in front of a blazing fire... ouch! The next dinner might have candles lit in the fireplace instead. Not quite the same ambiance, but certainly a lot cooler!
I served Apple & Ham Risotto for this inaugural dinner, along with a salad, crusty bread, and a flourless chocolate cake for dessert. Will I make the Apple & Ham Risotto again? Absolutely.
:: Apple & Ham RISOTTO
recipe adapted from An Apple Harvest: Recipes & Orchard Lore by Frank Browning and Sharon Silva
• 5 cups no-salt-added chicken broth
• 3 to 4 ounces country ham, preferably in 1 slice (may substitute pancetta, prosciutto, or smoked turkey)
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
• a few sage leaves, plus more for garnish
• 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
• 3/4 cup semi-dry hard apple cider ( I like Crispin)
• 1 large firm apple ( I used an organic Braeburn )
• 1 ounce freshly grated Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
• Coarse salt for finishing
• Freshly ground black pepper
To cook risotto: In large saucepan, heat broth over medium heat. Cut ham into 1/4-inch dice to yield 6 to 8 tablespoons. In large saute pan, melt 2 table-spoons butter over medium heat. Add a few sage leaves. Add ham and rice. Stir to coat. Add cider. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until cider is almost evaporated. Add 1/2 cup hot broth. Cook, stirring, until broth is almost absorbed. Repeat with more additions of broth, allowing them to be absorbed before adding more. (Note: You don't have to stir continuously; when level of liquid goes below rice, add liquid and stir to incorporate.) To prepare apple: Meanwhile, peel and core apple. Cut three-quarters of apple into very small dice to yield 3/4 cup. Cut remaining quarter of apple into very thin slices. In small skillet or saute pan, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add diced apple. Cook, stirring, for 4 to 6 minutes or until lightly brown but not mushy. Transfer to bowl. Cover to keep warm. Add apple slices to skillet. Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes or until slightly browned.
To add apple: Add sauteed diced apple to risotto with last addition of broth. (Note: Cooking risotto should take 20 to 23 minutes total; rice should be creamy and liquid should be absorbed. You might not need all of broth.) Remove from heat. Cover. Let stand for 3 minutes.
To serve: Divide among individual wide, shallow bowls. Using vegetable peeler, shave a few curls of asiago cheese over each portion. Add sprinkling of salt and pepper. Top with apple slices. Garnish with sage leaves. Serve warm.
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