On Twitter, I follow a lot of chefs. One of them is Marco Canora, chef/owner of Hearth in NYC, which was one of my favorite places to eat when I lived there. The other day he tweeted about beet risotto balls with gorgonzola on his menu at Terroir and I thought that sounded genius! But no recipe.
It got me thinking about Valentine's Day and how I was going to make beets to go with our Porterhouse steak. I thought a risotto would be nice since I didn't know what else I was making with it. I wasn't in the mood for potatoes. I'd have a starch and a vegetable in one and I'd be done. Besides risotto can be time consuming so I wouldn't have to worry about timing it with something else. (The steak only takes a few minutes.) The only thing was, I've never made a beet risotto. I knew I didn't want a plain risotto with beet chunks stirred in. I did read a few recipes online and found that roasting my beets in the risotto broth was going to infuse more "beet-y" flavor into the risotto. I decided to go that route.
After roasting the beets, I pureed them and pushed them through a sieve to get them extra fine. Then I added the puree to the broth. I was so excited to taste this! The result? The ugliest risotto I've ever seen in my life. After 25 minutes of adding broth and stirring and watching my risotto, I think I went a little blind from the color. I also thought the beets gave it way too sweet a flavor than I'd anticipated.
Now what...well, I decided to go back to the tweet that brought me here. I could make these into risotto balls, but how? Back to the internet. I found a few tutorials on regular risotto balls. One of them had the cheese stuffed into the center. That sounded like a winner to me. I couldn't find anything for beet risotto, so I took a few recipes I saw and made one up on the fly based on how much risotto I had (about 3 cups).
It was good. Much better than the original risotto. Not the star of the plate, but next to a Porterhouse, its hard to compete ! At the last minute a made a gorgonzola cream sauce as a bed for the arancini, which was a brilliant move on my part. It complemented the steak well, also. I will definitely make these again, and experiment with more flavors. The epicurious version that I linked to above are right up my alley, since I love mushrooms.
Ideally, this would be a great appetizer. But since I hadn't planned for anything else, I served this as a side dish.
Beet Risotto Balls
inspired by a tweet by Marco Canora
For the risotto:
- three medium sized beets, quartered
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 cup diced onion, about half of one medium onion
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375∘. Toss the beets with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in a small roasting dish and cover with 1 cup of the chicken broth. Cover and roast for one hour or until the beets are tender. Pour off the both into a sauce pan.
Puree the beets until smooth. Add a little bit of broth if needed. Push the beet puree through a strainer. Add beet puree to the sauce pan with the cooking liquid, then top with remaining 5 cups of broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer.
In a large sauté pan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, then add the onions and cook until onions are soft and translucent. Add the rice and cook for 2-3 minutes, coating with the oil and onions, until the rice is translucent. Add the beet broth, one ladle at a time, stirring into the rice until it is completely absorbed. When it is absorbed, add another ladle of broth. Continue to do this for 25 minutes or until the risotto has a soft, creamy texture. You may not end up using all of the broth. Off the heat, add the butter and parmesan cheese and stir it in quickly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
For the risotto balls:
- 2 cups beet risotto
- 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs, plus a little more
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- gorgonzola crumbles
- enough canola oil to come half way up the side of the pan
Combine the risotto, bread crumbs, eggs and parmesan cheese in a bowl. (I started with 1/4 cup, but my first test ball melted into the hot oil. I shook more breadcrumbs into the mixture after that and they held up.)
With a spring loaded scoop, scoop out some of the mixture, and with your thumb, make an indentation. Add a small piece of gorgonzola then push the risotto mixture around the cheese. Form back into a ball, then drop into a dish of 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and roll around to coat.
Drop the risotto ball into hot oil and cook 2-3 minutes before turning to cook the other side. Cook in small batches and don't crowd the pan. Remove from the oil and place on a plate lined with a paper towel. Serve immediately.