Friday, June 27, 2008

Risotto Girl!

Buon giorno tutti!
What a fun week I have to report! On one of my days off last week I went to a seaside town called Pescara. It took about an hour and half by bus. The ride to the town was just beautiful. Abruzzo is a beautiful region. The landscape is mountainous and the terrain rugged. When it gets cold I can tell you the wind is unforgiving. All through Abruzzo there are tiny little towns dotted in to the landscape, just like Roccaroso and Rivisondoli. I snapped a picture of a town – not sure which – from the bus to Pescara. They all look pretty much the same – very picturesque. Pescara was really really quiet. You can tell it’s a resort seaside town. Almost all of the restaurants and shops along the ocean were boarded up. It was pretty chilly. I sat for a while, bundled up, and took in the ocean. I also realized that in the past eight years for being with Larry it was the first time I was on a beach, looking out at a large body of water, without him. One of the (many) things we share is the love of being at the beach. So it was kind of strange and a little melancholy.

My work week pretty much started like the rest. Wednesday we do a fair amount of prepping for the coming days. I worked on the crespelle dessert and crème brulee. On Thursday night I found myself in front of the risotto station next to Chef Niko. I happened to be busying myself with something else and he asked me to watch the pot. Now, if you remember one of my previous Travelogues from ALMA I mentioned that Italians have a weird attachment to the making, and eating, of risotto. I can’t think of anything in America to compare it to except how we feel about a really good slice of pizza, or yummy juicy hamburger right off the grill. Risotto is one of those dishes that can be the nemesis of any cook. One minute too soon and you have too-al dente-rice, and one minute too late and you have a glob of inedible stickiness. It needs to be cooked just to the point of being done, but with still enough liquid that it can slide ever so slightly on the plate. You can imagine my terror of being placed in front of his pot! L So I finished it, and brought it over to him to be plated. He turned and looked at me and said “vai,” which means “you go.” Stunned, I looked at him and pointed to myself and said (in English) “who, me?” It was a very funny moment, and everyone laughed. I had my trusty camera in my pocket and snapped a picture as it was on the way out of the kitchen! Allora, (then/so) it seems now that I have become his risotto gal!! I also think he finds it amusing that I have fun doing it. Risotto takes anywhere from 14-17 minutes to complete, and you have to keep an eye on it. Missing a liquid addition will give you a mess of rice stuck to the bottom, and having to start all over again. (Not good if you are working within a timeframe.)

The risotto on the menu is just amazing. It’s made with latte (milk) and a little stock to thin it out. When it’s plated he adds a little chopped anchovy, and tops it with a candied tomato (we do at the restaurant), herbs and thin crisply fried artichokes. Incredible! I also helped him work on a new risotto this week that he is adding to the menu. The liquid is actually artichoke stock, and at the end he adds in a little anchovy, and tops it with finely ground natural licorice. The combination might sound odd, but the dish is also amazing.

I decided to lay low on my days off this week. I’m working on a profile for my new business venture. I’d like to get started on trade marking the name and developing a logo. I’ve also been asked by the New York Junior League to be a Guest Chef at an upcoming dinner – which I am so honored to do! So I’m going to be busy busy busy … I’ll be home the week of March 16th and graduating on April 4th. I can’t wait to jump in and get started!! For now I have 36 days left – but who’s counting??

Arrivederci fino alla prossima settimana!
(Goodbye until next week!)

No comments: