Monday, November 15, 2010

Caramelized Onion & Fennel Risotto

Serves  8

Caramelized Onion and Fennel Risotto

1 stick butter, divided
4 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large heads fennel, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 cups short grained white rice (such as Arborio or Carnaroli)
2 quarts chicken stock (homemade is best, but I do really like this store-bought broth)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

First, caramelize the onions & fennel:  In a very large sauté pan (or even a large pot), melt 4 Tbl butter over medium heat.  Add the sliced onions and fennel.  (This will look like huge amount, but as the vegetables cook, they will shrink enormously!)  Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.  Reduce the heat to medium-low (or even low, depending on the strength of your burner) and cook, stirring frequently for the first 15 minutes, and then only occasionally, about every 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are a lovely golden color, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Once finished, transfer the caramelized vegetables to a small bowl and reserve until needed.  (Patience is key here.  And while this does take a lot of time, it happily does not require a lot of work or attention.  Remember, slow and low will give you the best results.  You don’t want to brown the vegetables right away, but let them slowly turn golden.  So adjust your stovetop temperature accordingly.)

Next, heat up the chicken stock: On a back burner, bring the stock to a boil over high heat, then immediately lower the heat to low, just in order to keep it warm.

Now, let’s get to the risotto: Melt 2 Tbl of the remaining butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.  Add the rice and cook, still stirring constantly, for 2 more minutes.  Stir in about 1-2 cups of stock, so that the rice is just covered. Simmer slowly, stirring occasionally, until the stock is nearly all absorbed. Continue adding more stock, a cup or two at a time, until the rice is creamy and slightly firm, but no longer hard in the center. This usually takes about 20 minutes, and you may not need to use all the stock. Add the wine, then simmer a minute or so more until the wine is absorbed.  Add the caramelized onions and fennel, and stir to fold in completely.  Cook for about two more minutes to heat through, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the grated parmesan and the remaining 2 Tbl butter.  Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.