Bleecker Street Memories-Risotto

Music Pairing: Simon & Garfunkel, Bleecker Street

Story

During the early days of our relationship, we frequented one of New York City’s jewels, Risotteria on Bleecker Street.  While the place has been gone for years, we remember its exciting kaleidoscope of risotto offerings, great selection of salads and its impeccable gluten-free bread sticks. For us, the place was quite special to us, as we credit our times there with our early inspirations for a good risotto.  Joined by old and new friends, family and artist acquaintances, we have shared many stories, memories, special conversations and those delicious moments that comprise human happiness.  In part associated with the location, we pair this recipe and story with one of the soundtracks of Aaron’s youth, Simon and Garfunkel’s Bleecker Street from their “Sunday Morning 3 AM Album”.  The lyrics of friendship, loneliness, human connection resonate with both of us as we share our daily joys and reflections with each other.  For years, we have experimented with making our own broth, funding just the right Arborio rice, deciding whether saffron is really that essential, braving the butter, adding the sage, deciding between omitting or including baby scallops, and so forth.  Our risotto has evolved as have our taste buds, but regardless of our ultimate choices for spices or ingredients, we love to make it and share the joy of it with dear friends and family.  This version goes beautifully with a Pinot Grigio or with one of Aaron’s bold choices, like Cuba Libre Loco as an aperitif, always paired with a nice glass of sparkling water.

Recipe

TOTAL TIME: 9 hours (can be reduced to 2 hours, if you choose the quicker version of for the homemade broth, which can be simply boiled in a pot for about 1.5 hours.  No matter what, don’t use store-bought broth, as the difference will be colossal)

For the broth:

  • 1/5 lb. chicken breast
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 3 T salt
  • 3 oz fresh oregano
  • 3 oz Italian parsley
  • 4-6 twigs of saffron
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 8 C cold water

For the base:

  • 2 C Arborio Rice
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped finely
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1.5 T salt
  • 1 T pepper
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t thyme (fresh or dried)
  • 1 t nutmeg
  • 3 oz fresh sage, if available
  • ½ stick of butter
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 bunch of asparagus

DIRECTIONS:

  • Combine all broth ingredients in a slow-cooker and set it to cook overnight (approximately 8 hours on low heat).  Set aside when ready (chicken should be easily falling apart)
  • In a shallow pan, gently heat the butter and olive oil
  • Add the onion and garlic, lightly cook until transparent
  • Add the risotto and 2 C of the broth, so that the base is covered
  • Add all of the spices, but hold the herbs
  • Reduce the heat to low-med and ensure that the rice does not run out of the broth, periodically adding just enough to cover it
  • In a separate pan, Saute the herbs lightly in olive oil, set aside
  • Saute the asparagus in olive oil, adding salt and pepper to taste only, set aside
  • Continue to cook the rice, for approximately 40 minutes
  • When the rice is generally done, it should taste al dente but thoroughly flavorful.  Turn the heat off, garnish with the browned herbs as well as asparagus, then serve with optional freshly grated Parmiggiano Reggiano.

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