You know when you just need a little bit of wine to see you through a recipe? Just a cup, or even less. This used to be no problem. Domenico and I would start a bottle of wine with dinner, drink another couple of glasses the next night, and then have a bit left over that I would save for cooking. I’d usually have at least three or four of these opened bottles on the counter at any given time, waiting to be poured into stews, braises or soups.
But one of the side effects of switching over to drinking cocktails in the evening (and you know I’m not going into the other side effects) is that I no longer have those open bottles of wine laying around. And the thought of cracking open a bottle just for cooking seems just plain wasteful.
The other night I was backed into a no-wine corner. You see, I wanted to make a very simple risotto, with just onions, cheese and a bit of herbs. But wine was also a key player, to add acidity and body and depth. Then I had a revelation.
What if I took our cocktail addiction preference, and let it inform my risotto? That’s when I remembered a popular risotto recipe from the early ’90’s in Rome. There were a few years when every dinner party I’d go to would feature Risotto Soledad, using Lungarotti’s earthy sherry as a base for the risotto. Sadly, Lungarotti stopped making that sherry ages ago, and the dish fell out of favor. With that recipe in mind I opened the liquor cabinet, but still no luck. Sherry? Who drinks sherry? (No wonder Lungarotti jumped ship)
I did, however, have my choice of vermouths, and then some. (See. I told you there was a benefit in drinking cocktails every evening.)
As with all things simple, this dish depended on top notch ingredients. Aged pecorino from the farmer’s market, Acquerello rice and big fat sweet onions from our friend Paolo’s farm. However when it came to the vermouth, I decided that I didn’t really need to waste my precious Carpano or Lillet, so just grabbed the every day Martini Extra Dry, which worked out more than fine.
Risotto with Vermouth
2 cups rice
1 cup grated pecorino (not romano)
1 cup dry white vermouth
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups rich chicken broth, warm
Chop onion finely. Add to pot big enough to hold all the risotto, along with 2 tablespoons of butter and olive oil. Saute at low heat until the onion softens. About 10 minutes or so.
Add about a tsp of salt, stir, and add the rice. Turn up the heat a bit, and stir the rice until it is well coated.
Add the vermouth, and stir, until evaporated. Add about a cup of broth, and stir. Keep adding more broth and stirring until the rice is almost done. When it only has about 4 more minutes to cook, add the rest of the butter and stir. Then add the cheese and stir.