Sunday, March 6, 2011

Borscht Risotto

I love the flavors of borscht, with the sweetness of roasted beets, the richness of beef short ribs, and the temperature contrast of cold sour cream against the warm comforting soup. So why not take the concept and join it with a creamy risotto? The result was delicious and easy, and it can be a great vegetarian dish as well! So why not make this hearty bowl of borscht risotto to finally banish your winter blues?

This recipe makes two hefty servings. We start with the beets:
  • 3 medium sized beets
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups water

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Peel the beets and chop them into 3/4 inch cubes. Coat the beets with the olive oil, salt, and pepper and place them onto a baking sheet and into the oven. Roast them for 40 minutes or until they are tender. Once done, remove them from the oven and set them aside on the counter. The beets can be roasted and stored in the fridge for later use, another great time saver!

Place half of the roasted beets into a blender with the water and puree.

Now the short ribs (for those of you who want to keep this dish vegetarian, just skip this step and start making the risotto, below):
  • 3/4 lb bone-in short ribs (or 1/2 lb boneless)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

This is just a standard, simple braise, but we'll use the beet juice for extra flavor. Heat a heavy skillet with the olive oil on medium heat (for lighter pans you can use higher heat). Pat the short ribs dry and then season them liberally with salt and pepper. Sear each side of the short ribs until crispy and brown, about 3 minutes per side. (Letting the short ribs come to room temperature beforehand will give you a better sear - a great tip for browning all kinds of meat.) Next, add the beet juice to the skillet, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer the short ribs for 3-4 hours or until they are completely tender, enough to fall off the bone. Remove the short ribs and set aside.

For the risotto:
  • 1 medium shallot, diced
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup arborio (or other Italian-style short-grain) rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Risotto works best when the liquid you add is already nice and hot, so put the braising liquid (or just beet juice in the vegetarian version) in a pot that's convenient for ladling and bring to a slow, steady simmer. If you need to use water (see below), you can eventually add it to the same pot, a little at a time, raising the heat to bring it to temperature.

Start the base of the risotto by heating the olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the shallot and a pinch of the salt and sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until the shallot becomes soft and translucent. Next, add the rice and stir to make sure each grain is coated with olive oil, and let cook for 3 minutes.

Now start to add the hot liquid, just one ladle at a time, stirring the rice gently to incorporate, then waiting until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Repeat when you can run your spoon through the rice and see the pan below. Continue the process until all the beet liquid has been added to the rice, or until the rice is done. The rice should be tender but still firm (al dente) - if it's still hard or dry in the middle, then continue to add the hot water the same way. A few minutes before the risotto is done, add the remaining beets, red wine vinegar, dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Remember that when making risotto, the rice will continue to absorb liquid and thicken as it rests and cools before plating, so aim for a texture a bit thinner than the desired end result (by adding liquid), and eat as soon as possible.

Ladle the crimson borscht risotto into a bowl, top with a short rib (or not), dollop with the sour cream, and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill!

Thinking about it now, when writing this post, a few crispy beet chips would be a great garnish as well. Future post!

1 comment:

  1. This is such a creative recipe! Love the color the beets turn the risotto too. Yum!