Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Roasted Grape Risotto with Hazelnuts and La Tur Cheese



I don't remember ever cooking or really even eating anything with grapes in it other than salads. A few nights ago there was an ad on TV from Food Network for a Roasted Grape Risotto. It looked so interesting  and I checked out the website and loved seeing all the other recipes with grapes in them.

The Risotto recipe was so interesting not just because of the grapes but a few new ingredients for me as well. I think this drives my wife crazy but I love recipes with long ingredient lists and complicated instructions. The La Tur cheese proved to be a fun adventure for me. I had to look it up to even see what it was. It is an Italian cheese made from cow, goat and sheep milk. It's a creamy, soft cheese that is supposed to be one of the best cheeses out there. And one of the most expensive. It goes for about $26 a pound!



I did a couple searches for specialty cheese shops and found one not too far from my office in Minneapolis. I took my lunch and walked over to the shop and had a great time walking through it for a few minutes. This was a cheese paradise. I love cheese and got to sample a few different kinds and look at the hundreds of different varieties throughout the store. It turned out that they were out of La Tur but the clerk suggested another Italian variety that was very similar in taste and texture (and price!) It was called Rocchetta. It's a little thinner round than La Tur so it's riper throughout and not quite as gooey but still would work well in the Risotto.

The flavors of the Risotto came together so well. The roasted grapes with the fennel seed and thyme went so well with the creamy cheese and then the crunch of the Hazelnuts made a perfect finish. This turned out so well and Risotto has become one of my favorite things to make.



A few notes on the recipe. I halved it and it made plenty for the two of us with leftovers as well. It also calls for a significant amount of butter to be mixed in at the end. I only mixed in about 4 Tablespoons at the end and it seemed to be just enough. I can't imagine mixing in any more without getting pretty buttery. Other Risotto recipes I've made don't even call for butter like that at the end so I think it was fine with how much I added.  Also, since I don't drink or cook with alcohol, I substituted white grape juice for the Verjus.


Roasted Grape Risotto with Hazelnuts and La Tur Cheese

Ingredients

ROASTED GRAPES:

1 bag seedless red grapes
1/4 cup fennel seed
1/2 tsp chili flake
1T thyme
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

Mix all ingredients together. Roast in 400F degree oven until soft and caramelized golden. Take out and leave at room temperature.

ROASTED HAZELNUTS:

1 cup hazelnuts roughly chopped

Directions:
In 350F degree oven, roast hazelnuts until lightly browned, approximately 6-8 minutes. Let cool. Reserve for later.

RISOTTO:

2 1/2 cups Carnaroli Rice (Arborio is acceptable substitution)
7-8 cups chicken stock (vegetable stock may be used as well)
2 med yellow onions finely diced
1 lb unsalted Plugra butter at room temperature
8 shallots finely minced
1/2 cup Verjus
1 1/2 wheels of La Tur Cheese
1 cup roasted hazelnuts
Roasted Grapes


Directions:
Melt 4 oz butter in heavy bottomed pan. Add diced onions and cook over med-high heat, stirring until uniformly caramelized. While the onions are cooking bring the stock up to a simmer in a separate pot. It is always best to add hot stock to your risotto. Add Arborio rice to onions and stir. Coat all kernels well. Add 1/2 cup of Verjus and stir. Add 4 cups of hot stock and stir well. Turn heat down to medium. When rice has absorbed most of stock, begin adding 1/2 cup more at a time. Stir every minute or two until stock is absorbed. Continue until about 7 cups total have been added to rice. Taste and add more stock if not cooked through. When rice is JUST done and still very moist, turn off heat and let rest for 2 minutes off burner.
Divide remaining butter into three portions. Add one at a time into risotto, beating with wooden spoon, until well incorporated. Add 1/2 wheel of La Tur cheese and stir vigorously. Fold in roasted grapes, and stir gently. With remaining wheel of La Tur, divide into 6 sections, and roll in reserved roasted hazelnuts. Divide and plate grape risotto onto six plates. Garnish each with hazelnut LaTur cheese.

I've got another grape recipe I made for dessert tonight but I'll post it in a few days.  Can't wait to share!

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