Mushroom/Squash/Sweet Potato Risotto, and 2005 Ella Valley Chardonnay
After two weeks of French food it was time to return to my roots – Italy and its fresh herbal flavors. There is no dish and flavor that epitomizes Italy more than Risotto, and after some richer French food, we went with some creamy delight that was highlighted by herbs and Farmer’s Market vegetables. We started with four stalks of cleaned leeks, and two pounds of Shiitake that were sautéed until browned. I then removed the onions and mushrooms and used the same pot to soften the sweet potato and yellow crookneck squash. We then removed the soften vegetables; added back the onions and mushrooms (yeah would have been far easier to cook in a second pot – lesson learned – maybe next time I will just roast them). I added back a bit of olive oil, and two cups of Arborio rice, and made sure that the grains were well coated with the oil.
An aside, there is a HUGE difference between sweet potato and yams. Many think they are the same, and I cannot but stress how foolish this line of thinking is. The Sweet Potato nomenclature is really broken! Sweet Potato is a firm potato that cooks and stays firm. Yams are a soft potato that cooks soft and is better used in sweet potato pie. So the next time you go to the supermarket and want to add some sweet flavor to your dish, figure out ahead of time, if you are looking for a firm or soft sweet flavor. Yams are going to go soft after some time, while the “sweet potato” will stay firm like a red or yellow potato. OK – back to risotto.
Wait – one more aside, in case you are wondering why we want two starches – Arborio rice – the king of starchy rice and sweet potato, the answer is because we wanted to 🙂 Simply put, we had a sweet tooth and we wanted risotto, so sweet potato it was. OK – this time, no more tangents.
OK, after the rice, leek, and mushrooms were properly coated, we started the risotto dance. Yep, it is a dance that requires you to lead most of the time, but still give the partner a chance to shine. You place a cup of hot water/broth in and then let the rice soak in the liquid. Back and forth you go, until the rice starts to become slightly mushy and creamy. It is truly imperative that you have a pot of just boiling chicken broth hot on the stove. This allows for the rice to not be cooled down and then heated up (if you were to ad in cold soup). The ironic aspect is that you start with a cup of wine, and that is NOT boiling, but it is room temperature, and the pot is boiling hot and the rice is well coated, so that is why the first wet liquid in a risotto recipe is commonly white wine. After the wine is soaked up, we ladled in a cup of broth, waited for the rice to soak it up, and then to start the process again. The interesting and complicated part of the recipe is when to throw in the additives. You see the onions and/or leeks are an imperative part of any risotto recipe and are the base of all risotto recipes that I have seen. We threw in mushrooms because we like them, and they do not get in the way of the rice cooking/creaming process. But, the real question is when do you throw in additives – like our sweet potatoes and squash? Some have it going in early – but that is a disaster because it does not give the rice a chance to set up. Some have them added after the third cup, but we added it at the very end, right when folks would add Parmesan cheese – which is not my style. I was really happy with the outcome, though one more aside (yes I lied); it is hard to make risotto for Friday Night dinner. Since the risotto needs to be reheated for Friday Night, it is hard to remake the perfect creaminess you get when it is just made. We did a solid job, but would love to find a way to perfect it.
4 stalks of leeks halved and sliced up thinly
2lb of mushrooms sliced
Salt to wilt leeks and mushrooms
2 yellow sweet potato
12 small yellow crookneck squash
2 cups of Arborio rice
1 cup of wine
4 or more cups of broth
Once we finished the risotto, I looked around for a wine to match, and settled on a 2005 Ella Valley Chardonnay. The wine was oaked and as it opened, it felt overoaked – almost Californian, but without the weight or sugar to hold it up. The wine turned green as it opened, the oak and green flavors overpower the mouth, but still a nice Chardonnay. This is definitely a wine that should be drunk soon and enjoyed with a nice fat fish, creamy sauce linguine (thinking Italian!), or light cheeses. By the way, this wine may not be a huge winner, but its better siblings – the Ella Valley Vineyard Choice Chardonnay (both Oaked and UnOaked) are huge winners.
The wine note follows below:
2005 Ella Valley Chardonnay – Score: B+
The nose on this light gold to gold colored wine starts off with sweet oak, lemon, green apple, almond, vanilla, and eucalyptus. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is more bright than rich, glycerol and oily, with apple, pear, and slight bitterness. The mid palate is bright with bracing acidity, a bit unbalanced with green notes. The finish is long with mint, summer fruit, tart lemon, with toast and vanilla. As the wine open more, the fruit fades a bit, the heavy oak comes to the top, and the acidity and bitterness are a bit off.