It’s easy to overlook a vegetable whose name rhymes with meek…but that would be a mistake.
Leeks are like battery-operated glove warmers in the tundra. You may not need them to live, but boy oh boy do they make life more pleasurable. Having said that, this risotto juxtaposes the earthy sweetness of leeks with the creamy milkiness of, well…cream. It’s a chef Thomas Keller trick that he uses to enhance the subtle flavors of risotto.
I don’t always feel the need to add cream to my risottos, mind you. Depending on the type of risotto I make and the ingredients I use, I find cream completely unnecessary – particularly when the flavors are strong, such as in my chicken, thyme & red pepper risotto…the strong flavors from the red pepper and thyme carry the dish without needing to resort to other “mechanisms’ to elevate it.
But this risotto, in my opinion, is not meant to be a stand-alone dish. I believe it is a perfect accompaniment to something utterly tasty and savory, such as tasty short ribs.
See what I mean? But enough talk…
Making creamy leek risotto
Heat a deep, heavy sauté pan over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the oil and turn the heat to medium. When it begins to swirl on the surface, add 1 minced shallot or 1/2 of a small sweet onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Make sure you do not let it brown.
Add 3 small leeks, which have been washed, halved and thinly sliced, and a couple pinches of salt and cook covered, stirring occasionally, until they have softened, about 10 minutes.
Stir in 1 cup of carnaroli or arborio rice and cook (toast), stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes. Each grain of rice will look nicely shimmery with oil.
Mix well. Pour in 1 cup of white wine and let it simmer, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed, and continue scraping the pan so that the rice doesn’t stick.
Warm 4-5 cups of chicken or vegetable broth. Begin adding it, a ladle at a time, stirring often and allowing most of the liquid to be absorbed before adding more.
The rice is cooked once the grains are al dente, fully cooked but with a hearty bite.
Turn off the heat and add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1/3 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Mix well. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed, mixing well. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Add the whipped cream and mix well. Serve immediately, topped with either a little more Parmigiano-Reggiano and chopped rosemary or with some well-accompanying Port-braised Short Ribs. Makes 4 to 5 servings, but recipe may be doubled.