RISOTTO ALLA PARMIGIANA WITH QUAIL EGGS
Risotto is legendary Northern Italian comfort food. While some quibble with the need to stir the rice constantly, others learn to enjoy the quarter of an hour breathing the heavenly scent rising from the pot. With little more needed from the chef than a more or less constant swirl of a wooden spoon, the luxurious satisfaction of the hard, high starch content of Arborio or Carnaroli rice transforming into a silky, creamy plate with just the perfect al dente bite is ready relatively fast. While Italians eat risotto as a first course, Americans are happy doubling the portion size, creatively adding ingredients and serving as a main course. Around the holidays, guests will be impressed if their plate arrives with a giant fried sunny side up duck egg on top, or two tiny quail eggs reminiscent of a "partridge in a pear tree"--do serve this steaming, rich plate with a salad of bitter greens and roasted pear. This is a meal that won't soon be forgotten.
This risotto makes a sensational base for almost any additional ingredients such as frozen peas, sliced prosciutto, roasted vegetables, sautéed mushrooms, corn, lobster, a drizzle of apple balsamic vinegar with julienned radicchio, etc. If serving as a small plate, then one quail egg per person. Carnaroli rice is forgiving and difficult to overcook, if you can find it, buy it.
2 cups of Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1 onion, chopped
1 stick - 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup good quality dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio
6 cups of chicken stock, warmed
1 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
12 quail eggs
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Add olive oil to the bottom of a HEAVY BOTTOMED POT.
2. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
3. Add rice and cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly.
4. Add the wine all at once, until the rice is not quite dry, then add ½ cup of the stock and let it soak up (do not let it dry out).
5. Keep adding the stock until it is cooked (about 18 minutes), stirring constantly. After 15 minutes check to see if it’s done. The risotto should look a little soupy.
6. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Incorporate the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, by folding the rice on top of rice.
7. Add the Parmesan, salt and pepper.
8. Pour a tiny bit of olive oil in a non stick frying pan over medium heat. Carefully break eggs into a small glass dish. One at a time, add them to the warmed pan and cook to desired doneness (the eggs will continue to cook once placed on top of risotto, so be sure to not overcook).
9. Spoon risotto into bowls and place cooked eggs over top. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
SERVES 6 AS A LARGE PLATE, 12 AS A SMALL PLATE