… If they knew we were putting creme fraiche in our risotto.
Last night at the French Culinary Institute, we made fresh pasta, risotto, rice pudding and potato gnocchi. These are all things I loved to eat before I started at FCI – all things I used to make for myself on a regular basis. (You may remember a certain infatuation with arborio rice …) But since enrolling, I’ve adopted a sort of disdain for all foods not French. Maybe it comes from Chef X, who says “Ze Ee-tal-ee-ans” with about the same inflection one might use to talk about “Ze mass murderers” or “Ze butter-haters.” Every lesson that includes a hint of Italian flair comes with a disclaimer: “That is ze way of ze Ee-tal-ee-ans, I don’t very get it.”
So anyway, yes, I’ve eliminated pasta and rice from my diet – not by way of low-carb fads, but simply because, I figure, why eat penne when you can eat a steak with sauce choron?
But I think Chef has a fondness for pasta and rice, because no matter how much he’d deny it, I saw a certain calm wash over him as he worked spinach dough in an electric machine. I might even go so far as to say that pasta’s his thing.
Suffice it to say, then, I very much wanted to impress him with my risotto. Risotto was my thing! It’d been so long since I’d made one – would I remember how? As I toasted the rice in butter and saffron, I let the steam from the simmering chicken stock waft upwards. Oh yes. I remember. This is easy.
When my rice was done – soupy, but not overcooked, soft but not mushy – I checked my recipe card. Stir in parmesan cheese, butter and creme fraiche. Creme fraiche? That wasn’t very Italian. And yet – totally brilliant. Why hadn’t I thought of that before!? The tangy, creamy smoothness would bring something butter and parmesan just couldn’t on their own. I added a generous amount and lifted a spoonful to my mouth. Good god, it was delicious.
I plated my dish and brought it up to Chef, who, try as he might, couldn’t find a negative thing to say. I wanted to enjoy it, but I’d already stuffed myself to the gills with pillows of gnocchi and diced pancetta. I scooped it into a quart-sized container to bring home. I’d bake arancini with the leftovers! Arancini would make a beautiful dinner, along with a bed of romaine and radicchio. And don’t start the freaking out, but I might even pair it with a French wine.