Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rye-Sotto, the method...

Risotto is usually made with arborio rice and Pilaf is usually a rice dish. But, both do not have to be made with rice. Technically speaking the name refers to the method of preparation, not the dish itself or the ingredients. So, you can make a pilaf with any grain you really want to, like farro for example, one of my favorite local Seattle products. You can also make risotto with something Rye berries.

Arborio rice is traditional in preparation of risotto because it is very starchy. As you cook it, slowly adding stock and stirring, you release the starch from the outside of the grain into whatever dish you're cooking. In the end a delicate & creamy texture results from your efforts at the stove-top, babying this simple dish of rice.

I have learned from experience, that the same result does not easily (or at all) happen with other grains. I've tried farro, spelt and now rye berries with the same, sad results. None of them has the superior starchy texture of arborio rice, so no matter how long I spend stirring the dish and slowly adding stock, it didn't create that creamy texture I was after. Sure, adding reduced cream or cheese in the end will give that stick-together-grain look, and it is delicious! But, alas I can not have dairy. In the end, I settled for what could have been made via the pilaf method (add the liquid all at once, put a lid on it and put it in the oven) even though I had put in the time stirring and adding. The dish is delicious, really! Like I mentioned, make it creamy by adding some parmesan cheese in the end, it would be amazing!

Today I'm heading out to visit my very first Michigan Farmer's Market! I have been anxiously searching and waiting for one nearby to open and it appears that less than two miles away on the other side of Walled Lake, there will be two markets! Wish me luck ;) Go cook some grains!  -Vicki

Rye-Sotto (or pilaf, either way is fine by me!)
1 Cup Rye Berries, soaked overnight (or whatever grain berry you have or find)
2 Strips of Bacon, cut into strips ... or 1 Tbl Olive Oil (use butter if you can, adds creaminess)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 Onion, small dice
1 Carrot, small dice
1 Celery stalk, small dice
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1/2 Cup of white wine or 2 Tbl Vinegar (white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
5 Cups Stock, veg or chicken or beef (whatever you have or like the most!)
1 Sprig fresh Thyme
2 or 3 Sage Leaves
*any other seasonings you want to add...I love adding onion powder, house-made seasoning salt, oregano or an Italian seasoning blend. Have fun and experiment!
1/2 bunch of kale, cut into small strips without the tough center rib (chiffanade)...make kale chips out of the other 1/2 of your bunch ;)

-Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the bacon (or oil or butter) cooking until crispy and removing with a slotted spoon. To the warm fat, add the onion and a pinch of salt, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and continue cooking another 5-7 minutes until both are brightening in color. Add the garlic and stir another 30 seconds. Meanwhile, in a 2 qt pot heat the stock on another burner and keep it just below a simmer.
-Turn the heat up to medium-high on the veggie pot and toss the rye berries into the pot, stirring to toast and warm the grains, about 2 minutes. Add the wine or vinegar and stir until the liquid mostly evaporates. Ladle a cup of the stock into the pot and stir to coat the grains, then add the thyme and sage sprigs.** Let it it simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed before adding stock, 1cup at a time and stirring often until you've used all the stock. Test the grain for doneness, adding more liquid (water is fine) if it needs it.
-Add the kale into the pan and cook for another 8-10 minutes until softened. Garnish with the bacon, some chopped scallions or stir in some cheese!
**OK, so like I mentioned, I learned that this method (unless you're using the arborio rice) can be a little frustrating as the grain doesn't get creamy, even after an hour of effort. So, after you add the herbs, you can pour all the stock in, put a lid on it and place the pot over low heat or in a 350F oven for about an hour and get essentially the same result. Check it at about 45 minutes, adding liquid if needed and cook as long as it takes to soften the grain to your desired consistency.

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